How to Deal with Slowin' Down

I've said this before in public, and so I might as well repeat it: I'm a huge wuss when it comes to not feeling well. I've heard women complain that men don't do sickness well, and when I hear that, I silently have to agree — at least in the case of this one man. My mind generally travels just shy of warp speed, but when something's amiss in some other bodily segment, everything above the neckline goes into extreme hibernation. It would take me most of the day to tie my shoes (if I ever wore any). Now that I've been navigating the midlife transition a while, when that happens, I can't help wondering what the future will hold.

Before you get all panicky about losing your youthful 'edge', I want you to take a few minutes to consider what 'slowing down' means for us middle-aged folks (sorry . . . you're reading this, so I have to assume . . . ). Much of it isn't what you might fear that it may be. Of course, the physical slowing down can be chalked up to nothing more than a physiological fact: as we age, our human growth hormone (HGH) levels decrease. That old pituitary gland just ain't what she used to be. The result is that your ROI (return on investment) for your exercise regimen steadily decreases through time. You work harder for the same (or even fewer) results. That doesn't mean that you can't run the steeplechase at 90. You can, if you continuously train for it, and if you don't cause yourself some other permanent injury. Of course, with lower HGH, even non-permanent injuries take longer to heal.

However, that's not the kind of 'slowin' down' that people are most concerned with. You can eat right, get enough sleep and exercise so long as you can still get out of bed in the morning. I've never heard anybody say, "If I can't compete in the Olympic decathlon anymore, just shoot me!" Never. Not even once. But, when you start talking about slowing down mentally, the paradigm shifts. If you're not as sharp at 50 as you were at 25, maybe it's time to call in Dr. Kevorkian.

Of course, the spectre of Alzheimer's Disease is real enough (I've experienced it first-hand in my uncle's family), and is absolutely not to be taken lightly. On the other hand, Alzheimer's and other diseases that cause physical brain deterioration (OBS) affect a relatively small sector of the population. More than likely, you'll simply find that it takes longer to think things out.

Here's the great news that you probably weren't expecting: research is showing that one of the main reasons that it takes longer for more mature people to think is because we have a whole lot more to think about! Almost any youngster can make quick decisions. Once of the reasons behind their speed is their lack of experience. The more experience you have, and the more possibilities that you've been exposed to, the more complex your decision-making becomes. As you mature, you become more and more aware of the far-reaching effects of your choices. You may even have come to the understanding that every decision that you make will permanently change the history of the universe (that, by the way, is true).

When you look at the facts from that perspective, you can see that a certain mental slowing down is a very good thing. It means that your wisdom and experience have grown and matured. It means that you can now consider a broader range of possibilities with a much broader range of consequences. You're far less likely to make snap decisions, or take foolish risks. At the same time, you can better appreciate how unnecessary pressure and haste can degrade the quality of your decision-making: you're not going to be so apt to take some superficial urgency at face value. If a decision is worth making at all, it's worth making well.

What I recommend is that the next time you feel like you're slower than those around you in coming to a conclusion or making a decision, congratulate yourself! It just means that you're acquiring true wisdom, and that's something that you can't buy with money . . . you can only buy it with time. A famous coach was once asked how he got his reputation for wisdom. "Good judgment," he replied. And to what did he attribute his habit of good judgment? "Experience," he answered. Once again, they asked him where he got his experience. "Bad judgment," he said. So, don't sell your wisdom short: you've paid a lot for it!


H. Les Brown, MA, CFCC grew up in an entrepreneurial family and has been an entrepreneur for most of his life. He is the author of The Frazzled Entrepreneur's Guide to Having It All. Les is a certified Franklin Covey coach and a certified Marshall Goldsmith Leadership Effectiveness coach. He has Masters Degrees in philosophy and theology from the University of Ottawa. His experience includes ten years in the ministry and over fifteen years in c...

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