Getting older is one of those things that nobody welcomes but no one can avoid. There is no alternative to getting older. Therefore, we have to find a way to welcome our advancing years with a positive frame of mind.
Age is in the Heart
We can be in our 20s and have the attitude of an old person. Similarly, we can be in our 70s and still have a childlike approach to life. Age is very much a mental perspective. To remain young at heart we need to retain an open mind and look for the good things in life. Don’t allow yourself to focus on the limitations of age. Instead, think about what you can do. Offer gratitude for small things that you perhaps didn’t have time to appreciate when young.
No matter how old you are, try to look for newness in life. Avoid repeating the same routine, try learning new skills or visiting different places. If we are constantly expanding our horizons, life will offer new challenges whatever our physical age. Take inspiration from The Zimmers — a band of old age pensioners who hit the big time, despite an average age in the 80s.
Forgive me, but I often find that certain old people become chronic complainers. It seems in life, especially when we are older, there is no end of things to criticise and complain about. In one way they are right — there are many imperfections in life. But, if we only see the darker side of life, we focus excessively on negative things and this will be reflected in our unhappy state of mind.It is important to be detached from the problems of the world. Also, when our body slows down we have to work hard to focus on other things. This helps us avoid focusing too much on the limitations and pains of our body.
Self Transcendence not Comparison
If we compare ourselves to other people and what we could do when we were young, we will always feel a sense of inadequacy. This is the wrong approach to take, instead, we should focus on our self transcendence. This means we seek to improve on our existing achievements as much as we can. We start from where we are and seek to make progress in our own way. The joy of self transcendence is in making an honest effort, it gives a sense of satisfaction that doesn’t depend on outer results.
Live in the Here and Now
Don’t live constantly thinking about: “if only…” . There will be many things we might have done differently, but we have to feel the past is dust. Focus on what you can do now to improve your life. This does not mean we cannot cherish fond memories; but, at the same time we need to give most importance to the present moment.
Getting old does not mean we have to vegetate in front of the TV, with the highlight of the week a trip to the Bingo hall. It is important to keep our mind and, where possible, our body active. If we don’t exercise our mental faculties, it will not be a surprise if we lose our concentration and ability to engage in critical thought. We should try to be a life long learner; if we keep our mind permanently busy we will retain our mental faculties for longer. We shall also gain a feeling of continuing self improvement right into old age.
Both Tagore and Churchill started painting in the evening of their life. There is no reason why old people cannot be creative. When we are no longer so physically active it is an opportunity to discover new talents and activities. Think bold and don’t allow age to be a limiting factor.
Tejvan Pettinger is a member of the Sri Chinmoy Meditation Centre. He lives in Oxford where he works as a teacher. He enjoys writing and updates a blog called Sri Chinmoy Inspiration, a collection of articles on self improvement. Recent articles include: How to overcome difficulties of life.