You know how some folks appear to be much older than their actual age, while others look, feel and perform more like people decades younger? The experts tell us that only 15 to 30% of this extreme difference in the speed at which people age can be explained by genetics; the vast majority of this disparity is chalked up to what they like to call "lifestyle."

When we hear lifestyle, in this regard, we tend to think of the importance of a good diet, plenty of exercise and adequate sleep. We might also include moderation in alcohol consumption and smoking habits or the lack thereof in any equation designed to slow aging. As extremely important as all these actions are, they pale in comparison to the effect one's mental focus has on speeding up or slowing down the aging process.

To help us understand this prime cause of aging, we'll use the Rubber-Band Theory of Aging -- an analogy that shows the main reason for the great disparity in how fast different folks age. For this, you'll need to picture two horses, a giant rubber band (bungee-cord style) harnessing the horses to each other and YOU.

The one horse is a golden palomino named "Desires." The other is a pinto, with beautiful markings, called "Beliefs." When you were young, you could stand with one foot on the back of each horse, circus-trick style, as they ran side by side, taking you quickly to your desired destination. This was because your desires and beliefs were so evenly matched. If you wanted to play with a toy or doll, you went and got it and then played with it. Things, however, got a little more complicated as you aged. As we mature into adulthood, the psychological conditioning of our culture stresses that aging is detrimental, and before long we find ourselves riding on the back of Beliefs, while Desires is galloping off in the opposite direction.

Instead of toys, now you desire the energy levels, for example, that you had when you were younger, but believe that you can't have them because of your age. Similarly, you have aches and pains you'd like to get rid of; you'd like to look younger; you'd like to have the muscle-to-fat ratio you once enjoyed and on it goes with your multitude of desires, BUT you believe that you can't have these things because of your age -- because the natural aging process precludes them. Let's pick one of your desires to study. How about your energy level?

While living life, there are instances each day when you wish you had the energy you used to have. Without even having to say a word, several times a day you are feeding your horse, Desires, the oats and apples of this desire and as a result, she is growing ever bigger and stronger. At the same time, you are feeding Beliefs the negative oats of "I'M TOO OLD," "I CAN'T," "TOO MUCH TO DO," "I'M EXHAUSTED," or similar detrimental statements/thoughts and as a result, Beliefs is getting bigger and stronger, too.

See what's happening? You are riding Beliefs in the opposite direction from the direction Desires is attempting to take you. Look at the giant rubber band that ties the horses to each other; it is getting stretched tighter and tighter as they each grow bigger and stronger and thus are able to pull more forcefully.

The stress or tension on the rubber band harness is getting excessive, but as hard as Desires and Beliefs pull, they get you nowhere. You've fed them both so much -- made them each so strong -- that no matter how much force they exert, each can't overcome the other's pull. As a result, you're feeling frustrated or overwhelmed or lethargic or exhausted or depressed or even angry because you don't have the energy you need and want AND worse yet, you don't BELIEVE you can have it because of your age. And it's all because you are continually feeding Beliefs and Desires and making them bigger and stronger, but they are pulling in opposite directions. Unless you change your habitual self-sabotaging thinking/beliefs in this regard, eventually they will pull hard enough to break the bungee cord and you will make a premature exit from the earth plane. In the meantime, this stress caused by the huge disparity between what you desire and what you believe is aging you big time.

The answer is to think thoughts on a regular basis that get Beliefs to join Desires so they can work side by side to take you easily and quickly to your desires and goals like they did when you were a very young child. Like they did before you had built up any of your negative habits of thought now keeping you from having, doing or being what you want.

What ages us more than anything else is having strong desires and beliefs in opposition to each other. The result is the great ager -- stress. In part 2, we'll look at the actual biology that speeds up aging.

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From Ed Mayhew -- the author of Fitter After 50 , Fitter For Life and other books, CDs, videos and articles on how you, too, can make falling apart as you age merely an option -- NOT a mandate. Why not make the rest of your life , the BEST of your life? and