Ageing, that is.
Humans have two things in common: We have a biased brain, and we grow older.
Unfortunately, the fear of ageing these days is rampant, because we fear what we will become.
Now, I’m not saying that because I am old; in truth, I am still young, having started on the second half of my life. Thus, I cannot claim “having been there, done that” as yet.
I came to that conclusion after reading about and listening to quotes from the people who have already been there and done that—those “age-experienced”—and have observed that growing older is not only an attitude but also a process.
We have the tendency to exaggerate the degree to which our future tastes will resemble our current tastes (Projection Bias).
Luckily ageing changes what makes us happy. Older people manage to extract more pleasure from relatively ordinary experiences; from spending time with their family, from the look on someone’s face, from a nice hug, or from a walk in the park.
These are all very inexpensive experiences, which naturally raises the question: “Do we really need as much money for a happy retirement as we think we do?”
Don’t waste your time worrying about getting old
Ok, there are no shortcuts in terms of gaining much of the wisdom from the “age-experienced”. Still, a lot of what we would know at 40 or at 115 years of age, we actually already know NOW*. It’s really just a matter of awareness and of reminding ourselves.
And there’s a lot you can do when you are younger to ensure that old age is better than you think.
1. Act NOW like you would need your body for a hundred years
It’s not dying that you should be concerned about but chronic diseases (slow and painful), because an easy exit from life hardly happens. Therefore, take this into account when thinking about healthy habits.
What you do NOW for your health is critically important for your future. This may sound boring and middle-aged, but once you are middle-aged it won’t seem boring.
The motivator should not be how long you would live, but how you live and the quality of life you would have. In other words, how to increase your healthspan and not just your lifespan.
World Health Organisation (WHO): “Chronic disease is primarily caused by common modifiable risk factors and preventable: tobacco, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity.”
And recent studies have found that just holding positive beliefs about ageing may protect against Alzheimer’s disease – talk about affordable ways to cut your future healthcare expenses.
2. Run your life on Regret-Minimization
Live in such a way that you would have nothing to regret in the future, and do things in such a way that you would be proud to sign them.
The number one regret of people in the Australian hospice care is not to have lived their lives on their own terms, to live their lives they knew they should, rather than listening to what others wanted them to do or expected of them (from the book “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying”).
I am quite sure that this “number one regret” is everywhere.
3. Collect Experiences and Skills (nonstop)
I have been a fan of thinking of the early year of life as an opportunity to collect lessons and experiences so that we would be better equipped for the long and unpredictable road ahead.
Of course it’s difficult to predict what life lessons and experiences would be most useful to us in the future, but if we collect many experiencs and skills, there is a good chance that some of them would become highly useful.
4. Worry-free happiness is a choice, not a condition
Slightly different from the Australian, the US-American cohort of the”age-experienced” quoted as their biggest regret: “I wish I hadn’t spent so much of my life worrying” (from the book “30 Lessons for Living” by Karl Pillemer).
Worrying is a waste of time, because worrying does not rectifiy anything. Moreover, worry is just the futile attempt to control uncontrollable contingencies, and in spite of worrying a lot about something, you still can’t change the circumstances.
Acceptance is the antidote to worry. Instead of worrying, show some concern, accept the uncertainty, and then take action and be prepared.
One motivating trick could be to envision yourself in the “immersive virtual reality” mirror; to look at yourself at old age and (I am sure that) you would instantly think more realistically about saving for retirement.
Or try this thought experiment: Imagine you are 115 years old. NASA has just invented the time machine (thank so much, NASA!) and you have been selected to try it out (lucky you!). NASA’s time machine will transport you back to when you were 22 years old. You have 15 minutes.
What advice would you give yourself?
To get the ball rolling, one advice that comes to my mind is this: Skip the funerals and visit your friends NOW.
And should you run out of ideas, there are more “advice ideas” for utilising that entire 15 minutes under this post “My 10 Golden Rules: If I were 22, I’d wish that someone would have taught me”.
“Youth does not need to be wasted on the young.” — George Bernard Shaw
“There are many good things about getting older, but no one knows what they are. We fall asleep and wake up at all the wrong times, avoid more foods than we can eat, and take pills to help us remember which other pills to take.” — Daniel Gilbert
“Getting older is no problem. You just have to live long enough.” – Groucho Marx
* The reason why NOW is in capital letters and why I am a big fan of NOW can be found here.