In this ongoing series, LIFE IN FULL, we are writing to Baby Boomers (those of us in our 50s, 60s, and 70s) about how to maximize our Longevity and our Legacy. Find new episodes here every Tuesday and Thursday, and read the overview and catch up on earlier articles in this series by clicking here.
As we close out 2015, many of us are thinking “Where did the year go? How can another year be over? And the older we get, the faster time seems to fly by—and the more we find ourselves wishing that we could slow time down. We want to make time pass more slowly, and we certainly want to slow down what time does to us.
In fact, it seems that our whole society is obsessed with slowing down the aging process. The problem is that both aging and time itself seem to speed up as the years pass.
Remember how slow time went by when we were children? We were thinking about that last week at Christmas—remember how long it took for Christmas to finally come? We all wanted to speed up time — so that Christmas would arrive sooner.
But as we age, we find ourselves wishing we could slow down time. The weeks flash past. Christmas just gets over and before you know it, we are preparing for Christmas again. Or we just finish one summer, and suddenly it’s almost summer again. Or it seems like we just changed our watches to daylight saving time, and now we are changing them back. Our grandkids grow up before our eyes.
What has happened to time, and why does it pass so much faster now than it used to?
The older we get, the more we wish we could stretch out time — make it a little more like it was when we were kids, when a day was a long time, a week was huge and summer never ended.
What if the real key to slowing down our aging is learning how to slow down the passage of time?
It may sound a little cosmic, but the passage of time is actually not an absolute or a set formula. The science of Einstein tells us that time is a flexible continuum — that it can be stretched.
But that’s not what we’re talking about here. What matters is our perspective — our perception of time’s passage. And anything we can do to capture moments, to separate one day from another, and to fully notice and appreciate all that happens in a week will, at least in our own minds, slow time down.
Here are three simple mental exercises — or “perception changers” — that can allow us to see more, feel more and get more out of each day:
- Give each day a name.Why should every Tuesday just be called Tuesday? Why not name each of our own days in a way that makes us appreciate their uniqueness and recall their joy? It’s a simple exercise. At the end of each day, as you are climbing into bed, think back over the day and come up with a name for it based on its outstanding feature, a special moment or something you accomplished. A day might be called “First Blossoms” or “Quality Time with the Winstons” or “New Idea for Investing.” Just reviewing a day and thinking about its outstanding features will separate it from all other days and provide distinctiveness between days.
- Write a short poem about each week.We’re not all poets, but we can all attempt to capture the beauty and essence of things like poets do. Take a little time on Sunday to think back over the past week, perhaps with the aid of your calendar or date book where you can look back over the week. What happened? What did you feel? What did you notice? Write a few lines of poetic review that give that week a unique identity. More happened than you realized, and there were a lot of nice, small moments that may not have been as insignificant as you thought. Once you write your little poem about the past week, you are in a perspective-rich, time-stretched mentality that will be helpful as you plan the week ahead. And at the end of a month, there is nothing better than going back and reading your own poetic accounts of the four weeks that made up that month before you begin to plan the month ahead.
- Six-month years. As we age, there is a tendency to start seeing our lives as shrinking away. If I am 65 and read that the average life span is 78 years, I might say “only 13 more years.” But then my defense mechanisms kick in and I say, “But I am going to outlive the average — I have at least 20 or 25 good years left.”
But why be bound by traditional 12-month years? At this stage of life, we are more efficient. We can get more done in less time and with less hassle. Why not have six-month years instead of 12-month ones and have a year’s worth of enjoyment and accomplishment and relationships in half the time? Now, just by adjusting that perspective of what a year is, instead of 13 years left, you have 26. Or instead of 20, you have 40.
And a six-month year works better for planning, sequencing and separating. There are seven days in a week and four or five weeks in a month. Six months is an ideal midrange goal-setting and planning period. Making that simple adjustment gives you twice as many “years” and separates and stretches them in a way that makes life’s future seem longer. (And sometimes, “seeming” makes it so!)
There may are other ways of “stretching time,” but these are the three that seem to work for us. And as is often the case with stretching, we end up a little bigger in our awareness, a little broader in our perspective and a little more in control of the passage of time.
See you back here on Thursday when we will get to one of the most delightful parts of “seniorism”—the joy of grand children—and how we can do a better job of being their “champions.”