IS 50 THE NEW 30?

David Steindl-Rast

Century after century, people come up with new ideas that replace outdated stereotypes. Long ago, people thought that the Sun was rotating around the Earth and that the Earth was the center of the universe. That belief was proven false when Nicolaus Copernicus developed the heliocentric model of Earth. People originally thought he was crazy. Of course, today we know that the Earth rotates around the Sun, and anyone who thinks differently is considered illiterate.

50 years ago, people couldn’t imagine that a ten-year-old could become a university graduate. Students go to kindergarten, then middle and high school, and then onto college. After college, these graduates are now ready to begin their careers. No exceptions. However, every rule has its exceptions. Laurent Simons, for example, was set to become the youngest university graduate in history at the age of 9.

Some kids start working at 14, move out of their parents’ house at 16, and become billionaires at the age of 21.  Fifty years ago, people would say they’re crazy. But now, it’s the world in which we live.

The world where numbers don’t matter anymore.

How old are you? 20? 34? 55? Or, maybe, 67? Do you own a house, or do you rent an apartment? Are you single or do you have a big family?

No matter how old you are or how much you have, the only thing that matters is whether you’re happy or not. This question is way more difficult to answer, don’t you think?

Some people believe that the most powerful source of happiness is gratitude. During his speech at TED, David Steindl-Rast, a Benedictine monk, said that not all those who are happy are grateful, but those who are grateful are happy.

Tod was eager to change his current job. He was working at an IT company that developed online games. He wasn’t happy because he didn’t earn enough to afford the housing accommodations that he desired.

After three months of rigorous research, exhaustive study, and dozens of job interviews, he got a new job. He doubled his income and found another apartment. And guess what he is thinking about now. He wants to buy a car.

Is he really happy now? Does he appreciate what he’s done? Does he realize that he’s achieved so much? Is that what Steindl-Rast was talking about? No, because Tod is not grateful for what he has.

“There is a principle in human perception, the contrast principle, that affects the way we see the difference between two things that are presented one after another. Simply put, if the second item is fairly different from the first, we will tend to see it as more different than it actually is.” – Robert Cialdini, “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion”.

Certainly, the principle Cialdini is talking about is essential in terms of evolution because it moves us forward. But sometimes, it works the other way. Instead of moving us forward, this principle can breed misconceptions about the world and beget envy, greed, and jealousy.

The contrast principle applies to all of us. We’re comparing ourselves to those who are better, or stronger, or prettier, or smarter than we are. This principle excludes gratitude because it doesn’t bring us results. What it does bring, though, is satisfaction with what we are at the moment.

Someone is born with a gift of persuasion and opens his/her company at the age of 25. Others love to help people. They go to Africa, spend their whole life there, never have much money, but are joyful because their actions benefited others. And it’s okay!

Your college buddy might become a construction worker, and you may sell big houses to rich guys. Your close friend may be a software developer, and you may still be searching for what you’re passionate about. And it’s okay!

Many people start working at 22 and retire at 60, while others start their business and drop out of college. Some musicians die at 27 at the peak of their career, while other people live until they’re 100 without having discovered a cure for cancer. AND IT’S OKAY!

Remember, no matter what you do or where you are, never compare yourself to anyone. You never know what’s going on inside their heads and what they hold in their hearts. You have no idea what successful people go through. You have no clue what success does to people.

Try to look at what you already have and say a giant THANK YOU for this. Even if you think that your life is miserable, think about the fact that you’re reading this article. You probably have a phone, a tablet, or a laptop and have access to the Internet. You breathe in the fresh air, drink clear water, see the stars at night and have a roof over your head.

If you think age matters, you are mistaken. You can start all over at any age. You can set up the business of your life at any age and become successful in a split second. At 50, you may start traveling, or maybe you experience the joy of parenthood or maybe you finally meet your better half. For many, life goes on at 50. For some, life just starts at 50. Look at it from a different perspective.

And remember one thing:

You are unique. You are special. At any age. Anytime. Always.

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