I like to ride bikes. It doesn’t matter if it is gnarly trail littered with roots, rocks and logs, a straight as an arrow rail trail or broken pavement along Toronto’s streets, I like them all. The variety brings me joy despite burning legs, breathless lungs and a pounding heart. At the AGO, Greg Curnoe’s “Mariposa TT” is on display. In 1979 this was THE bike! Today this TT bike or time trial bike wouldn’t even grace the road of a major cycling event. A time trial is a race that pits the rider against the clock. A staggered start with each rider going off in a fixed time interval to ride as hard as she can until the finish line. The fastest rider wins. I would happily own this bike with the retro wool cycling jersey and cap even if it would cost me a few minutes in a race. Mariposa is a local Toronto bicycle company. They custom build bikes and as a side note, its current owner is a former professional cyclist and was part of Lance Armstrong’s drug taking team. Who says cycling is boring?
“Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light” (Dylan, 1937). These first lines of a poem by Dylan Thomas is fitting to what has been described by Cochrane et al., as the continuation of current leisure activities and not slowing down by age. Older adults want to continue to test the status quo as they have done in the past. They want to learn new things, to seek challenges based on their values and not that of the traditional senior citizen in their view (Cochrane et al., 2009, Loc 640 of 4237). They may want to try or to experience something novel and stimulating but at the same time they must addresses the physiological changes of an aging body. The mind is willing but the body is weak has original meaning in the corporeal temptation (Matthew 26:41, King James Version). It can also be applied to an aging body that still thinks it is young but may be contrary to the truth. Fitness keeps aging on a gentler slope. Raging against the dying of the light does come with some sweat and effort but it is worth it in the end
Cochran, L.J., Rothschadl, A. M., Rudick, J.L. (2009). Leisure Programming for Baby Boomers. (Kindle Version 4.6). Windsor, ON: Human Kinetics.
Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth, 2016.
Quick take-away points from this book.
“In sum, no matter the domain, the highly successful had a kind of ferocious determination that played out in two ways. First, these exemplars were unusually resilient and hardworking. Second, they knew in a very, very deep way what they wanted. They not only had determination, they had direction.” (page 22)
The 4 Psychological assets of Grit
These tend to develop over years as a person progresses through his or her chosen undertaking.
- Interest – Those with grit tend to stay with his/her undertaking. It is a meaningful endeavour despite some of the more boring or tedious aspects of what he or she does. The brain needs novelty. By staying engaged in the same activity for many years, the brain will need some nuances to keep it interested.
- Practice – daily focused attention to the practice of the skill looking to achieve/improve more after each session. Getting better each day. This deliberate practice is self-aware but without judgement.
- Purpose – he or she knows the work they are doing matters to him or to her and to the well-being of others. It may start with a spark and build to an accomplishment that has made a positive difference to other humans.
- Hope – maintaining hope through each stage from beginner to expert and beyond despite pitfalls, failure or obstacles. It is the belief that effort can improve the future. Get knocked down and get back up.
Stay gritty my friends!
The Chase – Wolf Blass wine commercial 2015
Triumph doesn’t just happen.
It comes about because we as humans choose to pursue it.
Regardless of risk, or rules or boundaries
Because we choose to listen to the voice inside of us that says “chase it”.
Without the chase, everything that man has done would not have been done as well, as good, at all
So when the call comes to chase something, listen to it, ignore the comfort zone
It never climbed a mountain
It never created a damn thing.
And when you do, raise a glass to yourself
Because you, sir or madam are alive.
Life of Pi page 178 Yann Martel 2002
I must say a word about fear. It is life’s only true opponent. Only fear can defeat life. It is a clever, treacherous adversary, how well I know. It has no decency, respects no law or convention, shows no mercy. It goes for your weakest spot, which it finds with unerring ease. It begins in your mind, always. One moment you are feeling calm, self-possessed, happy. Then fear, disguised in the garb of mild-mannered doubt, slips into your mind like a spy. Doubt meets disbelief and disbelief tries to push it out. But disbelief is a poorly armed foot soldier. Doubt does away with it with little trouble. You become anxious. Reason comes to do battle for you. You are reassured. Reason is fully equipped with the latest weapons technology. But, to your amazement, despite superior tactics and a number of deniable victories, reason is laid low. You feel yourself weakening, wavering. Your anxiety becomes dread.
Fear next turns fully to your body, which already aware that something terribly wrong is going on. Already your lungs have flow away like a bird and your guts have slithered away like a snake. Now your tongue drops dead like an opossum, while your jaw begins to gallop on the spot. Your ears go deaf. Your muscles begin to shiver as if they have malaria and your knees shake as though they are dancing. Your heart strains too hard, while your sphincter relaxes too much. And so with the rest of your body. Every part of you in the manner most suited to it falls apart. Only your eyes work well. They always pay proper attention to fear.
Quickly, you make rash decisions. You dismiss your last allies; hope and trust. There, you’ve defeated yourself. Fear, which is but an impression has triumphed over you.
The matter is difficult to put into words. For fear, real fear such as shakes you to your foundation, such as you feel when you are brought face to face with your mortal end, nestles in your memory like a gangrene; it seeks to rot everything, even the words with which to speak of it. So you must fight hard to express it. You must fight hard to shine the light of words upon it. Because if you don’t, if your fear becomes a wordless darkness that you avoid, perhaps even manage to forget, you open yourself to further attacks of fear because you never truly fought the opponent who defeated you.