On Keeping Young

October 15, 2021

We perceive the world in three different ways: What is going on, what we want to be going on, and what we believe should be going on.
 What is going on is simple. Right now, you are reading this blog. This is what is going on. But it might cross your mind that what you really want to do is go to the movies and what you should be doing is go to your desk and do some work you are behind on.
 This difference between what you are doing, what you want to do and what you should do creates frustrations: What is going on is not what you want to be going on, and what you want should not be, and what should be done, is not being done.
Which perception—is, want, or shoulddrives our behavior changes throughout our lives? We start with want, ignoring the is and the should. Look at a toddler: “I want this, I want that.” And if it doesn’t get what it wants, it cries: I want, want, want, want.
 As we grow, we are taught what we should do. How we should speak, or behave, what we should learn, what we should do with our career, how we should take care of our family, etc. Those who never graduate from the want to the should stage remain immature—also known as the Peter Pan syndrome.
 In old age, we get sick and have pains, bear the scars of experiencing life, and realize that the end of our lives is closing in. What drives our behavior at this stage is what is really going on. Never mind what we want or what we should be doing. What is, is. In old age, we surrender to reality, and we look with a forgiving eye on children who are chasing what they want, and the adults who are slaves to the should. But this development is not inevitable.
 One way to slow down our aging is to never give up the driving forces of want and should. Keep dreaming and planting fruit trees, even if you might not be the one to harvest them. Keep working and staying fit, something you should do, although you do not want to. You do not have to surrender to old age.
 Oh God, why do you make us wise so late and old so soon?

Written by
Dr. Ichak Adizes