Develop your passions while you are young, enjoy them for a lifetime

Growing old and thriving. The column In The Wind is a weekly feature of the Platte County Record-Times and the Guernsey Gazette written by Mark DeLap.

In The Wind

A beautiful post came across my Facebook page this past weekend. It dealt with a TikTok video interviewing an author who wrote the book, “Striver’s Curse.” (Arthur C. Brooks on TikTok – beware of the striver’s curse)

The author did studies internationally about the ages of happiness and how, after 50, happiness becomes greater in people. By late 60s however, that happiness can again wane. But it doesn’t have to.

“Listen to the data,” Brooks said. “I have data on hundreds of thousands of people from almost any country that you want. This is not data that I gathered but rather from two British economists named David Andrew Oswald and David Blanchflower. They looked at people from India, China, sub–Saharan Africa, Australia, South America, all over Europe and the United States. Every place you can imagine. People actually get unhappier over their adult lives. And then around their early 50s, it turns around.”

Brooks says that at that age, almost everyone gets happier from early 50s to late 60s.

“It has a lot to do with emotional regulation,” he said. “We all have the same basic negative emotions in response to outside stimuli. When you get older, the consolation of age is that you know that you’re going to get over it very quickly because of a neurological process called homeostasis.”

That is translated as the ability to always go back to your baseline. So, when you are young, you feel as if you are boing to be heartbroken forever, according to Brooks.

“When you are older, somebody offends you or rejects you, it’s like, ‘yeah I feel terrible right now,’” Brooks said. “But I’m pretty sure, that in a week, I’m going to feel better, so I’m going to get a head start on feeling good right now.”

He goes on to tell about the split of people in their late 60s, citing the fact that half get happier and half start to slump back down again. The reason, according to Brooks is if you are successful and a hard worker and all of a sudden it stops, what goes up must come down.

Personally, I think it’s success without passion.

I listened to an interesting CD series put out by NPR a few years back called, “If I live to be 100 – lessons from centenarians.” It is the interview with several very functional and thriving people who are over 100 years old.

With life spans and improved health care (well, other than COVID debacle) people are living well beyond the point that they lived in the last century. One of the reasons that the assisted living sectors are in a quandary right now – more elderly people are on planet earth and the staffing numbers are down. We’ve not ever in our current history had to care for as many elderly citizens as we do now.

This is a great CD series and suggested to me because many of my family and ancestors lived close to or well over 100. The “Striver’s Curse” made me think of something very interesting in conjunction with this CD series.

Bottom line is that a body in motion stays in motion. Not just the physical body, but also the mind. My grandmother always told me that the moment I started doing mindless things, watching mindless television and trying to shut my brain off, that would be the moment I start to lose everything I’ve built. 

What drives you? What is your passion? What are you doing to make a difference in other people’s lives? How are you making your corner of the world a better place?

If, after you retire, you can no longer answer those questions, you may be part of the 50% of the elderly that decline instead of thrive.

I find that personally, I have found a job where my talents and passions can be used. Writing, photography, music, working out... all things that - if my job ended, I would not be without the passions that would cause me to not only thrive but continue to be successful.

Set yourself up to be busy with things you love. While you are young, be selective and search for your dream job and develop your passions – much like canning vegetables for the winter season. If you can find a job like that, perfect, but then, look beyond your years of employment and set goals. Some call it a bucket list, but instead of crossing things off your bucket list, continue to do those things. If what you love doing ends with retiring or firing, you are in trouble.

Write a book. Paint. Sculpt. bicycle or exercise. Photograph and harvest every moment with the click of a shutter. And the trick to this is – leaving a legacy in your old age. Write a book someone needs to hear. Paint a picture and give it away. Sculpt and donate it to your community. Bicycle or continue to be active because you still need to be healthy to help others. Combine your passions with your ability to be a servant and make a difference.

In Psalm 92:14 (NCV) a promise to hang on to is, “When they are old, they will still produce fruit; they will be healthy and fresh.”

When my grandmother was 72 years old and after seven years of retirement, she knew that she had to continue to be busy or life would be very short. And she loved life. So, she went back to college, got a degree in Spanish to help her reach areas in the communities of Milwaukee that, for her posed a language barrier. She then formed her own corporation called “Nursing Home Santas” where her and her sister transformed my grandmother’s basement into Santa’s workshop. They would knit and bake and buy things to wrap for Christmas. They worked all year long and they would end up wrapping over 4,000 gifts each year for the elderly, the single mothers and the poor, not to mention the baked goods they would make for the orphans.

I’ve set myself up with passions that will outlast retirement if I ever retire. I’ve created “overkill” on all the things I love to do – and will continue to do to bless others. I believe God planted “talent” seeds within us so that when the harvest comes, we can distribute the fruit to others. The advice is not only to be “doing” but to be “doing for others” as well.

When death comes for me.... somewhere around 40 years from now, it will find me working in the midst of my many passions. I will probably be so busy I won't have time to die.