REFLECTION: A few years ago things were in flux in my husband’s workplace. Many of his co-workers were concerned about the impact of potential changes on their lives. Dave refused to get bent out of shape. When one of his colleagues asked him how he could stay so calm in the midst of the commotion, he replied, “They can’t scare me. I’ve raised teenagers.”
It was a laughable response, but one that contains a seed of truth. Life experience, if you pay attention as you go, leaves a certain amount of perspective in its wake. You start to have a better sense of what really matters. You become more skilled at separating the real risks from the imagined catastrophes. You build confidence in your ability to adapt and cope with whatever lies ahead.
It’s a phenomenon that I call the Maturity Advantage. One respondent to my Overload and Overwhelm survey described it this way: “I’m making different choices than I would have made five years ago. I’m too old to want to be miserable!” Another observed: “I constantly take readings of my stress level and deal with overload almost immediately. When you get to be my age (62) people just write you off as ‘eccentric’ and you can pretty much take care of yourself if you need to.”
It is true that younger brains have a faster processing speed and an easier time learning or memorizing, while the middle age brain struggles with short term memory. Names and details not firmly embedded are no longer on instant recall, and seem to fly right out the window.
However, a more complex web of neural pathways in the more mature brain is an asset in arriving at more accurate judgments. Years of connections, and layers of knowledge help identify patterns and similarities in situations. They make it easier to see solutions – to get the gist of the problem, to tune in the big picture. It appears that grey hair and grey matter do grow together.
ACTION: So how do we put this maturity advantage to work in our overloaded lives?
Perhaps you’re someone who shows a little wear on the tread, has left a little rubber on the road, or clocked a few clicks on the odometer. You know – you’re experienced! If that is the case, when challenges roll into town, don’t let yourself get drawn into the collateral fury and frenzy. Use your life experience to put the situation in perspective. One of the greatest gifts you have to share with colleagues in the workplace is that experienced voice of calm and reason. Chances are pretty good the sky is NOT falling and the last thing needed is another Chicken Little racing around predicting gloom and doom.
On the other hand, you may be more of a freshly minted employee (new to life in the workplace). When challenges nudge you in the direction of overwhelm, seek out a conversation with a more experienced colleague. Someone who’s weathered many storms may be able to help you better understand what is happening at the moment and what that could mean over the long haul. Accessing that high level view will help you short-circuit your near-term stress. You’ll get a much better grip on your choices and options.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “We should not only use the brains we have, but all that we can borrow.” – Woodrow Wilson
RESOURCE OF THE WEEK: Check out this Forbes article entitled ‘Good News! Your Brain is Getting Smarter‘.
READERS WRITE: In response to last week’s message on Burnout & Meltdown, Pause reader SR writes: “One very simple trick I have learned to help avoid burnout & meltdown is to sleep more. It is precisely when I think I don’t have time for more sleep that I stop, take a big breath, and resolve to go to bed early – and then I do it! Being well-rested calms those scrambled and anxious thoughts.”