Growing Old Gracefully
Bill Cottringer

“Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter.” ~Mark Twain.

It has been said before that “growing old isn’t for sissies.” The truth be known, growing old doesn’t always have to be a losing struggle against, pain, suffering and loss and ending badly. But, according to Gordon Livingston in his earlier book “Too Soon Old, To Late Smart,” that depressing scenario is is the norm today for the increasing number of our population growing old. Unfortunately it can easily happen before your realize it. The only antidote is some mental pre-planning.

We know that the best attitude towards life—if happiness, success, better relationships, fewer physical illnesses and a longer life, are the most desirable outcomes (decades of Martin Seligman’s research on optimism)—Is one of courage and hope and commitment to “live” with productivity, happiness and success, as much as you can in the time you have. This is in spite of the inevitable misfortunes headed your way, including the dismal but unavoidable process of ageing.

This courageous and hopeful attitude towards life is not an easy one to have and maintain, but the fact that it works best to lead to a better quality of life, leaves no reasonable doubt as to its worth. But embracing this positive attitude is much easier said than done, when all you see around you is negativity and complaining, with the “noisy” misfortunes speaking much louder than the fortunes. Regardless of what does or doesn’t seem the way things are, the best question is “why not?” rather than why?” Or, the other good one to ask, is —“How is what you are doing now working for you?”

There really isn’t a whole lot you can do about most of the pain and loss that happens in later life (other than not take it too personal!), but you do have some control, especially ahead of time, to prepare for this part of your journey. I have always had a theory, that if you prepare mentally ahead of time for the most difficult times ahead before you get there, you have a much better chance of having a better outcome when they actually happen. I worked for me in getting out of the many dangerous and unpleasant situations I experienced much earlier in Vietnam, virtually unharmed, and many later potentially disastrous times. And the Dalai Lama mentioned this advance preparation technique in one of his many books, and so that is good enough for me to believe.

So, as I head toward the “winter” of my own life I am going to do a little mental rehearsal so the performance goes a little better in avoiding some of the common problems writers and other people who work with older folks have identified. I was lucky enough to have good training by my parents, but I don’t want to leave anything to chance. So, here is my personal pledge to myself and my loved ones in getting ahead of the curve on this part of my own journey:


1. Be preoccupied with self-centered complaints.
2. Participate in mindless pastimes associated with growing old.
3. Use the friendly “How are you doing?” question to unload weeks of negativity.
4. Lower my expectations for my own happiness and success.
5. Dwell on the inevitable misfortunes of life from the past or the ones I know are coming ahead.
6. Segregate myself from the young and their open, amazing and experimental approach to life.
7. Stop being productive and trying to make a contribution for a better world for me and others.
8. Allow myself to have a stigmatized, devalued status in society, at least without a fight.
9. Have a sense of “old age” entitlement from all my own bruises, broken bones and bleeding in dealing with the problems in life.
10. Lose my hope, courage, sense of humor or interest in others to preoccupation with the negative events and negative interpretations of those events.
11. Feel ugly or of less value just because of not looking as well as I used to via the cruel aging process.

But, rather I WILL:

12. Accept my mortality with the confidence of having lived life with the best choices, intentions and results I could manage and the good memories of joyful memories I’ve enjoyed and that I know are still to come.

Now with this mental preparation, I think I will have a much better chance for a better ending with a smile on my face at the end, without a head full of resentments about having been born and having to endure a life loaded with problems, no matter what does lie ahead.

“The aging process has you firmly in its grasp if you never get the urge to throw a snowball.” ~Doug Larson.

Author's Bio: 

William S. Cottringer, Ph.D. is Executive Vice-President of Puget Sound Security, Bellevue, WA, as well as having active hobbies of being a Success Coach, Sport Psychologist, Photographer and Writer living in the scenic mountains and rivers of North Bend, WA.. He is author of several best-selling success books including You Can Have Your Cheese & Eat It Too, The Bow-Wow Secrets, Passwords To The Prosperity Zone, “P” Point Management, Reality Repair & Reality Repair RX, Do What Matters Most, and If Pictures Could Talk. Bill can be reached for comments and questions at 425-454-5011 or