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The Ageless Mind:
How to Stay Sharp No Matter What Your Age

By Christopher Knippers, Ph.D.

Roger had never thought about his age in relation to his position during his eight years at the company. Everything was fine until a recent wave of new hirings and promotions in his division. He noticed for the first time that he was beginning to be the senior member of the organization, not only in his length of time at the company, but also in his age. This was unsettling. Roger noticed that there was a certain “youthful enthusiasm” in the new hires; and suddenly it occurred to him that he had gradually lost that quality over the past eight years. He became a little insecure in his position for the first time. He wondered if he was going to be left in the dust of the energy that these new people were exuding. Roger wondered if he could somehow regain his vigor and vitality that had subtly faded.

A “youthful edge” is an asset that will give you an advantage in any career. There is no escaping it: our society is increasingly “youth-oriented.”  That’s because the passion that is necessary to achieve greatness is associated with the attitudes that many young people still have, before too many disappointments come along in their lives. However, “youthful” is an attitude, not an age. Most anyone of any age can easily develop the attitude and stamina that will give you the ability to compete with the most dynamic people in the workforce. Ayn Rand referred to that personal quality this way: “It is a sense of enormous expectation, the sense that one’s life is important, that great achievements are within one’s capacity, and that great things lie ahead” (The Fountainhead, Penguin Putman Inc., New York, 1943). You, too, can have this quality of being.

There are some steps that you can take to develop an attitude that is considered youthful, because it is an attitude that is associated with the passion, enthusiasm and vitality of youth. Unfortunately, most people become more cynical and discouraged with age and experience; but cynicism and discouragement are unnecessary learned perspectives on life that result from disappointments, losses, and extraneous influences that accrue over time. You don’t have to give in to those things. You can maintain a fresh outlook on life that is indeed full of possibilities. The more you believe in new possibilities, the more you will see new possibilities. As humans we do tend to find whatever we are looking for. Look for what you are passionate about (or, perhaps what you once “were” passionate about) to happen in your life, then take steps to make those things happen. In the process, you will be living in a way that increases your stamina.

Here are some simple steps you can take every day to maintain a fresh outlook on life, a sharp mental acuity, physical energy, and the positive mood that draws people to you. With these qualities and your experience in life you can be a most valuable asset for a lifetime.

1. Examine your attitude: Look at your attitude toward the people in your life, the people in society (of all ages), and the situations in your life. Find the negativity and extinguish it. There is nothing that is more of a turn-off in a company than a person who harbors ill-will toward any person, or even any group in society. Drop the negativity. It’s not getting you where you need to be in life. Look forward to your positive goals, which hopefully benefit others as much as they do you; and work passionately toward them.

2. Have goals about which you feel passionate: Your experience in life may have been a bad teacher. It might have taught you that your fondest goals cannot be reached, because of a few disappointments. Don’t believe it. You can get there. Put yourself enthusiastically into the things about which you are or were passionate. Along the way, lift up other people in the process of trying to reach their goals. Recent history has taught us the lessons of what happens when you strive toward a certain type of “greatness” while selfishly leaving others to suffer. On the other hand we have many recent examples of highly successful people who are very altruistic and are becoming more successful in the process.

3. Keep your brain sharp by giving yourself mental challenges: Learn new skills, do the crossword puzzle (or sudoku), increase your vocabulary, read outside of your usual interests. Simply taking a different route to work or even wearing your watch on the opposite wrist can help you stay mentally sharp. New learning of any kind can increase your brain’s capacity. It’s just like building muscle by working out at the gym.

4. Treat your body to a boost: Some things you do will increase your mental acuity, boost your mood, and help your physical ability as well:

  • Do some form of activity every day that increases your blood circulation. This will nourish your brain, build muscle tone, increase serotonin levels (body chemicals that are natural mood elevators), and relieve stress.

  • Eat foods rich in anti-oxidant vitamins, such as blueberries and spinach. Also take in omega-3 fatty acids (found in cold-water fish and in capsules at the store). Your brain and body love these, and will reward you by functioning much more efficiently.

  • Avoid alcoholic drinks. Alcohol kills brain cells, speeds up the brain and body’s aging process, and decreases serotonin. You will have an edge over anyone who drinks, if you use a little restraint.

  • Sleep. Your brain and body need this restorative time.

5. Use humor daily: Develop a sense of humor. Everyone loves a good laugh. Even if you are not the one full of jokes, join in the fun with those who are. If you develop the ability to laugh at yourself you will be even more fun to be around. Laughter increases energy levels, increases serotonin, and relieves stress.

6. Take time to play: Make it a priority to do activities that you find fun. If you must, schedule time into your calendar to do the things you love. And make sure you follow-through! These activities can increase another mood-enhancing body chemical: dopamine.

7. Be involved with recent events: Keep up with current trends in society, politics, culture and style. You don’t have to like the trends, and you certainly don’t need to try to look like someone half your age; but just be aware (in the loop).

Following these simple suggestions will give you that youthful edge in the workplace; and in the process you will find yourself happier and healthier.

Read other articles and learn more about Dr. Christopher Knippers.

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