When it comes to growing older, and (hopefully) wiser, I find that there are very few things worth really paying my attention for. Looking back over life, I can see the evolutionary moments along the path, and I see a more deliberate present.
What psychologists call “personality maturation”, the “gradual, imperceptible changes that begins in our teenage years” and keep on happening through life, are a combination of psychology in aging and experience. According to Zaria Gorvett in her article How Your Personality Changes as You Age (on BBC.com), research shows that we “become more conscientious and agreeable, and less neurotic.”
Gorvett continues, stating that “research has shown that we develop into more altruistic and trusting individuals. Our willpower increases and we develop a better sense of humour. Finally, the elderly have more control over their emotions. It’s arguably a winning combination – and one which suggests that the stereotype of older people as grumpy and curmudgeonly needs some revision.”
As I personally go careening towards 50, I’d like to think of it as, not so much being more “agreeable” as, it is about what is truly worth my energy. What is worth my time?
My time is like my own water reserve as I walk through the desert of life and – frankly – some things just aren’t worth wasting my water on. For me, I think that, as we age, the way we think evolves from a place that’s more about boundaries and conservation, cemented in a sense of identity and urgency.
Our water is not worth wasting.
My inability to “give any effs” at this age is directly tied to my absolute hatred of the wasting of time. The only commodity that we have actively sifting through our fingers, time can never be recovered. It evaporates, no matter how hard we try to keep it contained, it is the disappearing ink on our contract of life. So, why waste it? Why waste a moment – a drop – of what you have left? Time is the precious, finite hydration you carry with you as you wander the desert of existence.
When we’re young, we still believe that we have a lot of it. I know that I was often so cavalier with it. Giving it away to every thirst who called for it – every jester who dances across the path. As I grow older, I find the desert to be more sand than water, and I recognize that I have got less of my own. Why would I want to waste it on thieves?
Time thieves – the very things and people which can selfishly suckle on your necessary reserves. Maybe it’s a job, a relationship, a friendship or even our own self-sabotage at the drink, but, the older I’ve become, the less I’m willing to pour. For my jug has gotten lighter and I select who and what I hold high tea with.
“All my possessions for a moment of time.”Queen Elizabeth
By being willing to protect our own emotional liquid stash, we are also weeding out those who simply want to take it for themselves. By being selective on when we choose to drink – whether with others or alone – we pause to hydrate when it’s most valuable to do so… when there’s more worth.
Where you choose to spend it – where It’s worth pouring out – is up to you.
Me? I’m preferring to share it at the table of positivity and hope. Presenting it where gratitude is the main course. In those moments, water isn’t lost into the waste but shared at a community table. Everyone has a glass in gratitude. There’s more substance there. Less waste.
To live in gratitude is to swim in life, actively avoiding the time wasters. Like seaweed below you as you try to float by, they actively look for something to latch onto and entangle. Time wasters are the desert-walking death eater looking for a way to pull you in and nurse from your reserves.
By being good stewards of our time – and not dumping it on that which won’t replenish – we can hold onto our ability to keep walking unencumbered. We can navigate as though an oasis surrounds us.
And gratitude is cumulative. The folks at Harvard echo that in their piece – In Praise of Gratitude– stating, “in positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.”
The waters seem to grow when shared at this buffet.
The article states how being selective and choosing to live in gratitude has been shown to improve many aspects of life from relationships to workplace performance. And, while they say that “studies such as this one cannot prove cause and effect”, they did state that “most of the studies published on this topic support an association between gratitude and an individual’s well-being.”
I find that being diligent in gratitude is both a good practice and being a good steward of my time. Being a good manager of my water is more than just cultivating with gratitude, however. It is also about eliminating the time waste of what is not important. Being a good curator of what you hang on your life’s walls. Being a regulatory manager of your time can also mean being okay with saying ‘no’ to others. Holding dear to you that sweet H2O, like Bobby Boucher’s precious arctic-sourced pouch.
This is important to do because the time is limited. The truly finite, individualized resource you are navigating with is undefined and irretrievable. And it’s all temporary.
But that knowledge is no cause to grieve.
Instead, it is reason to feel inspired to shed the wasteful. Look at it as permission to say: “I’m not spending my time here, in this moment, anymore. I’m taking my water to where it will do the most good.”
Walk away from that which dehydrates you and deflates your balloon of possibility.
If living in a place of gratitude is a difficult pill to swallow at this time, the folks over at Harvard give suggestions like “keep a gratitude journal” and “count your blessings.”
While seemingly obvious, this is a discipline that is cultivated – but doable.
Dr Cecilia Dintino wrote some suggestions for combating the common feeling of defeat that can come with aging for Psychology Today. Dintino lists many ways to combat the limiting of self though processes like “remember you’re getting better and better” and to not limit your activity if you don’t have to as “if the thought is poison, the anecdote is action.”
Personally, ever since I walked out from the other side of breast cancer, I’ve had a heavy understanding of how much of my water is gone. I’m not regretful. I’m mindful. My sense of urgency is like an evaporative, permeable membrane, loosely wrapped around my own supply.
As I know the water will, one day, be gone (and that’s okay), I understand what endeavors truly need watering and which ones don’t.
Much like Steve Jobs said:
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
Of all of the limited resources, time is the most preciously fleeting.