A man twice my age once told me that once you hit a certain age, energy inevitably runs out. Reality snaps at you, and there goes the drive, motivation and physical capacities you once had. When that time comes, all you have got to sustain your life and keep it going the way you want comes down to this one thing: momentum.
For the young go-getters who believe that ‘the sky is the limit’, this sobering grain of insight re-introduces one back to Earth and the harsh grounds of our fundamental humanness. We are not so ‘special’. We have limits.
Age, to the zestful and spirited young, is something that seems irrelevant, almost foreign in character and impossible to fathom. To a person in the early twenties, middle-age seems like a distant land, very out of reach.
Nevertheless it is a beautiful concept, an important one that has much to offer. Age constitutes experience, insights and memories that form and become parts of the individual – these fragments add up, and through them, self-definition happens. Through these fragments, one builds upon them and gains momentum, further cementing one’s dominant characteristics into his/her consciousness.
This is why an alcoholic finds it extremely hard to quit alcohol; the memories, habitual patterns and experiences surrounding alcoholism over the years have become deeply ingrained in him. It has become who he is, his identity.
In contrast, a successful middle-age businessman could undergo a rough patch, but he has years of experience under his belt, years of doing things “right”. Much like activating muscle memory, what is called upon to get him out of trouble is his experience. The successful businessman has known of himself to be disciplined, shrewd, decisive and capable of overcoming adversity. He possesses an internal character that distinguishes himself from the rest who do not have “what it takes”.
Clearly, momentum is not derived from a vacuum. It is built upon experience, which is internalised in a person’s character.
Building Momentum: Gathering the best fragments of you
We do not become the best versions of ourselves by default. We need to take the right actions and establish momentum.
Unfortunately, the ill and conditioned patterns we have learnt and incorporated into our lives have become attached to us like a drug; they essentially become “us”.
To unlearn them is possible, but it requires an art of discipline – to dig up and remove these layers of dirt bucket by bucket. These are essentially the flaws in our character, we need a hard look in the mirror and a resolve that they shall die to be replaced by positive virtues.
A lot of people have tried to find themselves by trying all sorts of different things. Not many of those things are useful. Some are momentary, brief, and serve only to elevate the ego, or to make one feel good. Not many endeavours last. After all, people default back to square one.
These are the times that call for deep soul searching.
What are the best fragments of you? What do you know you are capable of?
And what matters most?
The saving grace is that beneath the layers of dirt we have filled in our psyche – our mind, body and spirit – there is something that is of innate value, that shines effortlessly. Fragments of the best version of ourselves buried down below that we need to uncover, rediscover, and gather, and through them establish momentum to redirect our lives.