How old do you think you are?
I saw a very entertaining and exciting movie a while back called The Mule (a true story about a 90-year-old drug smuggler), with Clint Eastwood. He never slows down and seems to have unlimited energy even though he’s closing in on 90. He explains how he does this in a brilliant quote: “I just get up every morning and go out. And I don’t let the old man in.” I love it! The Buddha said: “The mind is everything. What you think is what you become.” My own philosophy is similar: “You are what you believe you are.” As people are living longer now, it’s crucial that we keep our mental view of ourselves healthy. So, how old do you think you are? Do you really know?
What if you didn’t know?
Here’s an exciting thought. How old would you be if you didn’t know your age? How would you feel? How would you act? The last question is critical because we’ve all been taught while growing up to act our age. But if you don’t know your age, how will you know how to act? From the time I was a child, my parents told me to act my age. Later in life, teachers told me the same thing and finally, girlfriends and wives said the same thing. As an adult, I’ve heard that I should act my age from a variety of people. But there are older people who act like kids and kids who act like older people. I prefer to be the former when possible. And how do I do this?
Forget your age
When I told people I had applied to compete in the Swedish version of Survivor (Robinson) at the age of 70, many, many people told me I was either too old to do that or that I was living in a fantasy world if I thought they would select me – yet I got selected. After my complete knee replacement surgery, physicians, friends and others said the same thing. Be happy you have a new knee even though you can’t run anymore – yet I now crank out runs of nearly two hours. The great thing is that when you’ve forgotten your age, you don’t have to conform to these standards. You can go for whatever you believe is possible. The idea of age seems to limit what we think we can do unless we through age out the window.
How old am I?
Many of you don’t know me except through this blog. Now, if I told you I was 38, you’d immediately start forming a mental picture of me. A male in the prime of life with a family and a career. If I said I was 48, then your perception of me might be different. It’s probably still positive – a mature man approaching the peak of his career. Let’s keep going. How about if I told you I was 63? What would your image of me be then? Maybe something like this. Wow! He’s really old and approaching retirement. He’ll probably just “cruise” through his last two years without accomplishing much and then find a hobby.
And the truth comes out
But now I tell you I’m 73 and I’m betting that changes everything. Your mental image of me might be that of a worn-out, tired person, who is getting close to the end of his life. But it was all in the numbers. Those two digits (73) probably determined in your mind how I looked, who I am, how I feel and what I can do. My wife is considerably younger than me, and we met at a very early age (for her – not me). For a long time, she hesitated telling people how old I was, which was hard for me to understand in the beginning – until she explained her reasoning. She said If I tell people your real age, they’ll immediately form an image of you that isn’t you at all. I finally understood it. She was 100% right. Look at what our thoughts can do. They can give us incorrect images of others, but worse than that, they can provide us with false images of ourselves that limit us.
Don’t let your thoughts age you
Our thoughts and stories influence our experience of life. In other words, the way we think and the way we look at things determines whether we’re happy or not. In reality, this is all pretty simple, but we don’t seem to have realized this. So, back to my original question, if you didn’t know your age, how would you act? Every age comes with a set of rules of behavior that influence the way we look at and judge other people, but even worse, they influence what we do and how we feel. And that’s where the real damage is done.
Numbers on a CV
I think I have a lot left to contribute and am still keen to work. But if I were ever to put my actual age on my CV, I’d never get called for an interview despite my experience and education. How do I know this? Well, from experience. I once sent my CV in to apply for a job and didn’t get called. I then sent my same CV under a different name without listing my age and was called for an interview the next day. I don’t want the age on my birth certificate to be the decisive factor in how I live my life. Do you? We can’t stop the clock, but we can choose to stay young at heart.