When it comes to how old we are, we always seem to want what we can’t have. We often spend the first half of our lives wishing we were older and the second half wishing we were younger.
Aging can be a pain. But there are some good things about getting older, such as having the opportunity to learn lots of things.
However, it’s not so much the things you learn in school or from books that matter as you age, but the things you learn from life, such as how the world works and how to live effectively. Most older folks would probably never want to go back to the foolishness, naivete and ignorance of youth, even if they would like to have 18-year-old bodies again.
Of course, knowing something and actually practicing it are two totally different things. So, with that in mind, here are some of the things that I’ve learned and am trying to put into practice.
Probably the most important, is that troubles and difficulties are a part of life. We don’t like them and we hope they never come, but they always do, in some form or another. If we expect life to be all sunshine and kittens with no rainy days, we will be sorely disappointed – and ultimately unhappy. Bad things happen and we can’t escape them. But in between, there are a lot of good things that we can enjoy and be thankful for. And we can always learn something from the bad times, even if it’s only how to appreciate the good times.
Just as there will always be hard times and difficulties in life, there will also always be more to do. We will never get to that mythical destination where everything is done and we can just sit and relax. And we shouldn't want to because we need to have things to do to make life meaningful. As the saying goes: “When you die, your inbox won’t be empty.”
And, speaking of doing things, most of what we tend to spend our time on really doesn’t matter. This is true both at home and at work. If we really want to live effective and meaningful lives, we need to determine what matters, focus on those things and let go of the mountains of seemingly urgent but ultimately meaningless stuff.
One of those things that we tend to focus too much on is money. Although money is important, giving it too much attention is not healthy. No matter how much money you have, it will never be enough. If you can’t be happy with a little money you’ll never be happy with a lot. You’ll always want “just a little more.”
Just as attitude is important with money, it’s also crucial for the rest of life. If we learn to see the good things and focus on them and be thankful for what we have, everything will be easier – and we’ll be happier too. The way we see the world determines what we’ll get out of it. If we look for the bad, we’ll find it; if we look for the good, we’ll also find it.
Another way we can be happier is by living in the present. The past is gone and the future is uncertain. Trying to live in either one is useless and guarantees that you’ll be unhappy in the present. The present is all we really have.
You may not agree with me about these things, but that’s OK. I’ve also learned that no matter what we say, no matter how much logic or persuasion we use, we can never really change anyone else's mind. People pretty much decide what they are going to believe and then look for evidence to confirm it, while ignoring anything that contradicts it.
None of the above ideas come naturally, and our culture seems to work against them all. But if we live long enough maybe we can learn them and put them into practice before it’s too late.
“It’s Our Turn” is a weekly column that rotates among members of the Echo Press editorial staff.