Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Are you a 1 or a 10?

On a scale of 1 to 10 (1 being tightly closed and 10 being very open), how open and flexible to you consider yourself? Are you open to new ideas and new ways of doing things? Are you a lifelong learner? Or do you like to stick with what you know and do things the way you've always done them?

Joan Chittister's book The Gift of Years, which I referenced in yesterday's blog, is divided into chapters by topic—topics such as dreams, loneliness, outreach, appreciation, legacy, fear, letting go and many more. Her chapter on "learning" talks about the inability to remember names, called anomia, saying it's common to anyone over 30. She mentions neurological research and says that as our brains age, they begin to sort and discard information that's "emotionally neutral." Perhaps that's like us cleaning our computer files from time to time so we'll have more memory on them. That's a good thing, right?

Chittister does say, however, that there are "two approaches to aging: passive aging and active aging." Passive aging is a sort of slow death rather than a time of living differently. And active aging "requires us to go on living life to the full no matter how differently," she says, citing a Harvard University longitudinal Study of Adult Development finding: "Lifelong learning makes the difference between healthy and unhealthy aging. It determines the degree to which life will be satisfying to us, as well as the degree to which we will be interesting, valuable, life-giving to others."

And in Chittister's words, "Ongoing learning saves the aging from becoming more fossilized than transformed. The problem with aging is not age, it is petrifaction, rigidity of soul, inflexibility."

I like the idea of lifelong learning, openness, flexibility, transformation, no matter what age I am. How about you? See where you are on the scale of 1 to 10—and then decide whether you want to make any changes to how you life.

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