I’ll be honest, in recent years when birthday time rolls around, I hadn’t thought too much about getting older… until now. In reality, it shouldn’t feel much different to this time last year. But the numerical yearly value attached to my time on this Earth has a powerful effect on perception as it ticks over into a new decade. And the perception seems to be universal, which influences my perception even more, especially when the most commonly asked question to me over the past three weeks has been “so how do you feel about turning 40?”
There’s a side of me that wants to respond with “like the last ounce of my youth has just disappeared”, or “like a kidless, wifeless, lonely old guy”, or even “like I’m now officially losing the race against time”, because that’s what I think people expect to hear, and deep down might even want to hear to make themselves feel better.
But these are just projections which society has imposed upon me. They are common perceptions of many men in the same stage of their life as me right now. So instead of answering the afore mentioned question with any of these self loathing, pessimistic phrases, I reply, proudly and with confidence, “I feel great!”
And this is the truth. When I think about how I actually feel, and not how I should feel based on societal norms, I feel…great. Fantastic in fact.
“Why?” you may ask with a hint of skepticism. For several reasons, which I will list for you in point form:
– I am the most knowledgeable I have ever been in my life.
– I feel in the best physical shape and health of my life, due largely to my accumulated understanding of how to avoid and manage injury, optimize recovery, train efficiently, eat properly and apply an advanced understanding of my own psychology, especially relating to motivation and discipline.
– I have over two decades under my belt of learning from my romantic relationships, and 3 decades of professional relationships.
– I am the most self aware I’ve ever been, and the closest I’ve ever been to mastering the power of living in, and appreciating the present moment, rather than focusing on the past or future, neither of which exist.
– I am more committed than ever to surrounding myself with good people, and avoiding or eradicating those from my life who don’t serve as a positive or uplifting influence.
– I am far more advanced than my younger years with regards to knowing my purpose and eradicating my ego from decisions or feelings about…well…everything.
I’ve come a long way…
Of course, there are obvious physiological challenges we all experience as we pass a certain age, such as metabolism slowing down, muscle and joint pain lingering longer after intense exercise, and skin losing it’s elasticity hence youthful appearance. Therefore it is important to accept that it requires harder work and discipline to minimize such effects of aging. Embrace it, and revel in the satisfaction of not allowing the aging process to take hold and beat you down.
Further to this point, I have noticed myself occasionally slip into a self-deprecating and defeatist approach to aging. For example I might say things like “I was able to do that back in the day”, “take it easy on me (on the rugby field) I’m getting old”, or “my back is so stiff today after training, that’s aging for you”.
The mind can be very impressionable, and the more we talk this way, the mind-body connection kicks in, and the older we will look and feel.
So…I will commit from now on to refraining from using such negative language, and instead speak in a way that elevates myself and doesn’t consist of making excuses or playing victim. For me it is way more satisfying to overcome the challenges of getting older than simply giving in to them.
Yep, life gets tougher on the body, but so what?!
Turning 40 has also exposed just how much time has passed, and passed quickly, especially when my celebrations have reunited me with long time friends after many years of absence. It is yet another reminder to live life to the fullest and maximize the remaining time I have.
Moving forward, I’d like to be frequently reminded to stay on the path to living to the max. I stumbled across a tool that really resonates with me when watching a TED talk by Tim Urban. He showed a slide where the life of an 80 year old was represented by a grid of small boxes, where each box represented a week.
I took the liberty of creating my own grid and filling in the boxes that have already expired. It’s a mind bender to see an entire lifetime (assuming I live to age 90) represented on just one sheet of paper. I have stuck it on my wall and will continue to color in each box at the end of that week until I die. It’s kind of like my version of having “Carpe Diem” tattooed on my wrist or ankle.
So gents, what I’m essentially saying, is that while it’s important to accept and embrace the aging process, using it as an excuse for not working hard to be the best version of yourself is no bueno, and quite frankly, unYOGish.
Find your own trigger that reminds you how incredibly short life is, and to be the best version of you which is capable of squeezing every last drop out of the rest of your life.