What is it that makes you, well, YOU? We are told early on, “define yourself”, “understand yourself”, “be yourself.” We take to it with great zeal. “I like thunderstorms! I like ponies!” or “I like outer space so I wanna be an astronaut.” As children, we’re sometimes told what to like. We take it to heart. “If you’re from here then you have to love football,” or “Any good child of the family needs to like grandpa’s chili.”
We also learn to define ourselves by what we don’t want or like. “I don’t like tomatoes and I don’t like the color blue.” We tell ourselves this. We tell other people. And, as the years go by, as we hear it over and over, things get locked into place.
Our pain defines us as well, emotional and physical. Initially, pain is a teacher. It teaches us what NOT to do. But, if we hold on to what caused that pain, it can become a handicap. It can twist us. A child may have been stung by a bee. “I hate all bees!” he proclaims loudly, “Bees suck!” Someone else might have had their heart broken by a lover with blonde hair. She might tell herself, “I’ll never date a blonde again! They can’t be trusted!”
If we don’t, from time to time, take a look at the definitions that we’ve given ourselves we run the risk of getting trapped within them. We miss the wonder of watching bees work a field of flowers. We pass on the blonde friend of a friend who could be our soulmate. In this hectic world, it seems easier to just keep running ever forward, from one hectic emergency to the next. Do This! Go here! Buy that! Buy This! We don’t take the pauses we need and we get locked into the very definitions we’ve given ourselves. We get so distracted we forget to pause, to reflect.
Hopefully there comes a time when something inside you causes you to stop. A moment when you question things, when you become curious. “Wait a minute, maybe I DO like the color blue.” Or, “Why do I dislike bees again?” It might take months, it will probably take years. This is redefinition and it’s those very moments which keep you young. If you ignore those moments, brush them off as fancy, than you’re on a declining path to stiffness and true “old age.”
You’ll notice I put “old age” in quotes. It’s because I’ve met 80 year old people who knew how to think like they were 20 and I’ve met 20 year old people locked into frozen and old-school mindsets. The body ages but ultimately it’s the state of mind which defines our youthfulness and this state of mind is powered by curiosity. If you want to stay young then you have to stay curious. Curiosity supports redefinition. Redefinition feeds curiosity. It’s a symbiotic relationship.
Recently, I was dealing with yet another wave of stress and I was blessed with a moment of pause. It came out of nowhere in the middle of a very hectic, depressing and blustery day. I asked myself, sitting in a heated car, in a warm coat, and sipping on a tepid cup of coffee two simple questions. “What the heck am I stressed out about again?” And, “What is driving my discontent?”
The questions caused me to focus internally. It wasn’t the cold. It wasn’t the tepid coffee. What I found was that much of my issues of the day were being driven by old pains, old limits. Old items that were, quite frankly, worn out and no longer applicable. I realized I had a choice to redefine them. I was choosing to define them out of fear, or, more importantly, the fear of perceived pain and stress. It was my call not only how I perceived them but also what I chose to do with that very perception.
I could choose the old model and wonder why I my blood pressure was so high or I could redefine things, redefine myself, and hopefully make a better choice.
Oddly enough, it was just that simple.