I’m 38 years old, but in “gymnast years” that’s about 87. You just don’t see many people my age who are willing and able to perform tumbling and acrobatics. Maybe that’s why I do it. I fully intend to turn back flips twenty years from now. And, I believe I will, if I can just stay flexible. This is my focus and my daily discipline.
The key to longevity is flexibility. This is true not only with regard to our physical abilities, but also our mental processes. Is your mind agile? Can you adapt to ever changing circumstances? Planning and goal setting are important, but every plan and each goal, once realized, will be different than you first envision.
True success and, I believe, joy in living, comes from simultaneously pursuing two objectives: First, you must decide what you want and move toward it. Second, you work with what you have and what happens, regardless of your plan.
Bending Without Breaking
The trees that survive the most violent storms are not those that stiffen to the assault of the winds and weather. The true survivors, the ones who emerge intact and even nourished from the onslaught of rain, are the trees that bend without breaking. The majestic but flexible “Live Oak” thrives along the coastline, growing more than 100 feet tall, and living 200-300 years! These magnificent specimens live directly in the path of hurricanes and tidal surges. And that’s exactly where they do their best!
Just as some trees are naturally more flexible than others, to some degree this may also be true with people. Some individuals, perhaps, are naturally more adaptable.
Fortunately, we are not limited by our natural condition. You can improve your current level of physical and mental agility, if you will adopt the practice of stretching.
Stretching means that you purposely extend beyond current limits. At any age you can improve your flexibility. Stretch physically, and your body will respond. Stretch mentally, and you will open gateways to new insights. But you can’t stretch once and expect to be flexible. Stretching must become a daily routine if you are to prepare for the inevitable storms of change.
1. Stretch Your Body. There are many wonderful books, DVDs and programs (such as yoga) to aid you. Make stretching a part of your morning and evening routines. You will sleep more soundly and awake more refreshed. Observe safety guidelines: Never stretch “cold muscles.” In other words, perform some activity, such as a brisk walk or jog to prepare your body for stretching. Stretch only to the point where you feel resistance, not pain. Hold that position for 20 seconds while breathing deeply. Stretch daily, and I promise you will experience noticeable results in just one week. Benefits include better health, reduced back pain, slower aging, and disease prevention. Now that’s return on investment!
2. Stretch Your Thinking. Open your mind to new ideas by reading challenging material. If TV is more your thing, try “Discovery Channel” instead of “Reality shows.” Learn something new every day. Question what you don’t understand fully, and expand your knowledge of what interests you. Your mind will never become full. Learning only increases your capacity for taking on new information.
3. Stretch Your Experience. We learn by what we do, so engage your world by taking action in new and exciting ways. Travel, and learn about different places, people, and cultures. Take classes in something you’ve always wanted to learn. Get involved at your church or in your community. Push the limits of what you can do. Remember, I never could juggle four balls well until I tried juggling five! In the same way, you should regularly try “the next harder thing” to improve your competence at the current level.
What an honor to be your stretching partner! Please e mail me to let me know if you need a push, and remember, the discomfort you may feel is temporary. But, the benefits of maintaining a flexible attitude, body, and mind will last a lifetime.
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