You can choose to be a spurter

A 103-year-old does yoga daily. An 85-year-old runs 17 miles a day. A 100-year-old writes weekly news notes for her local paper.
A 93-year-old climbs Mount Fuji. An 84-year-old runs a successful Mary Kay business. An 85-year-old lives to play the piano at area nursing homes. A 65-year-old starts a new and gloriously successful business.
A 100-plus individual forces environmental responsibility in the Everglades.
These are the new elderly. Forget the stereotypes of aging. These people create their own reality.
These are people who refuse to let society put them into its little boxes. They do at every age what everyone tells them they cannot do. They refuse to be limited by the disabling beliefs about aging that have risen over the centuries.
And their number is growing.
These role models understand that life expectancy in the 21st century is not that of the 1890s. And somehow they’ve learned how to remain ageless–in spite of societal expectations.
We admire them. From a distance, that is. And then in the next breath, we admit that we really doubt we’ll be able to do those things at those ages.
We assume our legs won’t work, and our memories will go. We expect someday to have to be taken care of. We desperately fear senility.
What an astonishing attitude! How can we deliberately turn from the role models we want to be like and set our faces toward the outcomes we dread? Does it ever occur to us that in these moments of choice, we may, indeed, be predetermining which of the outcomes will be ours?
Sociologists call this phenomenon “self-fulfilling prophecy.” They define self-fulfilling prophecy as “a prediction that leads to behavior that makes the prediction come true.”
The suggestion is that the definition of the situation creates the situation.
This theory has been widely applied to education. When students are labelled as dull or bright, they perform accordingly–regardless of their native ability.
No one knows exactly why this occurs. Is it because the students labelled as “dull” are treated like failures from the start? Are they given fewer opportunities? Or do they pick up subtle negative messages about what they can and can’t do?
Whatever causes it, self-fulfilling prophecy is a reality.
In 1969, Robert Rosenthal sought to further prove this theory by giving a group of elementary teachers a list of “spurters.” He told the teachers these bright children had been selected by a new test, and the teachers could expect these spurters to do exceptionally well in the next school year.
And that’s exactly what the spurters did.
In truth, there was no new test, and the spurters were picked randomly. So why had they made significantly greater advances academically than their peers who were, by default, labelled as non spurters?
Self-fulfilling prophecy. That’s why. The prediction of academic excellence made the reality come true.
So there you have it. What you predict for yourself leads to behavior that makes the prediction come true. And never is understanding self fulfilling prophecy so critical as in the last third of life.
We can’t afford to fear confusion, dependency, physical incapacity, memory loss. We can’t afford to fear being a burden.
No, we can’t take that kind of risk with aging. The stakes are simply too high. We must all label ourselves as “spurters.” People who will reach advanced years with purpose and energy, with nimble bodies and creative minds.
Remember, if one person could climb Mount Fuji at age 93, if one person can run a successful business at age 84, if one person has ever defied the odds, it can be done again.
And it will be spurters who will do it.

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