Welcome to the ongoing discussion about living your best life after 50. Each week, I post an article to ignite a discussion about the challenges and joys of midlife. Please read, share, comment and engage! The more people involved in the conversation, the more we'll all connect and learn from each other. If there's something specific you'd like to discuss, I'd love to hear from you.
Last week, Russell Bishop ran an article here on The Huffington Post -- "Is There Any Value to Positive Thinking?" -- which strongly mirrors my own belief that positive thinking alone is not enough to create personal or global transformation. Russell also pointed out, correctly, that the true value of "self-help" articles, books and lectures focusing on the "power of positive thinking" lies less in having you follow the advice being offered, and more in having you be inspired to take the first step toward... something.
I often jokingly (but quite seriously) tell the audience at talks I give around the country that simply holding a copy of my book, "The Best of Everything After 50: The Experts' Guide to Style, Sex, Health, Money and More," isn't enough. Nor is just reading it. You have to do the programs and suggestions in order to turn the positive thinking into sustainable action. Just thinking about starting a fitness program, lowering your intake of sugar, or finding a new job, for example, isn't the same as doing it. Even if you don't follow the exact programs I propose, as long as you resolve to do something toward making a much-needed change, I will have done my job, and you will have morphed from a mere "thinker" into a "doer."
But here's the big question that so many of us have: How do we evolve our thoughts (even those that are the direct result of an outside source, such as an article, book, lecture or friend) into sustainable actions that could transform our own lives, or the world, allowing us to be thinkers and doers?
Consider these ideas, which have worked for me and many others:
Tell the world. Jason Zweig, a columnist at The Wall Street Journal and a key financial expert I interviewed for my chapter on money, told me about a website, www.stickk.com, where people can make public proclamations about what they intend to do. Thinking about quitting smoking, starting a running program, learning Italian or saving more money each month? Saying it out loud to the universe has a profound psychological impact on the depth of your commitment to that act. Even telling just a few friends, or your family, will give you a greater chance of success. When I made the decision to run in the NYC Marathon this year to celebrate my 55th birthday (which will be one month after the event) and raise much-needed research money for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCan), I told as many people as possible, shouting about it on Facebook and in some articles. Now, I have no choice but to go through with my plans. (Please see the first in a series of updates on my marathon training at the end of this article. I'll post a short update every week here on The Huffington Post. Who knows? Maybe you'll be inspired to stop thinking about running in a marathon and actually do it!)
Confirm and then re-confirm your commitment, regularly. Don't expect overnight miracles. Change can happen slowly. You can't lose 10 pounds in a week (and if you do, you're not losing weight in a sustainable way). A new job may not materialize in a day, or even a month. There will be days when your thinking is anything but positive. But that doesn't mean you give up and give in. When the initial excitement of your decision to turn your thought into action wears off a bit (as when you decide to start an exercise program) and the necessary day-to-day actions that are required in order to achieve success become apparent to you ("Oh, I have to actually move my body? Do push-ups?") will be the most important time to re-confirm your commitment to your goal. Maybe go back to the original source of inspiration (a book, an article, a friend's coaxing) and get excited all over again. But do not give up.
Be inspired by others, and learn from them. I do this every single day. The women and men I meet and read about (especially those over 50) who are reinventing and transforming their lives even in the face of incredible odds are my personal heroes. This week I attended a very special event, The Million Women's Heart Summit, hosted by Donna Karan at the Urban Zen Center, which she founded several years ago to focus on women's wellness issues. The woman behind this event, Pamela Serure (who posted a must-read article here on The Huffington Post this week about women's heart health statistics), was the quintessential health nut -- until she had triple bypass surgery due to a 99-percent blockage of her arteries. It was a shock to everyone, especially Pamela. After regaining her strength, Pamela decided to put all of her time and effort into making other women aware of this fact: heart disease is the number-one killer of women, but there are steps we can take to prevent 80 percent of it. She co-founded Events of the Heart and is now dedicated to getting one million women tested for heart disease. Pamela is a doer, turning her thought of helping other women into sustainable action. Your personal thought-to-action project does not have to be quite so global in scope to be just as meaningful. Every single act that is derived from a thought is powerful, if it introduces positive change.
Create an "accountability group" to keep you on track. I've written about this here on The Huffington Post -- "Need a Push? Start Your Own 'Accountability Group'" -- and I'm going to promote this idea again. The power of the group is profound. If you have made a decision to put a thought into action (to start a company, or to volunteer every week, for example), being accountable to another person, or a group, helps keep your commitment to that act. It's a very uncomfortable feeling to meet with your accountability group and report that you haven't acted on what you had said you would do the week before. Accountability to just yourself isn't always powerful enough to keep you on task, not to mention that the group dynamic is invaluable for brainstorming and getting the creative juices flowing.
Be fearless. This is my personal mantra. When I'm afraid, unmotivated or sad, all of which can stop my thoughts from becoming actions, I whisper, "Be fearless" to myself. There are countless reasons, real or imagined, that we can come up with for why we shouldn't or can't do something, no matter what the proposed action is. But the truth is that the only thing that stops us in our tracks is fear. Play the "What's the worst that could happen?" game with yourself. You'll invariably see that the "worst" really isn't anything we can't confront. And try doing what Donna Karan suggested at The Million Women's Heart Summit this week: take a deep, slow breath. Then another. Then another. It will calm you down, focus your thoughts, and move them into action. While you're breathing, shut your eyes and say, "Be fearless." And you will be.
* * *
Countdown To The New York City Marathon
Starting today, at the end of every article, I'll post a short update on my progress toward preparing for the 2011 New York City Marathon, which happens on Sunday, Nov. 6. This is all in keeping with the advice I laid out in the article today, especially the tip about telling the world. If this isn't telling the world, I don't know what is!
I'll be following the Jeff Galloway training program (I wrote about it last year on The Huffington Post in my article "Run a Marathon, Change Your Life"), which calls for a certain ratio of running and walking, a proven method that not only allows you to train for a marathon and have a life, but helps keep injury and pain away, regardless of age. Simply stated, I will run, with walk breaks, for 45 to 60 minutes on Mondays and Fridays, and every Wednesday is my designated "long run" day. Wednesday, April 13 will be my first long run day of the program (six miles). Each week, an additional mile (or more) is added into the long run. All details will be included in next week's marathon update post.
The Jeff Galloway Walk/Run Program is an essential part of my regular fitness program. (The details are in my book, and in Jeff's bestseller "Marathon: You Can Do It!") I have the added benefit of having Jeff as my e-coach during the next six months leading up to the big day. If you are interested in learning more about Jeff's program, visit his website, www.jeffgalloway.com, and come to Jeff's NYC Marathon Kickoff Event on Wednesday, April 20 from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m., at P.S. 6 (a public school) located at 45 East 81st Street. I'll be there!
I truly hope this public proclamation of my how I turned my thought of running in the NYC Marathon this year into action will inspire you to get out there and move your body -- one of the greatest gifts you'll ever give yourself.
* * *
Staying in touch is a powerful tool! Friend me on Facebook and follow me on Twitter (@BGrufferman). For more information about "The Best of Everything After 50: The Experts' Guide to Style, Sex, Health, Money and More," visit my website, www.bestofeverythingafter50.com. Stay well, and stay in touch.