As I explore deeper into self-improvement, I came across a lot of literature written on longevity. I got so fascinated by the idea of people not just reaching their full potential as persons but living as long as they could.
Creating a paradigm to capture the relationship between the constructs “reaching one’s full potential” and “longevity” is a little bit tricky. Will the conceptual model show that the latter is an integral part (or the result) of the former? Which of the following questions should be answered – “Is living as long as a person could a part of reaching the maximum physical capability of their body?” or “Is longevity the result of being able to develop fully as a person?”
I think longevity should be viewed as a product of the efforts of people to reach their full potential. To say that living as long as people could is the result of them giving their physical bodies the maximum care only is tantamount to considering a person as a mere physical specimen. A person has, not just a body, but a mind and a spirit. In psychology, an individual is looked at as a physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual being. I believe that only when people are able to strike a perfect harmony among these different aspects of being that they could hope to have a shot at longevity.
The interest that longevity has been drawing from both the scientific community and the general public has seemingly created a new sport which I call “race to 100.” I signed up for the race. I want to celebrate my 100th birthday. It is my desire to be on my feet dancing and probably carrying one of my great-grandchildren (or is it great great-grandchildren) when that happens. I don’t like to be in a wheelchair struggling to blow out those 100 candles.
Celebrating the 100th birthday is a milestone only a few were able to reach. Those who are lucky to live that long are called centenarians. The United Nation estimated that worldwide there are only more or less 600,000 centenarians. That’s less than 1% of the world’s total population of 8 billion people. Studies have shown that they live in certain locations in some countries which were designated as “blue zones.” Japan has the highest number of centenarians with more than 90,000.
When I told some of my friends about me wanting to be at least 100 years old, they said I am crazy to want to live that long. For them, they would be happy to live a few more years after their retirement. One of the reasons they would not want to go 80 and beyond is the possibility of them becoming weak and sickly and unable to fend for themselves. They are worried that their loved ones might just send them to nursing homes.
That’s the most challenging part of the “race to 100” – getting there on your two feet and not aided by a wheelchair. Thus, it should be treated as a serious goal entailing careful planning and execution. It is definitely not a walk in the park. For those intending to join the race, it will help to know the life expectancy in the country where you live. In the whole world, it is currently pegged at 72.98 years. That’s the number of years an earthling can expect to live. Adding 20 or so more years is a tall order.
The to-do list for people wanting to live as long as they could is as formidable as it could be. The list includes among other things slowing down aging, avoiding and curing diseases, staying healthy, striking a work-life balance, and keeping a robust wellbeing. All of the said undertakings are not easy to do.
There are procedures and treatments available to slow down aging. Most of them are skin-related. But it’s not only the skin cells that age. The tissues in our muscles, brain, heart, and other bodily organs succumb to the unforgiving hands of time as well. And available are natural and practical ways to slow down (if not reverse) it. What’s on top of the list is not surprising – proper nutrition and regular exercise. Eating the right kinds of foods and staying physically active help us stay healthy. Health experts claim that they contribute also to making us feel and look younger. Activities like getting enough sleep, meditation, and fasting intermittently or fully have been proven to contribute to longevity.
Additionally, it is also important to take a look at one’s lifestyle. Aside from genetics and the environment, how long people live is influenced also by their manner of living. Destructive habits like smoking should be avoided. How many times we have been told that smoking is known to cause illnesses that include heart disease and lung disorders. Scientists also found out that alcohol doesn’t only inflame the liver, it also infuses every cell causing damage to the genes. So, if drinking could not be completely avoided, at least it should be done moderately.
That’s how difficult the race to 100 is. As if those undertakings listed on the to-do list of people wanting to celebrate their 100th birthday are not already difficult, they must also observe self-discipline and sacrifice self-gratifying activities (of course only those that are classified as destructive). What makes joining this race a bit more challenging is the fact that it’s not just a matter of making sure that the physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual aspects of your being are in tip-top shape as you march toward the century mark. It also entails financial stability to ensure that at least your basic needs – food, shelter, clothes, medicine, and what-have-you – are met. Part of the planning in racing to 100 is calculating how much money you’ll need.
If you save more than enough to secure all that you need as you run the race to 100 and you have plenty to spare, consider traveling to places you have never been and enjoy life. Enjoy aging, don’t gripe about it. Age gracefully and gratefully. A study concluded that “those who view growing older positively lived seven years longer than those who griped about it.” So, instead of griping and worrying, just prepare for its coming.
Here’s my latest YouTube video…
This video is an exposition of the nature of self-doubt and its negative effects.
“The first and the best victory is to conquer self.”
Self-discipline is a simple concept, very easy to define and explain but… difficult to practice.
It is reasonable for me to surmise that you know what self-discipline means but what I am hesitant to presume is you possessing this ability. I am not even sure if I have it too. However, if at this point of your (and my) life, we have achieved some measure of success, in both our personal and professional undertakings then perhaps it is not too much to assume that we have practiced or have been practicing self-discipline to a certain extent. But if our needle of success has not moved a bit, if we have not accomplished anything significant that we can be proud of, then something is wrong with the way we are living our lives and managing our affairs. Could the culprit be the lack of self-discipline?
One of the most probable reasons that there are people who realized their dreams and ambitions, got what they wanted, and became what they want to become is them practicing self-discipline. How successful or unsuccessful you are corresponds to the degree of self-discipline that you as a person have. I think I don’t even need to cite studies to prove the assertion I just made because even the simplest of minds would tell you that there is a direct correlation between success and self-discipline. As Lou Holtz said, “Without self-discipline, success is impossible, period.”
What comes to mind when self-discipline is mentioned? For me, there are three things – sacrifice, hard work, and focus. To some, those words make self-discipline synonymous with punishment and boredom. They conjure up images of long hours of work and study, of self-deprivation, of delaying self-gratification, and of strict adherence to certain standards.
In short, self-discipline is not fun. It’s not fun to sacrifice, to deny yourself of the pleasures of life. It’s not fun to work hard. You would rather go out with friends and party during your free time than pursue lifelong learning and self-improvement activities. It’s not fun to focus. It’s difficult with all the forms of distractions this modern world has to offer.
But to those who want their names written in the list of people who achieved great things and attained fulfillment, self-discipline is the key. The potent mix of sacrifice, hard work, and focus is the elixir you need to drink to bolster your chances of succeeding.
In the pursuit of whatever it is that you want to achieve, certain knowledge and skills are required. You cannot acquire and develop them overnight. There are no shortcuts, no magic pills. The process will be long and hard and the question is – Are you willing to sacrifice time and effort to possess them?
You want to be like the athletes, artists, leaders, personalities you idolize. You want to be like that somebody you know who has accomplished great things. You want to become as successful and accomplished as they are. But are you willing and able to walk the paths they walked to get there? Do you have the perseverance to spend months, if not years, of dedicated study and training to learn what you need to learn? Those people you look up to made it to the top by virtue of their sacrifices.
There will be times that you would feel like giving up because seemingly you are not making any progress. But you have to learn to hold on. The process of holding on is an important component of self-discipline. An online dictionary defines self-discipline this way – “The ability you have to control and motivate yourself, stay on track, and do what is right.”
When you want to achieve something, you should also be willing to put in the hard yards. Don’t expect that your dreams and ambitions will be delivered to you in a silver platter. We are naturally wired to prefer either lying on the couch or sleeping. That’s according to neuroscientists. But if you really want to become a winner, you must overcome that natural laziness. It is going to be a mighty struggle and only a self-disciplined person will be able to jump over this hurdle. “Self-discipline (as defined by another online dictionary) is “the ability to control one’s feelings and overcome one’s weaknesses; the ability to pursue what one thinks is right despite temptations to abandon it.”
In the pursuit of your dreams and ambitions you need to be able to focus too. Don’t ever lose sight of your goals, of the things you want to accomplish.
Focusing entails avoiding all kinds of distractions that could derail you from achieving what you want. Distractions could be the people, vices, and activities who (or which) instead of helping might actually hinder you from accomplishing your goals. You have to choose between them and your dreams.
To stay focused you also need to lay down a definite plan of action for everything that you set to accomplish. Focusing is not only avoiding all kinds of distractions but ensuring that you have a map that will serve as your guide as you navigate your way towards success.
The main objective of focusing is to become single-minded, of becoming driven by the pursuit of your personal and professional endeavors. It is putting together all your resources towards the fulfillment of your purpose and setting aside whatever it is that may hinder you from achieving them.
To sacrifice, work hard and focus are things that are easier said than done. It’s like doing what we don’t like to do and going where we don’t like to go. It’s asking us to get out of our comfort zones. And the problem is we are not comfortable to be uncomfortable.
There are times that we are confronted by the dilemma of choosing between two things… between reading a book and binge-watching movies or our favorite TV shows…. between going to a karaoke bar or to a gym… between eating healthy or keeping the diet that made you gain weight. Very likely that we would be ending up picking the choices after the “or.” That’s how we are wired – to take the easier route.
The choices we make determine the quality of our self-discipline. It’s hard to control our desires and habits. We usually struggle to make the best choices. And we get to realize that we made the wrong decisions only when we are already suffering from the consequences of what we chose to do.
We should bear in mind that self-discipline is correlated not only to success but to our overall well-being as well. Let’s borrow Merriam-Webster’s definition of well-being – “The state of being happy, healthy, or prosperous.” Now ask yourself – “How happy, healthy, and prosperous am I?” Only you know the answer.
If in the aspects of happiness, health, and wealth, your needle is not also moving, how much of that can be attributed to lack of self-discipline? How much of that can be attributed to your unwillingness to sacrifice, to work hard, and to focus?