Recently, my wife Jean and I spent some time in the mountains of North Carolina. There is a golf course in the community in which we resided. While there, one of our neighbors, a man I know to be well into the seventh decade of his life, was taking a golf lesson to improve his game. Until that moment, I hadn’t given much thought to the fact that I often see folks around his age and even older doing the same thing! I think the teaching presented, is that at any age our humanity flourishes when the compartment in our intellect that seeks knowledge and constant improvement remains fit and vital.
In my book, Humanity at Work; Encouraging Spirit Truth and Achievement to Flourish in the Workplace (Chapel Hill Press 2008), I write of a woman I met on a trip while traveling up the Mississippi river on the steamboat Delta Queen. Surely she could have been the poster person on the blessings that befall the lifelong seeker of knowledge and self improvement,
“On my river trip, about 25% of my traveling companions were over the age of 70—many exceeded the age of 80. One of these elders is a wonderful woman who suffers from arthritis so severe that she walks stooped over, using two canes. Yet she went on every walking tour. She understands that to experience life, we must constantly challenge ourselves. In this respect, no such thing as a steady state exists for us. Her behavior also shows that she understands that the accumulation of direct experiences and the continuation of the learning process are two of the great gifts of our life. They, in turn, allow us to further refine our personal frame of reference; we are able to draw comparisons and choose what to do and how to behave as we do it.”
The accumulation of life’s experiences has another important and powerful benefit-in time we become imbued with wisdom. Let me explain. As we garner the experiences that come to us daily, there comes a point where we possess the ability to discern the true nature of what has occurred-we are provided with insights, lessons learned from the life we lead. Provided enough insights and you come to understand how life is ordered-you then possess wisdom.
I am not certain if a life centered on constant self improvement, the accumulation of insights, and fostering of wisdom will keep you young. But I know it will keep you from growing old.