“Learn to be happy with what you have while you pursue all that you want.”
Feel like giving up? Think you’re too old to try something new? Then you need to remember that age has very little to do with your happiness or success.
Consider these examples:
*Actor George Burns won his first Oscar at age 80.
*Golda Meir was 71 when she became prime minister of Israel.
*Playwright George Bernard Shaw broke his leg at age 96 … when he fell out of a tree he was trimming.
*Painter Grandma Moses didn’t start paining until she 80 years old. She completed more than 1500 paintings after that; 25% of those after the age of 100.
*Michelangelo was 71 when he painted the Sistine Chapel.
*Physician Albert Schweitzer was still performing operations in his African hospital at age 89.
*Doc Counsilman at 58 became the oldest person ever to swim the English Channel.
*S.I. Hayakawa retired as president of San Francisco State University at 70 and then was elected to the U.S. Senate.
*Casey Stengel didn’t retire from managing the New York Mets until he was 75.
As I said, age has very little to do with your success and happiness. Indeed, there are about 75,000 Americans who are 100 years old or older right now. And that’s a whole lot more than there ever used to be, and a whole lot fewer than there’s going to be. There were about 3000 centenarians in the U.S. in 1950, 37,306 in 1990, and according to the Census Bureau, there will be 1.1 million in the year 2050.
Tom Keyser of the “Albany Times Union” says, “Live right, and you might be one.”
And the research backs him up. Even though people tend to think longevity is all about the genes, it’s really one-quarter genetic and three-quarters lifestyle, says Steven Austad, one of the country’s foremost experts on aging and author of the book, “Why We Age.”
That’s great news. You have control over three-quarters of your destiny. It’s one of the key points I make in my program entitled “Take This Job and Love It! Managing Stress, Preventing Burnout, and Balancing Life … On And Off The Job.”
So what can you do to manage the stress, prevent the burnout, keep your work and life in balance, and live a long, happy life? Here are a few tips from the research as well as some centenarians themselves.
=> 1. Exercise your brain.
Of course your brain isn’t a muscle, but in some regards it acts like a muscle. The more you exercise it, the healthier it becomes. You need to keep on learning. Retain your curiosity. Take classes, solve puzzles, play chess, or learn to play an instrument.
Indeed, Pablo Casals, the great composer and conductor who lived to almost 100, said, “The man who works and is never bored is never old. Work and interest in worthwhile things are the best remedy for age.”
=> 2. Stay active.
Get out of that chair and off the couch. Go for a walk. Go to the mall. Work in the garden. Mow your lawn. Or start a new career. As Frank Crane puts it, “There are three rules for success. The first: Go on. The second: Go on. And the third: Go on.”
Find something that makes you feel euphoric, and then do it and keep on doing it. Dance, sing, laugh, hike, or bike. Whatever. But find something and DO IT NOW.
I enjoy the way Dr. Sidney Simon put it when he wrote his “Birthday Ramblings” poem.
“In May I will be Eighty one, And in no way am I done.
“Daily miles paradise biking, Summer days of mountain hiking.
“I will keep on teaching, and occasionally preaching.
“Spend some time on the stage, Acting, still a prodding rage.
“Review an off-beat play, write it in my unique way.
“I want to keep on learning, inside me, a scholar burning.
“And certainly, about kissing, not one I plan to be missing.
“I love the hours spent cuddling, talking, truth telling, not muddling.
“I cherish the joys of love making sacred sweet nights partaking.
“No need for love on Viagra, maybe to honeymoon in Niagara.
“Well, in May I turn a ripe old eighty one. But I won’t be done until one hundred eighty one.”
In other words, Simon is saying, take charge of your life. Get in the driver’s seat. Or as poet Diane Ackerman sees it, “I don’t want to be a passenger in my own life.”
=> 3. Manage your memories.
Some people are haunted by the past, by what they did or didn’t do. They’re stuck in guilt and regret, and that will kill you … or at the very least, take the joy out of life.
Learn, instead, to manage your memories. As psychologist Laura King advises, “Being happy isn’t about forgetting the past. It’s about learning from it and discovering ways to have a better future.”
And once you’ve learned from the past, throw out the bad memories and hold on the good ones, says Ethel Wilson, 100, a resident of the Glen at Hiland Meadows, an assisted-living facility. “I think the longer we’re happy, the longer we’ll live,” she says. “I couldn’t be happier. I go to bed every night the same way: I’ve had a good day.”
=> 4. Keep the faith.
All the research seems to indicate that people of faith somehow live longer or at least live happier. Faith seems to give people a courage to live by and a peace to live with. Indeed, Jonathan Livingston Seagull noted, “When you come to the edge of all the light you have known, and are about to step out into the darkness, Faith is knowing one of two things will happen. There will be something to stand on, or you will be taught how to fly.”
Ethel Yarbrough, 100, who lives in Saratoga Springs affirms that. When asked about her secret for living long, she said, “Sing and pray. I pray all the time, thanking God for everything He’s done for me.”
=> 5. Manage your stress.
No one’s going to get out of this life alive, and no one’s going to get through this life without some stress. The secret lies in knowing how to manage your stress. After all, unmanaged stress can damage your health, everything from your heart to your digestive system.
One proven stress management technique is exercise. Do thirty minutes of aerobic exercise every day. And if you can’t do that, do what you can. But start, and keep at it until it becomes a regular part of your day.
Another proven technique is managing your expectations. As I tell people in my “Take This Job and Love It” program, “Aim for success, not perfection.” Or as creativity expert Natalie Goldberg puts it, “Stress is an ignorant state. It believes that everything is an emergency.” And of course, it isn’t.
=> 6. Stay positive.
The happiest people don’t necessarily have the best of everything; they just make the best of everything. Their attitude is consistently positive … no matter what.
Indeed, cheerful, optimistic people decrease their risk of early death and poor health by 50% compared to pessimistic people, according to researchers at the Mayo Clinic. That’s why 101-year old Mary Horton, a resident of the Beverwyck assisted-living facility, tells people to look on the bright side. Don’t complain. “Just take life as it comes, the best you can.”
That’s why I wrote the book, “PIVOT: How One Turn In Attitude Can Lead To Success.” I wanted to teach people HOW they could stay positive. And I’m glad to see that it’s having that exact effect on people. As Samantha Brown wrote, “Both my husband and I read ‘PIVOT,’ and I can honestly say it changed our lives. I’ve recommended your book to all of our family and friends.”
And Patty Grove from Technical Services/Technology Deployment Services wrote, “Dr. Zimmerman, I wanted to let you know we ordered copies of ‘PIVOT’ for our company. In fact, we were so pleased with your book that we did something we have never done in our book clubs before. Realizing the value of the participants referring back to the book even after the book club was finished, we decided to let the participants keep their book. We originally ordered 12 books, but then decided to order 16 more books. However, we were unprepared for the overwhelming response of people wanting to participate in a ‘PIVOT’ book club. We have decided to order another 28 books.”
=> 7. Take care of your body.
Every day we seem to get another piece of news about what we should or shouldn’t do to stay physically fit. And the news can sometimes be a little confusing. But the research is very clear on a few things. Tom Keyser, who I quoted earlier, summarizes it this way.
Be smart about you eat. Eat more fruits and vegetables and less red meat and fried foods. And when you’re full, stop eating.
Quit smoking. We don’t need another study that says smoking can kill you. The evidence is overwhelming and irrefutable. So just stop, please.
Drink in moderation. Studies have shown that a glass of red wine or ale once in a while reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Get or stay thin. Researchers have extended the lives of laboratory animals by drastically reducing their caloric intake. If you want to live to be a healthy 100 or more, thinner is better.
Limit your exposure to the sun. It not only wrinkles your skin, but it cause the most deadly of cancers … skin cancer.
Find a good doctor and get regular checkups. Preventive medicine is your best bet for catching potentially fatal diseases while they are still treatable.
Keep track of your medications … and take them. If you take your medications, you’ll have a better chance of remaining in your own home taking care of your own self.
So there you have it. Three-quarters of your happiness, success, and longevity are in your hands. And when you follow these 7 tips, you have a very good chance of a very good life.