Courageous Aging

Excerpt from Dr. Ken Druck’s new book

I hear many of my friends joke, “I’m having a senior moment,” and while I know they’re kidding, on some level, it’s stemming from their fear of getting older. And let’s face it –getting older can be scary, especially if we buy into the media’s myths and society’s negative stereotypes about aging.

In Courageous Aging, by Dr Ken Druck, he shares the benefits of aging and dispels the false assumptions many people have about getting older. The truth is there is no need to dread getting older because we have so much influence on how we age.

We need to embrace aging, rather than trying to fight it. This means we need to stop comparing who we are now to our younger selves, and appreciate the life experiences we’ve had and who we’ve become. Aging is a lifelong process, and your best years are ahead of you – not behind you.

Are you ready to defy cultural expectations long into your golden years?

Here is an excerpt on re-envisioning your best possible future:

Let’s go on a brief journey through time. Start by recalling what it was like to be ten years old…Try to recall some specific details: the people, colors, sounds, the smell of your favorite cookie. When you have a clear image of yourself at ten years old, move on to fifteen years old, and then to twenty, but as you do so, focus on one constant: For each age, call to mind a memory in which you’re smiling and calm inside…Take your time here. Allow yourself to conjure up an image of yourself feeling happy about someone, or something, and being at peace.

As you pass through these memories of yourself at different ages, notice what’s going on around you. Maybe you’re on a boat dock watching the sunset…Then take time to consider what made you happy in each of these scenes. Gently inquire, “What is it about these moments/memories that made them significant? What are the common threads that link these memories to one another?”

Hopefully, this brief time travel exercise afforded you pleasant memories from your past. Things that created happiness and peace back then may or may not afford you those emotions now or in the future. To see what happiness might look like in the days to come, picture yourself smiling in five, ten, fifteen, and even twenty years from now. Ask:

 

  • What is the source of my happiness and peace?
  • What’s happening around me as I imagine this wonderful future?
  • What new adventures have I embarked upon?
  • What is making my heart sing and soar?
  • What is my calling?
  • What prayers are being answered?
  • Who’s in the picture with me?
  • What are the sights, sounds, and smells around me?

 

Imagine as many details as possible so that it feels completely real to you. These are important clues. And this is a glimpse of the best possible future that awaits you.

Gently bring yourself back to the present. When you’re ready, jot down notes to reflect the future you just envisioned. Capture as many details as you can to record the fullest possible picture.

If you did this exercise, here are some statements to complete that might help you clarify your vision:

 

  • What made me feel good about my future was envisioning ____.
  • What allowed me to feel this way was ____.
  • What brought me peace and calm was seeing ____.
  • What brought me joy was imagining myself ____.

 

These completed statements and the questions you addressed in your self-audit provide most everything you need to begin creating a blueprint for you best possible future. By opening your mind and heart this way, you’re not only getting in touch with what makes your heart sing, you’re forming the intention to make it happen…Once again allow yourself some quiet time and space to answer the following questions, starting with your assets:

 

  • What strengths do I bring to getting older?
  • What opportunities most excite me?
  • Which parts of my life are already in good order?

 

Now that you’ve listed some of the assets you bring to a new Action Plan, be sure to include those areas that offer the greatest opportunities for improvements. These include the hot spots you circled or highlighted in your self-audit as your biggest challenges, the most difficult parts of aging and things you had avoided and/or denied. These might be seen in our shame-based society as weaknesses, flaws, and failings, but in the judgment-free zone of courageous aging, they all represent opportunities. By reaching out to and supporting the young, unexamined parts of our aging selves with kindness, patience, understanding, and support—and sometimes tough love—we grow and flourish.

Life contains some profound hardships. The good future is the healthy balance between the highs and the lows—because there are going to be both. Life is, after all, a package deal (unfair and more than fair). And all of this is written in the small print of life. The Action Plan you’re in the process of creating will help you to reconcile and even transcend some of life’s hardships as best you can, while cherishing what you value most.

Ken Druck, Ph.D., is an award-winning mental health expert. He’s the author of several books, including his latest, Courageous Aging: Your Best Years Ever, Reimagined (October 2017). Find him at www.kendruck.com.

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