The Antidote to Premature Aging

 

Photo Credit: Lisa DeJong

A friend of mine told me that she was inspired by the example of others recently to start a new hobby. The hobby she chose, rowing, met several criteria for her as it was outdoors, involved opportunities for solitude as well as social time and provided exercise without physical exertion being the central focus. I wish I had a camera so that I could share with you the light that was in her eyes when she described her new-found passion.

 

Hobbies provide avenues for self-expression, personal development and ┬áchange in rhythm. My college soccer coach, who was a marathoner himself, taught me that varying the rhythm in distance running can provide for better performance and greater mental alertness over the long haul. The same could be said for your daily rhythms. If you are stuck in a “it’s time to make the donuts” repetitive rhythm, you might want to consider shaking it up a bit.

It is so easy to get into repetitive patterns that turn lightly-worn paths into ruts over time. I once heard someone say that the only difference between a rut and a grave is the depth and I feel strongly that everyone should find ways to have variety in life, to fill out flat spots in development and to express themselves more fully throughout life.

Consider this: no matter how old you are right now, dear reader, you are as young as you will ever be for the rest of your life. It’s never too late to start! Take up that hobby or activity that you’ve always thought would be interesting. What do you have to lose?

An active body and an active mind are an effective antidote to premature aging. Likewise, a balanced oscillation between activity and rest makes for better sleep, greater productivity when awake and a progressively more influential life. I find it strange that many people seem to give up on the idea that they can live generative, influential lives right up to their last living breath.

One of my readers, “FlyingGma” (Flying Grandma), is a grandmother who took up flying very recently in her life. I loved to hear her story and continue to enjoy reading her posts on her travels. Life needn’t be a bell curve, where you return to inactivity and impotence in your latter years. In fact, life can be and should be an ascending spiral, where its actors soar ever upward like a hawk in a thermal.

If you find something that lights your fire, that pushes you to perform closer to the edges of your present envelope and that calls for something new from deep inside of you, I will assure you that the rest of your world will benefit. Passion is contagious! Even the dullest aspects of your life will receive a breath of fresh air if you allow yourself to open up in new ways.

Gird up your loins, as they used to say, and enjoy a new challenge. The nature of the activity doesn’t matter; it could be physical, intellectual, esoteric, practical, serious or outrageous. The fact that you dive right in and let your mind and heart be caught up in a new field of creative expression is what truly matters, for flow begets flow.

I imagine that some of you have taken up new hobbies recently while others are contemplating them. Please share your stories! I’d love to hear them and how they affected your worlds.

Thank you Freshly Pressed!

Much to my surprise I discovered (by the onslaught of views and comments) that my post “Dress for Success” was promoted to Freshly Pressed this morning. Thank you, dear readers, for your support and encouragement. Thank you WordPress and thank you Joy!

I wish you an uncommonly generative weekend…

200th Consecutive Daily Post!

Well, my friends, it’s time to celebrate! We’ve reached 200 consecutive daily posts together and it has been a delight sharing my observations on life with you over the last few months.

I appreciate your readership and comments and I wish you the best for an exceptionally generative day!

~ Gregg

Childhood Dreams, Humility, Happiness and Integrity

Computer science professor Dr. Randy Pausch made an incredible contribution to mankind. He worked diligently to fulfill his childhood dreams and cared deeply about those with whom he associated along the way. As if to put icing on a cake celebrating a full and generative life, Pausch went through the trouble to articulate his formula for a life well-lived after being diagnosed with a terminal illness.

He gave what became known as “The Last Lecture” at Carnegie Mellon University on September 18, 2007. It was an incredibly inspiring and thought-provoking speech, written for his family, but delivered to his colleagues and acquaintances. Pausch gave an abridged version of his speech on the Oprah Show in 2007, which I would like to share with you this morning.

As Wall Street Journal columnist Jeffrey Zaslow wrote: “His fate is ours, sped up.” The New York Times obituary for Pausch noted: “Some of the millions who saw Dr. Pausch on YouTube and elsewhere wrote letters and e-mail to The Journal and many blogs. Some said he inspired them to quit feeling sorry for themselves, or to move on from divorces, or to pay more attention to their families. A woman said the video gave her the strength to escape an abusive relationship; others said they decided not to commit suicide because of it.”

Life is too short to waste simply existing. Remember your childhood dreams if you’ve forgotten them. Adopt a policy of humility if you’ve grown proud. Take time to enjoy the little things in your life and complement others who are happy. Most of all, choose the path of integrity in all that you do.

Pausch died of complications from pancreatic cancer on July 25, 2008, but I am confident that his advice will serve as a catalyst for happiness and victorious living for generations to come.

Empathy: A Cure for Self-righteous Rage?

Empathetic capacity is one of man’s greatest gifts. Whatever its provenance, the ability to empathize is one of the central tools necessary for creative living. As a father, I am deeply concerned that we find ways to encourage the development of this capacity in our youth, for their sake and for the sake of the future of our planet.

I’m sure that most of you have had an embarrassing experience or two in life where you were with a child who innocently made comments about a disabled person or perhaps about someone of a different race whose skin color they’ve never seen before. We human beings are fascinated with differences. In previous eras the comments may not have evoked such awkwardness, but we’ve considerable social progress over the last few decades and prejudicial treatment of others along the lines of race, color, sexual preference and physical disability is now much less tolerated.

The social progress of which I speak was wrought by the invisible hand of empathy. Empathy is the precursor to respect. If you’ve ever suffered malicious treatment by another either directly or indirectly, overtly or covertly, you have felt the effects of a shortage of empathy.

What concerns me, however, is the trend toward self-righteous indignation. It is challenging to watch the news or read the paper these days, for if content is indicative of what generates subscribers and readers, then it is clear that self-righteous rage sells. The recent Shirley Sherrod episode is a case in point. When whipped up in a self-righteous frenzy, as was the case following the blogger’s post, people react without thinking for themselves. The facts of the matter, the concern for the whole story and a reasoned approach go out the window and the results are typically regrettable.

Self-righteousness is a force that first mutes, then corrupts the capacity for empathy. If we fail to teach our children how to use their capacity for empathy, the world will become an uglier place. On a recent flight to Vancouver I read an article about actress Susan Sarandon who was speaking about raising children. She admitted: “The only thing that ever frightened me about having kids was this idea that those who were really privileged did not have passion. I don’t know how you help someone who is not interested in anything.” To prevent this from occurring in her family, she instituted a compulsory rite of passage that involved helping others.

Community service is an excellent way to prime the pump of empathy. Volunteerism comes in many shapes and sizes and taking time to serve others can give you and your children a means of helping others. An old friend of mine started a charity that procures and installs computers for children in developing nations. His entire family travels with him and they have a blast!

There are less adventurous ways to get involved. Just ask around your community for ideas!

Thank you WordPress Freshly Pressed!

This blog is dedicated to those human beings who chose or who choose to live extraordinary lives. Rather than follow the herd, these thought leaders cultivated an understanding of the principles that govern the life itself and acted in some way or another in relation to that knowledge. These are people who went the extra mile, who cared more about others than they did themselves and who consistently chose integrity over expediency.

Much to my surprise and delight, today’s post was promoted to Freshly Pressed by WordPress. I consider this recognition an incredible honor and and to me it says that lives well-lived matter and are worth considering.

You can make a difference in the world you center. How? There are certain principles that, properly understood, allow you to navigate life effectively and victoriously. Feel free to dig around this blog for those principles, realizing that in one sense they are nothing new, but in another, they are the means by which all things in your world – and the world at large – can be made new!