Staying Young: Do You Know the Secret?
Around the world, people spend billions of dollars each year striving to restore their youth. But this highly attainable goal doesn’t need to cost you tons of money. In fact, it can be yours for no fee at all.
As I walked along the beach at the end of another beautiful summer in Southern California, I noticed the demographic shift in the tourists who were enjoying the last warm hours of the day’s sunshine. Families with older children had returned home to start the new school year, replaced by younger families who were not yet bound by the same calendar.
Everywhere I looked, I saw little bodies running, digging, splashing, and laughing.
A young grandmother ran past me. She was doing her best to keep up with her grandchild, who was enthusiastically charging toward the water’s edge.
The little girl’s blonde hair flashed behind her—a dancing testimony to unrestrained bliss and youthful zeal. Her pretty face was decorated with a vibrant smile and dancing eyes.
The doting grandparent was grinning as she rushed past me—her life overflowing with ecstasy as the infectious rapture of her tiny prodigy enlivened her own pleasure. She flashed a smile at me and shared these tantalizing words:
“I wish I was four years old again!”
At first, I heard the message with polite amusement. Yes, of course, we all do, I thought.
As I continued my walk, her words sank in, striking deep resonance within me. I turned to look at the crowded beach, and with profound sincerity I said out loud, “Yes, of course—we all do!”
You see, I have realized through both my personal and professional lives that every one of us is involved, throughout our mortal existence, in the earnest pursuit of joy as our highest aspiration. Every client I see today, whether a Fortune 100 CEO looking to be better next year, an Olympic athlete training for a gold medal, or a hard-working parent who comes to me to find courage and direction, is looking for the same thing: happiness.
And there it was, right in front of me. And the grandmother knew it!
Over the past decade, I have come to realize that we are born perfect. Mother Nature designed us to be healthy and happy. I see the evidence as a scientist, as an executive coach, and as a student of life. I see clearly how the modern lifestyle—characterized by sedentary living, overeating, sleep deprivation, and social isolation—is increasingly depriving us of these two birthrights.
More importantly, I see that, when we honor our natural design, we are rewarded with these same two elusive prizes: health and happiness.
We would all do well to not only wish to be four years old again but to study the life of a four-year-old, emulating their instinctive practices…especially on the beach!
To start with, they move. Lots! They seem to respond to a natural drive to keep busy. As their bare feet hit the sand, their legs erupt into wild action. And it’s not only their legs. It never ceases to amaze me how children like to dig in the sand. When I walk on the beach, I frequently have to step around a whirl of little arms that are wildly clawing sand out of a hole that is growing in size with each frenzied scoop.
And when did you last try to get a four-year-old to eat? They seem to understand that food is for nourishment and not pleasure. They eat when they’re hungry and refuse when they’re not, responding to the ache in their belly and not some imaginary ache in their mind.
And have you ever watched a bunch of preschoolers at a birthday party? They are instantly friends with the little ones on either side of them—whether they had ever met before or not—simply because they are near each other. Community is instinctive for them. Collaboration in fun is their natural disposition.
And, at the end of the day, they collapse with the birds and the setting sun into a deep sleep, to restore body, mind, and spirit. Their carefree rest allows Mother Nature’s invisible little helpers to groom connections and remove clutter from growing brains, while repairing and strengthening the organs and limbs that sustain their vital existence.
But that’s not all. In fact, this is only half of it. The real magic is taking place deep within their untainted psyches.
At our psychic roots, we are all children. You will often hear people speak fondly of “the child within.” That is the simple, trusting, creative, and courageous soul we were born with.
But then life happens. The well-intentioned admonishments and warnings of caring parents and the inevitable traumatic events associated with the human condition systematically induce protective layers that steadily separate us from childhood and childishness. With these steps, we begin the inevitable journey away from innate joy.
Today, I work with adults to understand the myriad of sub-personalities that spawn within them in response to traumas big and small. Distress always induces a protective response. And each time, we bury that innocent, hopeful self a little more.
This may sound like a thoroughly depressing worldview to hold. And if it stopped there, it would be.
But I have learned through my personal life, by studying the world’s most composed leaders, and through the amazing transformations of my clients that this is not the path we are condemned to.
There is a better way, and we have a choice.
First, despite the societal pressures that conspire to keep us inactive, overfed, unrested, and isolated, we can choose to pursue daily habits and practices that restore our natural design. The inescapable reward is physical and emotional health.
Second, there are proven techniques for understanding and nurturing our inner psyches. With the help of a skilled, caring, and well-trained guide, each one of us can appreciate the complicated mosaic of our inner landscape. Without getting trapped in gloomy or narcissistic introspection, each of us has the capacity to achieve self-mastery, a state wherein we combine the wisdom of the adult with the hopefulness of the child.
This is the true path to joy and abundance.
If you have never tasted this, the most powerful and rewarding phase of your life remains ahead of you. Once you have experienced it, you will never look back. Your life will become a magnificent journey, as you strive for deeper insight and consciousness while enjoying the fruits of your mortal birthright.
Yes, indeed…there is great value to be found in chasing four-year-olds.
Dr. Roddy Carter, MD, has over 30 years of experience working across a range of medical disciplines and corporate settings.
At the height of his successful career, Roddy experienced a personal health and happiness awakening. During this profoundly transformative time, he began applying his deep knowledge of performance neuroscience to his everyday life. He discovered that, in moments of stress, the brain develops intricate psycho-protective adaptations to ensure our short-term survival; however, these adaptations often impose substantial residual limitations, create profound (and often hidden) distress, and prevent us from reaching our innate potential.
Today, Roddy is an executive coach and author dedicated to helping others unlock their full potential throughout their lives by applying compassionate neuroscience and sharing his unique approach to Personal Mastery™.