The data is out there. Age-related cognitive decline affects millions of adults world-wide. At least that’s how they write it in the research papers. For the average person, like myself, what that means is our ability to think and reason declines as we get older.By some accounts, this happens as early as our mid-20s. Some people are affected more, others at a different rate. But rest assured, it happens to us all in some degree.
I’m not trying to raise alarm bells here. I think the fire started a long time ago and I’m just pointing out that the tinder is lit. There is hope though! As much as the research says we’re cognitively changing as we age, it is also clear that regularly exercising the brain can help stem the tide.
So how do we exercise the brain?
There is no shortage of options. A quick online search and you’ll find an array of services and apps, courses and books, games and brainteasers.
However, the solution runs much deeper than that. Those are merely Band-Aids. An app for your smartphone may help you feel better, but I can only question the usefulness of spending three minutes a day playing a game. (Not to say that it doesn’t help in some capacity.) The solution needs to come from a place much deeper than your fingertips touching a piece of Gorilla glass.
To really punch aging in the face, you need to cultivate a keen sense of curiousity.
To quote Stephen Fry…
There is no reason why anyone should understand how it works… and of course no reason why anyone should care … unless you are curious, in which case I love you, for curiosity about the world and all its corners is a beautiful thing.
I recently attended the 90th birthday party of a family friend. Dave grew up in a mud shack on the plains of Saskatchewan, was a pilot during WWII, and returned to Canada to start a family and a farm.
When I was growing up, he seemed to know everything! My father had a small aircraft license around the time that he met Dave, and inspired by the idea, decided he was going to get one himself. Not only that, he also figured he could build the plane that he would thereafter fly. With no formal training, and a strong desire to learn, build, and tinker, he did just that and took that small airplane across the country. Later on in life, after retiring from farming, he took up woodworking and now makes amazingly beautiful furniture. He stills reads voraciously and is always on the lookout for the next project that pushes his boundaries.
Dave is a life-long learner. No matter how much I write, I could never capture the depths of his knowledge. Yes, he is smart. But more so, he is curious!
I’m not suggesting that you should build a plane. Or make furniture. What I am suggesting is that, like Dave, you find your curiousity.
Pick up a book and read regularly. Watch webinars. Attend conferences. Sit and talk with someone about what they do. Be curious about yourself, your company, your community, and your environment. Assume that all learning is good learning.
It will make you a more interesting person. A better leader. A compassionate colleague. An informed manager. An engaging friend.