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How to Stay ‘Forever Young’ in the New Year

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This is the time of year when many of us make resolutions for how we will improve ourselves in the next one. Lose weight, exercise more, do more of this, less of that – those are fairly typical. Resolutions are often difficult because if you are not able to keep them, you feel like a failure and the self-critical cycle continues. Perhaps a better way to think about New Year’s is to think like a kid. This came to mind when I was driving home after yoga one day and heard Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young” on the radio.

“…..May you always do for others and let others do for you….May you build a ladder to the stars and climb on every rung, may you stay forever young…..May you grow up to be righteous, may you grow up to be true, may you always know the truth and see the lights surrounding you…may you always be courageous, stand upright and be strong, and may you stay forever young.”

How can we take Dylan’s lyrics and apply them to a New Year’s resolution? Let’s think about “forever young” literally and the characteristics we all try to teach our children about how to be a good person. Presumably, we can take these same characteristics with us as adults.  Here are some to consider:

Joie de vivre:  The ability to love and appreciate life in a simple and uncomplicated way is a quality to nurture as we grow older.

Resilience:  All of us will experience mistakes, disaster, grief and loss in our lives. Studies show that children who are more resilient and bounce back talk to themselves differently and don’t turn mistakes into catastrophes. Grown ups can do the same.

Courage:  Learning anything new is stressful and approaching the unknown can sometimes hinder the learning process. Have the courage to explore new things and get over the fear of not knowing exactly how everything will turn out. Courage breeds courage.

Kindness:  Kindness is a concern for others, and an act of kindness can not only make another person feel good, but you can benefit as well. It’s playing forward that act of kindness, how you treat others comes back to you.

Compassion: This attribute seems particularly relevant in today’s divisive culture. Having compassion is the recognition of the suffering of another – and wanting to help alleviate their pain. A key component of compassion is to seek understanding about the suffering or pain somebody else is going through.

Adaptability:  As grownups, we get stuck in our ways. Rigidity about experiences and emotions locks out new ways of thinking and feeling. Adaptation doesn’t mean leaving behind who you are. Instead, it can help you navigate through life with less heartbreak and more joy.

Curiosity and wonder: When you’re 6, you’ve only had six years of experience. The world is full of things that you don’t know about or haven’t seen yet. You can cultivate curiosity by being both a seeker and open. Many of have experienced that sense of curiosity and wonder second-hand through children when their eyes “light up” – but this doesn’t have to be a kids-only emotion.

Gratitude: This is a quality that seems a little easier as you get older. Having some life perspective gives you more reasons to express gratitude. Seeing how people around the world and at home may be suffering can make you more grateful. It’s not the big things, it’s the little, everyday interactions that we can be grateful for.

Know how to lead and when to follow: There are natural leaders and often, natural followers. Children are often pegged as one or the other, but in reality, all of us switch off these roles as adults. Know your strengths and weaknesses, be a leader where you are strong and be willing to be a follower and team player where you are not.

Humility: Kids are programmed to “show and tell”. Hardly the qualities of humility. Yes, we want our kids – and adults – to take pride in what they do and have a sense of accomplishment. But that’s different than positioning yourself as more important than somebody else. That’s actually a sign of insecurity. Acknowledge the role others play in your success, appreciate and celebrate your victories, and make room for others as equals.

So, I wish you all a Happy New Year and hope you find your own ways in 2017 to stay “Forever Young.”

Claudia Keith is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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