Monday, December 10, 2012

Want To Live Longer? Embrace Your Passions

The Journal of Aging and Health Study recently published a piece that suggests creative thinking may have lead to a 12% reduction in mortality risk after an 18 year study of 1,349 older male veterans (women were not included in the study). The study indicated that creativity; indicating openness, the willingness to try new things and accept new ideas, seems to have predicted a longer lifespan.

The study’s authors say, “For one thing, creativity requires the engagement of multiple neural networks, perhaps strengthening those networks as the brain ages. In other words, creative activities may act as exercises that keep the brain fit. People who exhibit creativity also seem to cope with stress better, finding solutions to stressful situations rather than being overwhelmed by them.“ They went on to say, “Hobbies or other activities in which we create something new–be that music, food, or furniture–require problem-solving skills and imagination. Such tasks are often relaxing, and even when they take a lot of energy, they are usually fulfilling. It stands to reason, then, that creativity could reduce our stress levels, improve our overall health, and increase our longevity.”

As I began writing this piece a timely email arrived pointing me to view a You Tube segment about Janey Cutler, the 80-year-old woman that made it to the finals of Britain’s Got Talent. I obviously do not watch enough television since Janey appeared back in 2010. It was a real treat to see her on stage and I was compelled to watch more clips about her and learned of her death at 82. Janey had 7 children, 13 grandchildren and 4 great grandchildren. She was a perfect picture of someone that embraced her passion and ‘went for it’ with No Regrets (the song she sang when first on stage). I imagined her as a perfect example of how we can live a vibrant life well into our later years and the creativity study supported the concept of vibrancy and its relation to health and longevity.

Are you embracing your passions? Have you taken the time to define and declare what your passions may be? When I work with leaders I challenge them to define leadership as a passion. I suggest that if they are not passionate about leadership they should get out and stop occupying a position that has significant impact on people’s lives. These positions of leader should be held by those that exhibit the passion to do it right – with the noble intention of service to the talent that exists in their organization. In so doing, these leaders may just live more passionate and extended lives themselves.

Take the time to define and declare your passions. When you determine what they are, pursue them passionately well into the later years of your life.