Think about who you ARE…and Define who you want to BECOME
I admire talented people for the gifts they possess and share with the world, and one of my favorite actors (who is so natural in his acting that it always seems real) is Gary Sinese of CSI NY (also of Apollo 13 and Forrest Gump fame). In tonight’s show he made the comment to the suspect that “we ARE shaped by the events of our lives, but DEFINED by the choices we make”. I believe that statement goes to the heart of what I believe to be true about healthy aging and the impact our choices have on our lives as they unfold over time. Life is about choices and the freedom we have to make them.
The good news is that we have the power to choose a new course for ourselves at any point in time, but the “bad news” – if there is any – is that we have to live with the consequences – and results – of those choices. Choose wisely – as Indiana Jones did in the “Last Crusade” (the “holy grail”) and you have eternal life; or choose “poorly” as the knight told him prior to him making his choice (to save his father) and (after the “bad guy” chose the wrong one) – and you have death! I believe in the power of faith – and choice – now because I have learned through personal experience the pain and tragedy that CAN result from choosing “poorly”. I would like to address this issue in this article in the context of “reflecting on who you ARE”, and “defining who you want to BE” as you grow older because I feel it goes to the “heart” of being a “successful ager”.
I have a good friend I just call “sir” (I know him through my workouts at my gym) because that is how he always addresses me in our conversations about all things interesting and valuable about life. He is 37 and a waiter at a large restaurant in Orange County that caters to large groups and special events. He is happy with his life as it is and he seems to have many friends at the gym who love to see him when they are there at the same time. I always find myself in a better mood after our conversations because I feel grateful for his friendship – even though we do not interact at any other time in our lives. He comes from a very large family – many relatives, brothers and sisters etc. – and he is the youngest. His mother and father live in Mexico and when he visits them he always has stories to tell me when he returns about his 90 year father and his life in the rural setting he calls home. His mother is a little older than me but I get the sense that she is not in the best of health. I sense in sir the joy he feels about his family and the closeness he loves – and enjoys – with his many diverse and interesting family members. They all enjoy their lives apart – and together – and when they can, they gather and enjoy each other’s company as only big families seem to do. His father defines himself through his world and the work he does as a farmer. He rises with the dawn to take care of the cattle and other livestock he owns and is TOTALLY happy with his life just as it is – and has been – for decades.
It is finally the life that we CHOOSE TO LIVE that matters most of all. The choices we make over time have the effect of helping us reach into the core of who we truly ARE and eventually (over time) CAN result in a life of fulfillment and joy. Sir’s father has two sisters – that he has mentioned on occasion – who are both in their late 90’s. They are BOTH independent and happy women living life as they choose and playing their own unique roles within the family. I suspect that I will never have that kind of a life because I – (we) – live in a different world. My future seems to be tied very closely to what I am doing right now writing these articles for askthetrainer.com, and in the years ahead my life will be defined by this work that I am choosing to do RIGHT NOW. I want to make a difference in people’s lives by sharing my gifts – through my gift of expression – and enable and empower people to reach beyond their current “realities” and consider the potential inherent in choosing a new – or expanded – path for their life’s work (no ‘retirement’ for me, remember?). Consciously making new choices with the best intentions that you possess can only be enabling and empowering, resulting in becoming the kind of person that is happy, strong, and courageous – and willing to risk stepping outside the comfort zones of our lives in order to achieve- and make a difference in the world.
Sir’s family has its own unique challenges (separation, age differences, cultural traditions etc) but in the end his family ‘works’ because they accept each other just as they ARE. ALL of us are at our BEST when we become what we were meant to BE and DO what we were meant to DO – and families can help us on this journey. It has taken me more than six decades to get to this point in time and in making the choices I am making today, I am defining – and shaping – the future I WANT TO LIVE – NOT someone else’s definition of what they think I ‘should’ DO or BE. This is the lesson I am learning through my conversations with sir and through others I admire and respect, but no matter what vehicle, relationship, event, or circumstance I encounter in my life, the choices that I ultimately make are MINE to make. It is a hard lesson to learn that ‘if’ we are living for another – or through another’s expectations of us, the more unhappy – and unhealthy (mentally, physically, and spiritually) – we become. So as the knight in the Last Crusade said to Indiana Jones, choose “wisely” and as he chose, he ultimately saved his father’s life – his MOST important choice of all! As you choose “wisely” your life WILL reflect the thoughtfulness and care that you gave to making your choices, and the result – and reward – will be a life “well lived” – happy and fulfilled – just like sir’s father!