When it comes to getting older, we can all learn from those “courageous agers” who live by this sage advice: “It’s time to think outside the box.”
Breaking free of self-limiting beliefs takes courage, audacity, imagination and a dash of what’s called oppositional-defiant irreverence. This is especially true when it comes to aging and how we see and feel about ourselves. Perhaps it’s because we tend to regard our chronological age as self-defining as gender, race and ethnicity.
Likewise, our behavioral age as we grow older tends to define how we regard ourselves and how we treat others – either by being joyful, kind, compassionate and accepting – or by being inconsiderate, grumpy, even resentful. After all, it’s a choice we all make.
As outlined in my new book, Courageous Aging: Your Best Years Ever Reimagined, the benefits of shedding of “The Old-Old” and embracing “The New-Old” are immeasurable. The first steps are summoning the courage to take an honest inventory of our age-biases, accepting the loss of our younger selves, putting our house in order and making peace with life.
To truly break free from the restrictive myths, misconceptions, fears and stereotypes about getting old in a youth-worshiping culture takes enormous discipline and strength.
Yet, as we give ourselves permission to re-imagine the future without these joy-inhibiting beliefs and attitudes, we open up a whole new world of possibilities. As we gain more emotional freedom, we’re better able to come to terms with who we’ve become and start to pay forward the good that’s in our lives.
When you were younger, it’s likely you allowed yourself to dance, sing, play, create, explore, learn, love, share and grow. By stepping outside your self-imposed box, you’ll free yourself to enjoy some of your best years ever.
Visionary organizations such as Oasis that “promote healthy aging through lifelong learning, active lifestyles and volunteer engagement” provide adults ages 50 and older with invaluable opportunities to finally break free from our boxes – and flourish with full and meaningful lives.
The time is now. And the benefits are clear. So where do we begin?
Along with what I’ve learned in my workshops and classes, my research on aging has taught me the following seven steps for thinking outside the box. Each one embodies the elements of honor, humility and integrity.
Step 1. Take Honest Inventory of Your Age Biases
Take time to honestly reflect about where you stand with regard to your age, including any biases that may be limiting you and/or how you see others. Take charge of your life by vowing to be self-responsible, self-educating and self-correcting.
Step 2. Give Yourself Permission to Look Beyond These Biases
Open your mind and heart to a new way of seeing things. Honor, humility and integrity help us all look beyond our subconscious biases. We begin to understand how these beliefs have limited us and affected how we see and treat others.
Step 3. Consider New Ways of Seeing and Doing Things
You’re entering a new season of life with new possibilities. Allow yourself to let go of the “old normal.” Take time to consider different perspectives and how they might help brighten your outlook.
Step 4. Dare to Imagine Yourself Soaring and Enjoying Life as Never Before
Our imagination allows us to take what I call “thinking steps” into the future. Imagine your best possible future. Take a test drive to see how something actually feels so you’re able to make an informed decision.
Step 5. Begin to Take Action
As portrayed in the movie “Cocoon,” dare yourself to explore newfound joy, meaning, wisdom, faith, love and connectedness. It may be daunting at first. But by summoning the courage to take action now, to re-purpose your knowledge, skills, experience, talents and passions, you’ll create newfound sources of meaning and relevance.
Step 6. Cultivate a “Thinking Outside the Box” Mentality
The following affirmations will help you replace restrictive, self-limiting ones and cultivate a more ageless, life-affirming “think outside the box” mentality:
Affirmation #1: “I will release all feelings of embarrassment, fear, and shame, as well as the need to apologize, explain or defend myself when I’m asked, ‘How old are you?’”
Affirmation #2. “I will accept my older self with acceptance, compassion, support, love and understanding.”
Affirmation #3. “I greet others who are my age and older with acceptance, compassion, support, love and understanding.”
Affirmation #4. “I summon the courage to move forward and let go of old fears, hurts, regrets, expectations, and self-limiting ideas about my age that keep me from harvesting the joy, peace, love and wonder of each new day.”
Affirmation #5. “I will do whatever is necessary to put my house in order, simplify and unclutter my life, lighten my load and leave a legacy of love by paying forward the good that’s all around me.”
Affirmation #6. “I will cultivate the emotional strength to make peace with life, let go when it’s time and become a part of the greater mystery.”
Go ahead, cast aside your chronological age. Free yourself from self-limiting beliefs. Uncover new sources of joy and peace. Affirm your true value, worth, and wealth. Re-imagine your life outside the “getting old” box.
It’s a matter of courage, compassion and imagination.
Ken Druck, Ph.D., is a best-selling author, speaker, workshop leader, executive coach and organizational consultant who lives in Del Mar, California. Dr. Druck can be reached at and www.facebook.com/kendruck.