Two women in my life gave me my first lesson in mindset — as far as I remember. Ruth and Betty (not their real names).
I’d known Ruth for years. When I met Betty, I learned both women were 60. They couldn’t be more different from each other. Betty colored her hair red. Ruth left her hair silver. Betty didn’t drive. Ruth did drive. Betty wasn’t very active. Ruth was on the go all the time. Betty was a bit dower and stiff. Ruth was happy and agile. Betty wasn’t curious about anything. Ruth was curious about everything.
I was in awe of how different these two people were. That awe led me to explore what was behind their differences. The summary of the differences is that Betty seemed old and Ruth seemed young.
My answer to what caused the differences is simple. The details behind the answer are complex and layered. The mind is the center of longevity. Basically, the mind is the center of your life, controlling your health, vibrancy, and decision making — and longevity.
I believe people deserve to lead healthy, long, joyous lives. And I meet people regularly who don’t think that’s possible, that your health and longevity are programmed when you are conceived.
News flash: only twenty percent of your health and longevity is genetic, and eighty percent is lifestyle. And there’s the rub. You are responsible for your health but didn’t know it, for the most part, because marketing messages glossed over that “little” detail. You’ve been led to think that you don’t have any control over your body. Heck, many believe that don’t really have control over their lives.
It takes effort to get your head wrapped around living the kind of life that supports good health, vibrancy, and longevity. It takes effort to overcome the ageism that’s alive and well in western cultures.
What It Takes
It takes self-discipline to keep your mind on track with the decisions you make for the actions you want to take to live the life you want. It takes a strong constitution to not buy into the thinking that prevails about how health goes as you age.
So, how does this apply to Betty and Ruth? It didn’t even occur to Betty to question the aging lines she’d grown up with — and grown old with. Ironically, it didn’t occur to Ruth to question the aging lines she’d decided on as a young woman. Essentially, Betty resigned herself to her fate and sat and waited for age, and ultimately death, to come to her. Ruth kept living and contributing to her community, supporting a vibrant life and longevity.
As I look back at the two women and the interactions we had, I saw that Betty had a fixed mindset (also called closed or the finite game mindset), and Ruth had a growth mindset (also called open or the infinite game mindset).
Why do I think that? Betty tended to see and dwell on the negative in her life, to not be open to other possibilities outside her beliefs and experiences. Ruth, on the other hand, saw the joy and possibilities in her life, and was open to new experiences.
A fixed mindset closes off potential. People with a fixed mindset believe their health and longevity are determined by their genetics and there’s nothing they can do to change that. They also believe their intelligence is determined by circumstances and genetics.
There is evidence that isn’t so.
A growth mindset unleashes potential. People with a growth mindset believe their health and longevity can be developed through their lifestyle choices, overriding their genetics. Intelligence can also be developed.
There is evidence that supports that reality.
A quote that encapsulates the mindset: “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” ~Henry Stanley Haskins
That quote really is talking about mindset.
Let’s walk through the mindset path.
Mindset is the belief that determines how you behave.
What you think about consistently affects your behavior and also shapes your mindset.
Mindset has everything to do with perspective. Your foundational beliefs, attitudes, and biases naturally affect the way you process information and experience your world.
Your mindset plays a critical role in how you deal with adversity and challenges — and opportunities.
Your mindset is a big deal.
How can you use your mindset to impact your health, ultimately impacting your longevity?
Here’s my experience with my mindset and my health. I decided to have an ovarian fibroma removed. I called it my “Alienectomy”. I didn’t want to take ownership of it by calling it “my fibroma”. I wanted to acknowledge it and then to set it free, so it was an alien I was releasing back into the wild. I readied my spirit and energy for weeks by playing and dancing to Macklemore’s Can’t Hold Us, a song my feet move to readily. The cats just rolled their eyes at me and left the room.
My brother, who’d had prostate surgery, told me I’d be down for a month or two recovering from the surgery. I couldn’t believe it! I denied that possibility for me. Yet, he “knew”, from personal experience, what I was “in for”.
But, he didn’t know me. I was hardly down for two days, even after not getting it done laparoscopically. I slept most of the first day, testing my energy with Macklemore’s song, every time I got up from a nap. By the end of the second day, I was dancing almost full out to the song. A week after surgery I was teaching a class, including some floor and stretching exercises. I give my mindset full credit for my speedy recovery.
“The body has remarkable powers of healing and recovery from illness and injury.” ~David Sinclair
I’ll add to that — your mindset controls those remarkable powers.
What does your mindset do to — or for — your aging? Is your age the number of trips around the sun, or the number of candles on your cake? Or, is age something else?
Here are some delightful “definitions” of age:
– emotionally: you are as old as you feel
– physically: you are as old as you look
Some of the advances in science include the Horvath Clock, or “age clock”, and others. There are tests you can take that tell you your biological age. How cool is that?!
If you could live a healthy and vibrant life, how long would you want to live? Longevity is the sum of your lifespan and your healthspan. If you can affect that math equation and have great longevity, will you decide to live and give a long time? Or, does your mindset tell you it’s not possible to extend your life so you are going to settle for declining longevity?
Twenty percent of your health is dictated by genetics. Eighty percent is dictated by your lifestyle. You are in charge of your lifestyle. You and your mindset are in control of your health, vibrancy, and life.
What’s it going to be? Declining into frailty or thriving with vibrancy?
I believe everyone has the right to live a long, healthy, joyous life.
Will your mindset make that right your reality?