Do People Really Change?


The boxer, Mohammed Ali, once said: “A person who behaves at 50 years old, exactly as he did at 20, would have lost 30 years of his life!” He was trying to illustrate that we have to change to progress our lives, both physically and mentally. But how we deal with change is probably what your question refers to: whether we tend to accept it naturally, or resist it. Hence there are basically two kinds of change: the voluntary change that operates internally, and controls our choices, and the involuntary one that is external to us, affecting our action and lifestyle eventually, regardless of our resistance to it.

Voluntary changes tend to be subtle, and are often accepted because they reflect the choices we make. They are seldom dramatic, because we value security in life, being predictable in our actions, and feeling safe in our choices. Where we have the power to change, it will be gradual according to the benefits we perceive we will get from it, and the extent to which we believe our lives will alter because of it. We tend to feel more in charge of such changes which we can control to suit ourselves.

Involuntary changes are quite different. They are the ones that happen whether we like it or not, like the development of technology etc. If we do not feel comfortable with such changes we will resist them as much as possible, but as those changes tend to be inevitable, we have to accept them in the end, even if we only accept certain aspects of them. In the meantime we will find fault with the change, noticing only the perceived negatives to justify our resistance to it, until it’s success elsewhere through social acceptance makes us look foolish and we gradually acquiesce.

We are all capable of change, if we really want it. But it won’t come without great effort because change is the thing we fear most. We genuinely believe we lose the old us, like favourite suits we have grown accustomed to, or lose the old ways of doing things, which make us feel comfortable. But, fear of losing our old selves is groundless. Only thoughts and actions change, not people (personalities tend to be permanent), and each of us has power over what we think and do. We do change, yes, but only in small, imperceptible shifts which then amount to a whole new experience when viewed over a longer period of time – rather like still frames on a film which become animated when they are run together.

Altogether, we naturally change over time, but as we get older, we tend to become more conservative, afraid of any change that we think might make us feel insecure and anxious, which then makes us appear rigid and set in our ways. However, the bottom line is that we will always change, no matter the innovation, the personal readiness depending mainly on the perceived cost or benefit involved.



Do Most People Marry For The Wrong Reasons?

Photo by Sandy Millar

Nope. No one gets married for the ‘wrong reasons’! Even so-called ‘gold diggers’ marry for the right reasons: the ones that suit them, not anyone else.

As humans we evolve from one age to the next, constantly growing, developing and changing our preferences. It stands to reason that as we age, learn and grow, we will want different things at different stages of our life. So a person of 40 years old, for example, will seek something entirely different to their 20 year old self because they have matured in the intervening 20 years, and their experience and knowledge have taught them a lot that their younger self was not aware of. We can only go according to the knowledge and experience we have at any one point.Thus everything we do is always for the right reasons AT THE TIME it is done, to match our stage of knowledge and maturity. That is all we can use to make our decisions: what we KNOW and how we FEEL.

Later on in life, when our experience and new information tell us otherwise, we can look back in time and use hindsight to beat ourselves up about how ‘wrong’ we were to do what we did. But every action in life fulfils a physical or emotional need/desire that we have at that precise moment in time.

For example, looking at my boyfriend’s youthful pictures, he was a hippie type, long hair, beard etc. At that time, we were almost total opposites of each other in approach and ideology. I would not have found him attractive, and I doubt if he would have felt the same about me either. Fast forward 25 years, and he is a different person in looks and intellect, because of his developing knowledge and diverse experiences. We have also moved closer together in all sorts of ways to the extent that we now find each other very attractive.

So, one thing to remember about relationships and people is that we always do things for the right reasons FOR US when we make those decisions, because we are not robots who are static in time. As we mature, get educated, or change our aspirations, we begin to see ourselves in a different light and desire something else. If our partners have not developed with us in the same direction, discomfort and conflict ensues, and that’s a relationship heading for the rocks.

At those stressful times, it is tempting to look back and bemoan why we went into that partnership in the first place, especially using the useless tool of hindsight to chastise our actions. But no one forced us to act in that way at that time. Most important, if we could have done something else then, or acted differently, we would have certainly done so. We clearly had needs that the person fulfilled when we got married, needs they are no longer fulfilling, which gradually makes them less attractive in our eyes, and almost alien in some respects.

That’s the simple, and hard-to-accept, fact of every relationship that doesn’t last as expected – our natural evolution from one point to another impacting our partnerships!


What is The Real Value of Self-Help Books?

Photo by Delano Ramdas

There are thousands of books and oceans of internet information available on how to help one’s self and resolve personal problems. The self-help market is booming as many people try to make sense of how they feel, to improve their mental health, attempt to get their life on track, or to simply boost their opportunities for success. But for others (particularly men), self-help books have not really worked, perhaps because of the sceptical way they view such books. 

In fact, research on the sales of self-help books has revealed that 70% of women read them, compared to only 30% of men! It means that one section of our community is always being more self-aware than the other, which is bound to cause mismatches in perception and expectations, especially on gender lines. Erroneously, many people are inclined to believe that, if they are using a ‘self-help’ book, they must have some ‘problems’ which they need to sort out. They perhaps cannot afford professional counselling and turn to cheaper options. While that may be true of some people with that perspective, they are not likely to get the full benefit of what they are reading because they have already limited the validity, scope and effect of the material.

Self-help is not about merely dealing with problems you might be encountering. That’s just one part of the overall use of such books. The real meaning of self-help is discovering potential and possibilities for yourself; to find out what you are capable of, how you might be limiting that potential with narrow beliefs, attitudes and approaches, and how you can make the best use of those possibilities to achieve whatever it is you yearn for.

The key thing to note is that utilising any kind of self-help material suggests that the person does not accept everything about their life as given. He/she makes a conscious decision not to be a hostage to their genes, their past or their environment. They will decide how their life will unfold and the best way to do that. They will not simply conform to expectations or predictions of what they should or ought to do with their life. They accept that life has its difficulties, its ups and downs, but they refuse to be constrained by them or dictated to by specific situations. They need objective answers in helping them to expand their knowledge and to reinforce their direction, and self-help books are essential in this regard. As author Tom Butler-Bowdon (50 Self-Help Classics) pointed out, self-help books, “can reveal your unique course in life, form a bridge between fear and happiness or simply inspire you to be a better person”.

It means that self-help books are not really about dealing with personal problems, per se, but are the key to educating you about your potential, especially regarding a way of life which enables you to make a difference to both yourself and your world. In that way you not only transform the way you think, and how others perceive you, but you also transform your future, all by yourself, and in the most effective way you see fit.


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Ageing is Inevitable, But HOW We Age is Determined By These 3 Factors!

Image by Kelsey Vere

As a Brit, and a keen ageing champion, while taking a holiday in Florida some years ago, I was taken aback by a party of men who were on a competitive sporting trip. They all looked late-40s or early 50s, being very active and energetic. I got talking to one of them about their trip, and he cheerfully admitted that they were all between 70 and 80 years old! I was blown away by this because I had never seen such an active group of people of that age, and it reinforced my own thoughts on how we actually age, especially after I learnt that the age group that fears ageing the most are young 27 year olds!

We all have to age, if we don’t die early. That is a gift. Hence there is only one alternative to ageing, and we either accept that fact, or its deadly consequences. However, how we age is mainly down to our genes and lifestyles. Our biological heritage gives us a foundation, and our lifestyle either enhances, or reduces, it.

It seems there are three main lifestyle elements that hasten our ageing process, and can damage our quality of life.

First, and most important, is the brainwashing people receive, from society and the media, around getting older.

There is nothing positive associated with ageing. Everyone is directly, and indirectly, taught to fear it, mainly because of its connection with ill health, physical degeneration, compulsory retirement, and often exclusion from the wider society. From birth, we soon learn about the negative things we can expect from being older, because of society’s fear of it. Everything is supposed to get worse, droop south, stop working, or just fall off! Not surprisingly, people come to dread getting older and precipitate it in more negative ways through their own attitude. Yet, if we were told we would live forever when we are born, we would have a very different mindset about getting older!

Second, we age through our thoughts first, and our bodies follow those thoughts.

We cannot get a positive life from negative thinking, especially through our negative labels. We need to get rid of that ‘old’ label and think in youthful terms. For example, a guy I spent some time talking with about ageing, kept saying, “You can’t teach an old dog like me new tricks.” Not only did he look much older than his age, but he acted it, too. Whatever he kept saying was gradually becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy, because he certainly had a closed mind. If you see yourself as ‘old’ and ‘useless’, or ‘young’ and ‘energetic’, your body will happily oblige through your actions. That is why positive older people tend to be youthful and agile, because they refuse to conform to ready-made age boxes.

Additionally, many of the illnesses we have are induced by the mind. A long time back we started fearing getting older; fearing certain illnesses; telling ourselves that by a certain age some painful things are going to start happening. We focus on them constantly, dreading them daily, instead of on the positive options we have, and the great health we are enjoying. A few years later, our fears fall into place exactly as expected. But by then we would have forgotten the role our negative thoughts played in it; that we brought them into being by our continuous dread of them. 

The powerful mind is what determines our quality of life, because we shape our lives with our thoughts. When we use it to think negatively, negative events are all we are likely to get. For example, every single thing we enjoy in our world today came out of someone else’s thought – like the technology we’re now using. Thanks to someone’s bright idea, we are the beneficiaries of it.

Third, we age through not sufficiently using our brain and other faculties.

Many people, especially when they retire, stop using their brains, memories and problem-solving faculties. They stop dreaming and aspiring, often living completely sedentary and fearful lives, some spending too many days in front of a passive television, rather than interacting with other humans. Of course, the quality of life without regular stimulus and challenges is likely to deteriorate much quicker. As the saying goes, if we don’t use it, we lose it, and the biggest cause of both mental and physical ageing is the way we CHOOSE to live as we get older.

On a personal level, despite being a diabetic with its own complications, I love each new birthday, and give thanks to see it, because it tells me that I am very much alive – otherwise I would be very dead! I have no desire to be younger than I am, because there is nothing I cannot do now that I used to do back then. For example, I used to go disco dancing in my youth, and I am still enjoying the disco regularly too! I might be a bit slower at some physical things, but I am healthy, active, and mobile, and younger people often find it difficult to keep up with my mental agility and prowess. Simple regular and consistent exercise has also given me a body to envy! Altogether, my increased confidence and experience, positive thoughts around my life, high level of activity, and phenomenal knowledge make this an age to truly enjoy, and I have never been happier. In fact, my smile says it all.

In the end, we might age physically, according to our natural years, but it is our thoughts, expectations, and actual activities that determine how much we age in every other respect, and how we actually look.

Are you 40 years old, or 40 years young? The choice could decide the quality of your future.

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Question of The Day (QoTD): Who are you? How Would You Describe Yourself in Just 5 Words?

Sketch of me done by the Royal Navy which has pride of place among my photos!

Personally, I wear so many hats, not fitting easily into any ‘specialist’ or singular mode. However right now I am just battling a chronic illness while I enjoy as much of my life as I can, otherwise the illness might win. I am simply smelling the roses and appreciating my blessings on every new day.

However, I regard myself as a warm, sociable being, who seem to have a knack for understanding others, for motivating, persuading and empowering, and have long since recognised the crucial link between family life, relationships, and occupation (emotional health) for making the person whole. I love my life, despite its tribulations, I smile easily and often, and I take nothing for granted, feeling blessed for having made it this far.

If I had to describe myself in a few words, I would say that I’m confident, positive, knowledgable, independent, and happy.

How about you? :o)

Is There an Optimum Age Difference for Couples?

Photo by Wesley Balten

In answer to the question, every couple’s situation is different in what attracts them to each other. But a rather large age gap does spotlight whether there should be an optimum difference for a romantic relationship to last because simply communicating with each other could be uncomfortable.

On the face of it, there is no ‘optimum age difference’ in relationships, except if you are like the notorious Baptist minister, Glynn Wolfe, who married 29 times mainly to women who were between 17 and 21 years old, even when he was 71 years old himself! Such an age gap is almost obscene and does not take account of the vast difference in adult evolution between the parties. His wives would have been just starting out on their life journeys, while he was nearing the end of his! They would have very little in common all round.

However, apart from such extreme cases, there is usually a ‘relevant age gap’ which matches the desires of both parties. This tends t be less than one generation (18 years) in difference. More than that, and you get problems of communication, perception, and expectations between the couple. It is difficult to share experiences and memories as they would not be mutual.

For example, the older person would have enjoyed their youth already, been there and done that, so they are likely not to be interested in the kind of activities (like partying and entertaining, etc.) in which a younger person might wish to indulge. They would also be more mature and experienced, while the much younger person would need time to get that experience and maturity, too.

Again, we all go through set stages of evolution as we age (seven in all) that mould our perspectives and affect how we see the world). An older person might wish to settle down because he/she is in Stage Five or Six of their adult development (the period of Responsibility and Choice) whereas the younger one is in Stage Three or Four (the Age of Self-Discovery and Experiment). It means one person will perhaps be keen to settle down, to make life choices and begin the process of taking responsibility for him/herself in a mature way, while the other person will be busy discovering their world and finding out about themselves first. Two different ways of seeing life, especially if they find it hard to compromise. In time, those two opposing perspectives are likely to create a lot of impatience and misunderstanding between the couple, which then makes a longer term partnership less likely.

That is the main reason why relationships with huge age gaps can be problematic. If the people involved do not grow together, or come to share the same perspectives, it cannot survive. Personal tastes, particularly in music, fashion and knowledge, which determine perception, would also be very different because a huge age gap is almost like a generation when it comes to our lifestyles. That would lessen the things the couple can relate to between them, which eventually means having different sets of friends to connect with who can validate and affirm each party.

In the end, it really is what’s comfortable for both parties. There isn’t any optimum gap in reality, as long as one bears in mind that a wider age gap makes it less likely that the relationship will last, because it will have very little foundation, in mutual experience, aspiration and shared perception, to sustain it.

Source: Richard Barrett: 7 Stages of Psychological Development

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Did You Know? – Difference in Lifespan Among American Females

The sad thought about this statistic is that the gap in years is widening even more in he 21st century, despite the gains and improvement in healthcare and other social factors. Education should help to liberate us from built-in social inequalities, yet it doesn’t seem to be doing as much for certain races.

As the HealthAffairs website noted: “These gaps have widened over time and have led to at least two “Americas,” if not multiple others, in terms of life expectancy..”.

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At What Ideal Age Should You Retire?

Photo by Clay Banks

Retirement is one of those times that some people dread, or actually welcome, depending on their job satisfaction, the state of their emotional and physical health, financial circumstances, and desire for new challenges. In the UK the official retirement age used to be 60 years old for women and 65 years for men. But that is gradually increasing to take account of the growing longevity within the population, and the increasing demands on health care. Retirement now stands at 66 years old for everyone, and at some point will reach 70 years.

Of course, that is the legal time for the benefit of paying pensions, but anyone can retire from their work whenever they wish. There is no ‘ideal age’ to retire at all. In fact, one of the people who has inspired me the most is the owner of a vineyard in France who was still managing her business successfully at 92 years of age! She was a classic example of her determination to live her life the way she wanted, and not according to other people’s fears and diktats. I can see myself being like that if I live long enough to be her age!

As humans, who fear ageing, we love to put ourselves into little age boxes of perfection where different things occur at different ages, especially when it comes to retirement, because work dominates our lives so much. But life is for living every single day we are granted, and the moment you actually retire is entirely down to you! No one can tell you when is a suitable age for your retirement because that depends on five things, in particular, apart from just age:

  1. How you FEEL inside you; whether you still feel energetic, able to work, fired with enthusiasm and wish to continue; or you just feel tired, burnt out and ready to simply relax and enjoy yourself.
  2. Whether you still love what you are doing and wish to continue it as long as possible.
  3. Whether you would like to do something else with your life, perhaps fulfil a long time dream, and wish to make a start on it.
  4. Whether you have enough money to see you through your retirement.
  5. Whether you are fit and healthy, or have any chronic illnesses.

Only you can answer those personal questions, and the answers should clearly reveal whether you are ready for retirement or not! But, as you can see, age is a significant factor only if you are governed by an ageing mindset, as it is the least important of all the listed criteria!

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