- Written by Dr. Erica Miller Dr. Erica Miller
Ask a handful of people to describe what comes to mind when they hear the word “old.”
Undoubtedly, some responses associate “old” with negative connotations, like “obsolete” or “weak,” or phrases like “past her prime” and the always-popular “over the hill.”
Such expressions indicate how readily some cultures relegate the latter years of life to a period of steady decline — not only in terms of physiological health, but also in social prominence, personal originality, and cultural relevance.
On the other hand, there are other words — considerably more positive ones — that people use to describe “old.” How about “wise” and “mature,” for instance? What about “seasoned” and “experienced”?
In some societies, elders are revered for their accumulation of knowledge and their life experiences.
As Dr. Andrew Weil says, “Growing old should increase, not decrease, the value of human life. Just as with bourbon, it has the potential to smooth out roughness, add agreeable qualities, and improve character.”
Almost everyone wants to live a long time, but no one wants to actually be old.
The chronologically gifted, on the other hand, are those who recognize it’s possible to age with a healthy mixture of acceptance and enthusiasm.
They regard their age as a gift, the seal of a lifelong journey for which they are profoundly grateful — a journey that began at birth and will continue through a personal legacy that immortalizes them in the memories of others.
In the face of their own mortality, they are determined to live with significance in the here and now. Even as they seize control over their attitude about aging, they surrender the illusion of control over the reality of aging.
Somewhere in the mix, they lose their concern over whether they live to see five more years, 10 more years, or 30. Yet as a group, they still tend to live longer and better lives than those who constantly preoccupy themselves with thoughts of getting older.
It all begins with attitude.
While there’s no “magical” way to halt or reverse the aging process, there are ways to embrace it.
Start by admitting that you’re getting older. Stop fighting it. Own it. Love it. Adopt a positive attitude. The world is going to move forward with or without you.
Where some people get hung up is with the misconception that as they age, they have to fit in with the younger generation. This simply isn’t true.
A more helpful attitude is, “I may not be young anymore, but I’m still capable of growing, and I will continue my process of evolving until the end of my life.”
Each time an individual acquires a piece of knowledge or improves upon a skill that helps them deepen their relationships, appreciate their past and current experiences, and leave a more robust legacy, that’s a change that matters.
It’s time to break the mold and disrupt the aging process. To do so, spend time in front of the mirror.
Fall in love with yourself all over again, but not in a narcissistic way. Join the ranks of the chronologically gifted who have a healthy sense of self-love — one that makes them feel confident in their own skin — wrinkles and all.
Adopt a new perspective. Consider the mantra: “I’m not just getting older; I’m getting wiser.”
Let the features that reveal age be the ones that are reminiscent of the wisdom and maturity collected throughout a lifetime. Admire, appreciate, and like the person looking back at you in the mirror because that’s the person who still has a lot to offer the world.
Remember, everyone gets older, so aging is not an option. But how people age is a choice. People have far more power over how they age than society conditions them to believe.
Anyone can become chronologically gifted. Simply decide you don’t just want to live longer, you want to live better — beginning right here, right now.
Take comfort in knowing that everything you do from this point on takes you one step closer to living the kind of mindful, joyful, seize-the-day life you were designed to enjoy.
Let that belief become a springboard for deeper engagement with the life inside of you — the timeless part of you that is desperate to express itself, despite the best efforts of an age-fearing culture to suppress it.
Dr. Erica Miller holds her Ph.D. in clinical psychology and has written extensively on topics of positive psychology, longevity, overcoming challenges, and living life to its fullest. Her most recent book, Chronologically Gifted: Aging with Gusto, made her an international bestselling author. For more information, please visit www.drericamiller.com.