Earlier this year, we came across this article in the NY Times on How to Become a 'Superager'.
“Superagers” (a term coined by the neurologist Marsel Mesulam) are those whose memory and attention isn’t merely above average for their age, but is actually on par with healthy, active 25-year-olds.
My grandparents (80 years old) are fairly healthy and active for their age. Now, taking that "for their age" qualifier out and comparing them to 25 year olds? That's insane. Or is it? We would love to live our life in a way that keeps us nimble and strong all the way through old age.
The recipe for becoming a Superager boils down to this simple strategy: Push yourself to the discomfort zone, exerting intense amounts of mental and physical effort. Do something hard every day. Hit a wall, keep pushing until you scale it, and then some more. This level of rigor and discipline has insanely amazing results on the long-term health of our brains, translating to long-term happiness.
Ever since I came across this concept, I've been actively trying to incorporate this into my day-to-day life. Here are some areas I've been pushing myself in since January 2017:
Back in October 2016, I was working at a cushy job at a great company with lots of perks. It was getting too easy, and I knew that I wasn't challenging my brain enough on a daily basis. I decided to move to a smaller company with more opportunities for figuring things out, thinking and acting fast, and solving problems creatively. I started at my new job in January 2017 and I'm ridiculously motivated and happy at work.
I wanted to set and achieve a physical fitness goal for myself in 2017. Mr. FH and I signed up for a 100-mile bicycle ride. The ride was scheduled for the first weekend of May. We started doing long rides on the weekends starting in January 2017, and each weekend would get harder than the previous one. We increased the elevation profile as well as the distance throughout our training, and it was an enormous mental and physical challenge for me each week.
I've been dabbling with spreadsheets since my early teens, but I knew that I had to learn SQL to get order of magnitude speed improvements at work. The work I do in Accounting is primarily parsing and making sense of large amounts of data. I knew that manipulating this data in SQL is significantly faster than Excel, so I set a goal to add this to my toolbox of skills. Mr. FH bought me this SQL Cookbook for Christmas, and once I started at my new job, I convinced our data analysts to give me access to query our analytics database directly. It was slow-going at first, but after lots of reading and lots of help from coworkers, I was able to automate a 2-day task that used to happen every single month. Epic win!
These are just a few examples of my current initiatives. Ultimately, the goal is to continuously find projects and challenges that make you feel the pain. The process of repeatedly struggling through the pain and pushing yourself is what does the trick. The journey is the goal, the destination really doesn't matter! Failing is success; true failure is not trying at all.
What strategies do you apply everyday to push yourself out of your comfort zone? What passion projects do you pursue?