It is innate in humans to need to feel that, at least in some small ways, we are always improving. Think of the once popular mantra, “every day in every way I’m getting better and better.”
This need is what drives sales of self-help books, diets and exercise fads; even the tradition of New Year’s Resolutions is based on this God-given impulse to do better.
When we fail to perceive even small victories or improvements in our lives, our morale plummets and some of us may spiral into full-blown depression.
Faced with the law of entropy’s impact on the human body as we age, how can we avoid this sort of discouragement?
A few weeks ago I ran smack into this problem when I realized I had reached the point in my exercise regimen where adding miles, effort and repetitions would simply increase the wear and tear on my body and raise my risk of injury.
I was discouraged until I decided to adjust my attitude. No matter what I do in the way of diet and exercise, my physical body is inevitably going to decline. Rather than comparing my results to some younger, fitter, ideal, I decided to strive to preserve the health and stamina I have today. By changing my focus I will be able to feel the small wins so necessary to emotional health.
This morning I was encouraged to read about a 94 year-old star Masters Track and Field athlete. When asked about her life, she explained the Masters program takes the age of the athletes into account. “The trick is to reframe progress so that it becomes a relative measure, not an absolute one. In other words, to move the yardsticks as you age.”
In the same article a prominent psychologist states, “under stress, people tend to fall back on routines (and habits).”
As we’ve long been told, our habits can work either for or against us. This is true for habits and routines of attitude, as well.
An attitude, regimen, or habit that serves us well in certain times and circumstances may become a stumbling block as we age or our situation changes. Along with our arteries, our attitudes tend to harden as we age. Could some of my long-held attitudes now be working against me and my happiness?
When exercising with greater intensity became risky, I needed to become more creative with my workout routine and adjust my expectations of the results, so as not to become discouraged and give up, altogether.
Perhaps I need to take a critical look at my spiritual habits or cherished attitudes to see if they are putting me at risk in other areas of my life.
My resolution for the New Year of 2014 is to shake up my routine attitudes and habits to determine which ones are still working for me, and which need to be reframed or discarded.
A happier New Year may be just a matter of perspective.