Advertising urges us to see aging as a failure. This is where role models and mentoring come in. When I was a young man, I saw very few older men or women who had lives that looked appealing. I’m sure they were out there, I just didn’t see them or know them.
A client gave me the phrase: “Lift (others) as you climb”. It struck a chord in me: helping others as you grow and move up the ladders of success and happiness is a benefit to both you and the recipient of your largess.
If we all move up together – and don’t leave anyone behind – what a major win for our community. If we move up ourselves and use it as an opportunity to feel superior to others who haven’t had our gifts, talents or good luck, we are sabotaging our community and making ourselves feel better at someone else’s expense. This is what insecure people do: they live out some version of “I’m so great and you’re a loser.”
Who’s the loser then?
This sounds easy, but it’s not. How often have you been able to rejoice in someone else’s good fortune? Or do you secretly look for some flaw in them that you can focus on. For example, “Well, yeah, he does have a good relationship, but he’s not too bright.” Or “She is very successful, but she’s such a bitch.”
Another way to lift others as you climb is to be a mentor to others. A mentor is someone that helps, supports, and gives guidance to another person. It can be an older person mentoring someone younger or when a more experienced person teaches, helps, and gives advice to a less experienced person.
A mentor has moved beyond preoccupation with self to foster the growth of the person being mentored. This relationship is good not only for the receiver, but for the giver. The mentor benefits in many ways: it is good for your self-esteem to help someone else. It is very good for us older folks to feel connected and appreciated by younger people.
If you want to feel alive and worthwhile, giving something back to your community is a great way to do so. Many people, as they age, become more rigid. They make their worlds smaller and smaller, so they can feel in control. This is a perfect set-up for an unhappy, bitter old age. Don’t go there.
Aging well requires expanding your world, not contracting it.
One of the best parts of getting older is getting wiser. Sharing your wisdom is a path to a happy elder-hood. After all: what good is wisdom if you keep it to yourself? Don’t you wish someone had mentored you when you were young, confused and trying so hard to figure out how the big, mean-old world operates?
Mentoring relationships can provide valuable support to young people. Mentors can help guide younger people through the difficult developmental stages that accompany the transition into adulthood. Traditionally, mentoring was mostly about offering career guidance. But let’s take it further: mentors in our community can also serve as role models for leadership, interpersonal and problem-solving skills.
Mentoring is not using the illusion of helping to find a hot, younger boyfriend/girlfriend or to get into someone’s pants. When mentors have these kinds of intentions, it makes it harder for anyone wanting to be a legitimate mentor to be trusted. If you want a younger partner, be clear on that. That’s not mentoring. Elders of the community: be clear about your intentions and honest with young people on what you expect from them. Don’t drag mentoring into the dirt: keep it clean, honest and real.
Who do you want to be when you turn 50, 60 or 70? Bitter and cynical elders don’t get that way by accident. A lifetime of envying other people and tearing down others who are successful is the path to an unhappy old(er) age.
Lifting as you climb is a great remedy to this: as you become older, wiser, wealthier and more successful, you reach out a hand to others to help them follow you on the path.
Don’t you wish someone had done this for you?