How to Improve Your Mindset About Aging and Happiness
Updated: Aug 30, 2022
There's a culture of aging I've never paid attention to, and the older I get I realize how important it is to my happiness.
We almost didn't climb the mountain, until we got better information and encouragement to try.
Is it age, fear, or cultural stereotypes that keep you from trying?
I'm not an avid or accomplished mountain climber, nor do I think myself especially athletic, but I do like being outside and spending time in nature. But until recently the Canadian government would've classified me as elderly in three short years.
They've changed their age ranges, but still, elderly?
Should I get out a cane and trade it in for the hiking poles? No, not by a long shot. Not because I'm in denial about my age, but rather because I do reject the stereotypes of what it means to be older.
Age stereotypes project a lot of fear about what's possible, that in turn makes a huge difference to your happiness.
An essential part of happiness comes from your beliefs
When we were planning our trip to the UK, we did what most people do, you look at the many attractions and points of interest and decide which ones you want to see or do. It's how we learned about Mount Snowdon. After some research it felt like a reasonable activity.
It was only later, after posting some pictures, that it became clear that many others didn't share that view for themselves.
Mixed in with the messages of congratulations and comments about the beautiful scenery, was another vein of comments.
It mostly started with, "I couldn't." I wondered though, was it couldn't or wouldn't.
Couldn't implies a physical inability, while wouldn't is a choice.
I respect those who fall on the wouldn't side of the fence if it comes from choice and interest. I have friends who've always been more "glampers" than campers . Knowing who you are and what you enjoy, is absolutely the right way to go.
Similarly, if you have a medical condition or other physical limitation, then it's important to know what's reasonable for you to do.
But it seems there's a whole raft of other people who've decided "couldn't" is due to fear. And if fear is running the show, then you put limits on what you'll try, and in turn your ability to live a happier and more fulfilling life.
Fear is a mindset that you must challenge if you're going to fully experience your life
I understand fear.
I've had lots over the years and I imagine there will be more. What's important, is knowing fear is a part of the journey . So that as you begin to think more often about what kinds of things fill your happiness cup, you'll know what to do when you begin expanding your path.
For instance, consider this blog post. Maybe you think that I've always been able to write something that others want to read, or even, that I've always had the confidence to write and share what I've written. Neither is true. In fact, the first time I finished a post and it was time to hit publish, I felt sick to my stomach.
There were many emotions swirling that evening, and fear was certainly one of them. Since then, I've written hundreds of posts, which led to a book, which led to writing for business customers and doing one to one consults for other would be writers.
Writing the first post and publishing it, was an exercise of courage.
Now I know that the path between learning, doing and sharing will always involve some sort of fear. Age and experience is irrelevant. Every time I dream up some new way to expand how I can be of service and use this wonderful craft of writing, I must face the fear of not being good enough.
There is risk involved in putting something you create or do for the first time into the world. A fixed mindset will keep you small, a growth mindset helps you expand.
Your mindset matters
Once I moved from private journal writing to something more, I had to challenge what Dr. Carol Dweck calls the fixed mindset.
Yes, mindset is attitude and it's also your beliefs.
A fixed mindset succumbs to fear and amplifies your limiting beliefs, so that when it has you in its grips, you don't try or you'll quit prematurely.
Whether you're doing something creative or trying a new physical pursuit, a fixed mindset creates a state of anxiety, and a fear of failure. You don't think in terms of improvement, but rather the worry of what other's think about your attempts.
To be blunt, your first attempts will be bad.
If you're living with a primarily fixed mindset you'll often feel anxious, believing that you should be able to "ramp up" to a superior skill set quickly.
Which is unrealistic, isn't it? Far better is to embrace the power of "not yet."
Embracing the power of "not yet"
When we climbed Mount Snowdon we were passed by people older than us that seemed to find the climb almost effortless. I think it's fair to say that this wasn't the first time they'd done this climb, or others.
We weren't at that skill level, yet.
I'm certain that if we did more focused training, that we could be. I imagine that it would be a combination of cardio and strength training. A little every day, so that when you return to the mountain, it's less effort than it was.
Whatever your mountain is, there's power in knowing that improving happens over time.
A growth mindset is the key to happiness
Knowing that improvement over time and the acceptance that you're not good yet are the hallmarks of a growth mindset.
When we climbed the mountain, we were passed by older and younger people and we did the same. We were more fit than some and less than others.
Creative pursuits , or anything else you're trying, benefit from your continued efforts. A combination of a playful spirit and willingess to be "not good yet" also allows you the grace to be a beginner and just have fun.
A growth mindset also means that you'll embrace trial and error, seek out help from others and generally enjoy life more.
My first efforts of published writing aren't great. The ideas were good, the execution less so.
Thankfully, my enjoyment of writing and my sincere desire to be of help to others, kept me going when I might have given up.
Courage and a growth mindset will keep you on the path towards living a happy and fulfilled life, at any age.
What map are you following as you create your life?
Whether you realize it or not, you have a map of how you think your life should go. The ideas about your map are influenced by your culture, friends and information that you take in on a daily basis. Your job is to decide if the map you're following is one you've constructed or one that's been handed to you.
There's a lot of things I've come to later than I might, but then again, it means there's lots for me to look forward to. Learning how to face fear, challenge my own beliefs and cultural stereotypes means that my life continues to be interesting. And happy.
One of the resources that I found and used over a decade ago is a book by author Julia Cameron. It's called The Artist's Way. It's been instrumental in helping me change how I live my life. She wrote it as a 12 week course "in discovering and recovering your creative self".
We're all responsible for creating our lives and we are all creative in ways that we so often dismiss. She helpled me claim my writing, and my life changed because of it. Now, I want to bring this to you as a facilitated book club event, so that you can feel the support and encouragement necessary to craft a happier and fulfilled life.
It starts the end of September. Click below to book your spot.
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