Saturday, November 19, 2011

Finding role models for aging successfully

When I work with my executive coaching clients I often suggest that they identify role models for specific areas of learning.  For example, if they are working on inspiring and motivating others then they are to identify 1 to 3 people who do this well and in a way that fits the coachee's style.  They then identify specific things these people do or say that leads others to find them inspiring and try out some of these behaviors themselves.

I think I need a dose of my own advice.  The challenge for me is that I have not been clear about the ways in which I want to focus my own development vis-a-vis aging successfully.  I have focused more on what I don't want to emulate and lifelong frustrations with some of my personality traits.  So to turn those thoughts on their head I need to first think about what I want of learn, improve or become more effective at doing.  Well, the obvious way to approach that is to look at my Happiness Commandments which need work and look for role models in those areas.  That means I will have to find role models for aging successfully who:

- handle difficult situations without complaining
- have long term goals and take action to make them a reality
- have lots of physical energy and endurance
- make new friends regularly and spend time nurturing their friendships
- listen with curiosity 
- engage in activities/have goals that push them to learn something challenging
- use their creativity in ways that stretch this "muscle"

Since I am rather sore and tired from a Pilates session yesterday, I think I'll use the search for a role model for having lots of physical energy and endurance as one ages as an example.  I can think of several people right of the bat.  At Pilates yesterday was an older man who was working through an advanced routine by himself.  Turns out he is a Pilates instructor and a massage therapist.  In the newspaper was a story about a woman in her 70's who is a body building champion and who started working on this at 70.  Both of these people take working on their fitness as a primary part of their life.  

On the other hand I have a 104 year old neighbor who still take short walks each day and is able to climb stairs and a steep driveway with only the help of a cane.  My donated book sorting buddy for the Friends of the Library book sale is in her mid-70's and does this bending, lifting, stretching type of volunteer work 3 days a week despite needing to work with a chiropractor and physical therapist on her back problems.  She has tons of energy. And my aunt rides her bike or walks to the store, has a large vegetable and flower garden each year and swims regularly in her mid-80's.

So what do I pull out of these example?  The fittest, most energetic persons make physical fitness activities a, if not the, core part of their life and/or livelihood.  Others build it into their daily life on a regular basis without fail. 

What can I try to do that these role models do?  Continue with Pilates once a week and recommit to long walks with the dog daily despite the weather.  Take up my new friend's invitation to join her and others on some Saturday morning hikes.  Add in other planned physical fitness activities such as actually using one of those DVDs that I have.  Sign my husband and myself up for ballroom dancing lessons instead of just talking about learning to dance for our son's wedding.  Embrace raking leaves as exercise!

This is a pretty straightforward example but one that has been a lifelong challenge for me as I tend more towards thinking, reading, creativity that involves sitting, etc.  However after visiting my Mom who has the same preferences and seeing how her lack of commitment to physical fitness has limited her even more than her arthritis, etc. requires, I don't want that to be my future if I can avoid it!


  1. I like the Saturday morning hike thought! :)

  2. Yes Sybil it is you I was talking about! We'll talk more about hiking soon.


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