Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people.”
This quote inspired me so much that I spent most of my time at a recent party listening to what people spoke about. A mix of approximately 100 Boomers and others over the age of 45, who knew each other pretty well, divided themselves into groups. I listened in on 3 group conversations. One group, mostly of women, discussed the accomplishments and the life events, of their children and grandchildren. They never spoke about themselves.
The next group, including men and women, watched the first group and spoke in hushed voices. They gossiped about the first group of women and their kids. For example, one child was into drugs and the mother was so clueless all she could see was that the girl was getting good grades. For me there was one huge similarity between the two groups. They never shared about themselves. I thought they must be hiding behind their chatter and bravado. There is a kind of bond and community when someone is impressed with whatever you say, no matter how critical or boastful.
The third group, actually left the living room where the other two groups were talking. About 11 men and women sat in a small cozy den with the door halfway open. The age ranged between 45 and 75. Some were leaning against the wall, others sat on a couch, or in chairs, still others sat on the floor. As I came in, it was very quiet because everyone was listening to a friend of mine, who is in his 70s, as he told a story. I pulled up a chair to listen too. He was talking about Harvard psychologist Ellen Langer’s famous study. She took a bunch of elderly men in their late 70s and early 80s and relocated them to an isolated house somewhere in the woods. The house was remodeled and redesigned so that everything about it indicated it was 20 years earlier. Everything from the TV shows, music, clothes and decor was from that earlier time. The men were told not to ever discuss or fantasize about the past. Instead they were told to pretend they’d traveled back in time.
The purpose of this was to discover how these changes affected their their health and fitness. After only a week, they had more joint flexibility, dexterity, and less arthritis in their hands. Their mental acuity had increased measurably. Even their gait and posture improved. The ideas being my friend described were so fascinating no one moved as the man spoke. The room was quiet right until he said. “The aging process had been significantly reversed”.
Reacting To The Number
It left me pondering ways I could change my life. I realized thoughts about aging could be subtle. I had long ago accepted the idea age that was only in the mind. Yet, suddenly, I realized something I didn’t know that I didn’t know. My attitude had actually shifted when I reached my last birthday. The number itself triggered a mental search in the form of a question. Every time I forgot something, I wondered whether or not I had dementia. Yet, I noticed, when I concentrate, I do retain new information. In midlife, I had just gotten lazy. This was familiar ground. It was in high school, when I realized for the first time, that I needed to pay attention, if I wanted to get good grades. It was an old script and I was just doing it again.
Be a member of Eleanor Roosevelt’s great mind club. Be brave enough to question your old ideas about being “old” or “older”. You might learn you’re talking yourself into old age. Aging backwards is possible, just by paying attention to your thoughts and ideas. Notice that in our core you are still young. Notice this is who you are.