I've noticed that as my family and friends have gotten older, they tend to have lost their joi de vivre. While that's not true for all older men and women, I've learned that as we grow in years we're more willing to shelve our dreams in favor of the tried and true -- or the boring. We feel safer that way. Safe from what? Life?
Faced with a body that may not be able to physically perform like it once did -- and perhaps plagued with family issues or retirement concerns that are unique to aging -- older folks are often fearful of facing up to new challenges, lifelong passions or simply fresh ideas. As we age, some of us discount our dreams or stop dreaming altogether. We say, "It's too late for me" or "I guess I'll never get to do that." If that's what we think then that's the way it will be unless we change. We will whither away bored half to death.
I'm here to say that this type of mindset cripples us. We must hold on to our dreams and consciously act to make them a reality. Maybe that sounds like a cliché but a saying becomes a cliché for a reason: it imparts a message. But as a woman who has reinvented herself not only after the age of 50, but after 60 and 70 as well (and still doing it at 80), I'd like to challenge everyone who hasn't already done so to try something new. The saying is "Think outside the box." But I say, "What box?" There is no box except the one inside our own head.
First, we need to challenge ourselves to ignore those people (whether friends, family members, acquaintances or the plain nosy) who try to squash our hopes and limit our imagination by telling us we're too old ... for anything. Prove them wrong. Instead, we need to recognize the strong life force still flowing within us and not let others define us or characterize our lives. If we want to remain alert and fully alive, we too, must seize the day. And, again, do not listen to those who would destroy your hopes and your imagination: The naysayers, the what-if-the-sky-fell pessimists, the age queens and kings, and the old thinkers. Our dreams never die unless we kill them.
I'm calling for a simplistic plan for us to take the time to think differently, in the moment. After all that's all we have anyway, whatever our age. Go for it, I say.
Here are 25 ideas for doing just that:
1. Climb a mountain in Nepal.
2. Visit a guru in India.
3. Learn a foreign language.
4. Take swimming lessons.
5. Learn a new computer program.
6. Attend the theater.
7. Paint your house.
8. Give a party.
9. Take a cruise.
10. Get a make over.
11. Go back to school.
13. Go dancing.
14. Adopt a pet.
15. Go hot air ballooning.
17. Ask someone for a date (if you're single).
18. Try a dish you've never eaten before.
19. Learn to sail.
20. Change your route home.
21. Turn off your GPS and enjoy getting lost.
22. Turn off your cell phone for a full day.
23. Go on a retreat.
24. Become a mentor.
25. Laugh for 15 minutes every day, even if it's forced.
Remember to dream and then act. Live agelessly, not aged. And, if you're anything like me or my friends who have tried doing new things, you'll have a renewed lease on life and you'll start living as if.
Perhaps you'll uncover a new dimension of your personality or find you enjoy a hobby enough to pursue it regularly or turn it into a business. Maybe you'll be inspired to volunteer for an organization with views different from yours. Doing so will give you insights you've never before had, explore local areas you've ignored, or write your memoir -- or do all of these things. Wouldn't that be fun to write to your grandchildren about! Along the way, your mind will open to a world of possibilities and the process will make you more fulfilled and youthful, laughing all the way.
Pat Montandon founded the international foundation Children as the Peacemakers and has made 37 trips around the world with young children, meeting with world leaders in 26 countries. She is the author of six books, including "Whispers From God: A Life Beyond Imaginings." Read her blog on Red Room.