Longevity, like so much of life, has a lot to do with attitude. Hereditary factors play an important part in how long we live; however, a bad attitude about life can nullify any positive advantage that a good gene pool might provide. Case-point, a friend of mine told me about a funeral of one of his uncles who died at the age of 92. The deceased uncle had an older brother who was 95. While my friend walked passed the open casket with his surviving uncle, that uncle leaned over the body of his deceased brother and said with tongue in cheek, "Quitter!" Then the older brother patted the shoulder of his dead brother and said, "I forgive you anyway."
While this a touching story about the relationship between two brothers who lived nearly a century, it is more. It is a paradigm about how to live our lives. The following are my David Letterman-esque "Top 10 Ways Not To Be a Quitter:"
10. Set your goal high. Whether your goal is a long life or some other one, set your sites just beyond that which you would be happy obtaining. Suppose your goal is getting an associates degree; work toward a four-year degree. Stretching a little may well surprise you with greater success.
9. Resolve not to be a quitter. Make one of your personal mottos: "I won't be a quitter." For me, I tend to give-up after the door has been slammed in my face a couple of times. Keep trying.
8. Learn from failure. You can often learn more from failure than you can learn from success. History is replete with many examples of people who ultimately won the gold after many dismal failures. If you have failed at several relationships, instead of merely starting over again, get some help in determining why you aren't successful. Insanity is defined as trying something that isn't working over and over again hoping for different results the next time.
7. Get a coach. Find someone who can help challenge you to be all that you can be. This person's job is to encourage you to push your personal envelope. Whether your goal is to lose weight or quit smoking, success is far more likely, when you have a person who will be your personal Vince Lombardi. When you are ready to throw in the towel, your coach can help you regain your confidence.
6 Get and maintain a positive mental attitude.> A positive attitude will push you when the road is rough and hard going. Starting to get into shape after years of unhealthy neglect is very difficult unless you believe that you will reach your goal of "looking marvelous."
5. Assume that your genes are excellent and that you are gifted. My goal is to live longer than the centenarian, George Burns, did. However, my parents died relatively early in life. Realizing this, I looked to my grandmothers who both came close to reaching the century mark. That won't be a big push to add a handful of years to their gene pool.
4. Help others. A life can't be truly full, regardless of the length, if you do everything for yourself. Make it your mission to help others. Start within your family, but also go beyond to those who may not share your DNA.
3. Exercise your body. After getting permission from your family doctor, get into a fitness program. A good target pulse rate for cardiovascular exercise is 80% of your heart's capacity. (To find your target pulse rate, subtract your age from 220 then multiply that number by 80%). Depending on your age, your pulse rate will range from 160 (if you are young) to 120 (if you are older than me).
2. Exercise your mind. It is essential to exercise your mind as well as your body. Reading or trying something creative will help get and keep your mind healthy. Take a painting class, or learn to play the piano. A long life without it being meaningful isn't a blessing.
1. Appreciate and enjoy your life now. Life at any age is all too short and final. Life isn't merely obtaining goals. Enjoy the process, and appreciate the challenge. Smell all the flowers of life not just the roses. Life isn't guaranteed, and it is over all too soon. George Burns (my mentor) lived to over 100. I wonder whether Burns thought that his life had been long enough. I doubt it. However, accidents, misuse, and bad genes can dramatically shorten our lives. Therefore, enjoy every moment that you are given.
This article appeared in the Dixon Telegraph on 3/22/01.