Changing Our Mindset Around Aging – “I’m Not As Young As I Used to Be”

redefining after 50 Aug 31, 2020
Mindset while redefining after 50

“I’m not as young as I used to be” has been my mantra for about 3 years now. I have arthritis in my neck. If I’ve been sitting for a while, my entire body cracks and creaks when I get up and it takes me about 20 seconds to walk straight with a zip in my step. I can’t remember the last time I changed positions without making some sort of noise. When my daughter in law was in her last trimester of pregnancy and we were together, my grandson who was 5 at the time, would imitate the two of us grunting and groaning when we went from sitting to standing – her from pregnancy and me from age.

My mindset over aging started out with a vague anxiety around my job and whether or not I was getting too old to do it. This then morphed into anxiety around caring for and playing with my grandchildren and whether or not my neck arthritis was going to flare up on that day.

These two aspects of my life – my job and my grandchildren – both give me a great deal of joy. However, they both require a good amount of physical activity. The neck and back pain has often robbed of the joy in the moment in both roles. And it’s gotten worse as the years have gone on.

The days where it is particularly painful are the days where I repeatedly tell myself that I’m just not as young as I used to be.

Of Course I’m Not!

None of us are! Even when we’re 20! It’s just a fact of life.

It’s a matter of changing my mindset.

Instead of Dwelling on What I Can't Do, Focus on What I Can

And I can do A LOT!!!

I am able to care for my grandchildren all day long when needed. Even if I have to sit down every now and again to rest my back.

I am able to continue doing my job as a BCBA working with kids and teens on the autism spectrum. Even if I have to sit down now and again to rest my back!

I continue to live a full life with family, friends, work, my dogs, and now my blog!

Everyone’s got something. Having to sit down and rest my back every now and then is mine and if that’s as bad as it gets, I’m doing OKAY!

We have to focus on our strengths rather than on our weaknesses.

Taking Lemons and Making Lemonade

As I reflect on 2020 and I consider my level of anxiety in January versus now, I realize that I took lemons and made lemonade.

When I reflected on my job and felt on some days that I was too old for it, I would get melancholy – mostly at the thought of giving it up! I couldn’t imagine not working at something! This was not a money concern – it was a panic at the thought of “What will I DO ALL DAY?”

And then I moved my mom here and decided on that trip to start doing the thing I’d always wanted to do and never had time for. Write.

Now I no longer worry at all about what I’m going to do all day when I do eventually decide to leave my job. I have my writing. I will continue to stay busy. I’m learning new things while pursuing my passion as I move forward. All of this while continuing to prioritize my family – a firm position for me since I had my boys many years ago.

Instead of saying, “I’m not as young as I used to be” or “what will I do now?” reflect on your strengths. What have you always wanted to do but never done? What are the next steps you can take to make that happen?

We aren’t as young as we used to be but we have a lot of good years left and a lot to contribute.

Practice Gratitude

For the big things – family and health.

But, perhaps, more importantly, for the small everyday things – your morning cup of coffee, your evening sip of wine, the sunset, the breeze, indoor plumbing, your dog licking your face in the morning, ice cream sandwiches. The list is endless.

Jot down at least one thing daily that you are grateful for. 2-3 is even better. Take time throughout your day to appreciate the moment. The smells, the sights, the tastes.

Practice Affirmations

Especially affirmations that counteract your negative mindset statements around aging.

My favorite affirmation is “I am a healthy and ACTIVE wife, mother and grandmother, every single day.”

I write this in my journal EVERY day and EVERY night. And I remind myself of this when I’m beating myself up because I needed to sit down for 5 minutes to rest my back. 

Fixed Mindset Versus Growth Mindset

It is important for us as we age to develop a growth mindset around our aging, rather than a fixed mindset. With a fixed mindset, we either can do it or we cannot. A fixed mindset statement for me would be “Once I’m done with this job, I’m done working. That part of my life will be over.”

A growth mindset allows us to be flexible and seek solutions. Dr. Dweck, psychologist and author of “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success,” defines a growth mindset as the more adaptable way to problem solve and learn. Perceiving situations with a growth mindset creates possibility.

The growth mindset statement was, “I’m going to start to take time to do the thing I’ve always wanted to do but didn’t have time for. That way, as I fade out of my job, I’ll have something rewarding to fill that time.”

Take a moment to reflect on your mindset around aging – a negative or fixed mindset can present us with the largest barriers to doing the thing(s) we’ve always wanted to do. Fear is also a mindset related barrier – fear of rejection, fear of failure. Allow yourself to think about the possibilities rather than what can go wrong. Ask yourself, “What’s the BEST that can happen?” and sit back and visualize it.

As Henry Ford said: “Whether you believe you can do a thing or not, you are right!”