12. I’m Too Old (or Not Old Enough)
The age of your body can seem to be quite an obstacle on the road to changing long-held thinking habits, particularly since you received an extensive list of memes concerning age very early on.
Depending on where you grew up, you heard statements such as: “You can’t ride your bicycle until you’re seven,” “You can’t sleep over until you’re ten,” “You can’t drive a car until you’re 16,” and “You can’t have sex until you’re married.” Then at some point you discovered that you went from being not old enough to being too old!
Then you started to hear: “You can’t get a new job after age 35,” “You can’t change occupations because you’re past your prime,” “You can’t fall in love again at your age,” “It’s too late to write the book or compose the symphony you’ve always dreamed about,” and, of course, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”
And all of these memes became your reality. The age excuse comes from an inclination to identify yourself with the number of trips you’ve made around the sun rather than from the unlimited side of you that lives independent of the age of your body. Part of you has an ageless mind and is quite oblivious to the physical aging process – and it’s available to you if you’ll just encourage it with conscious invitations to participate in your life.
As a young child, you had daydreams about what you might invent, draw, write, or design. Mind viruses came your way routinely, which made age your reality. “Wait until you’re bigger to do those kinds of things” seemed to be a never-ending pronouncement, all too quickly turning into: “You’re too old; act your age; it’s too late.” Somewhere between the two, your private destiny wasn’t elevated to a primary position in your life.
You are the age you are – period. Yet those thoughts swirling around inside and outside of your head are ageless. They have no form. No boundaries. No beginnings. No endings. When you speak of age, you speak of your body, this finite thing that houses your invisible essence. This excuse is all about your physical self, and it is unquestionably influenced by your mind.
You’re the perfect age right here in this moment, and your body can be no other age than what it is. Identify yourself in what Lao-tzu calls “the subtle realm,” or the invisible domain of Spirit, with thoughts like these: I am ageless, and I can train my body to work with me in achieving anything I can conceive of in my mind. There’s nothing about my age today that prohibits me from fulfilling my dreams. My mind is free, and I can train it to do my bidding rather than acquiescing to an excuse pattern.
I’ve had two very persuasive callings in my life. One occurred when I knew I’d be pursuing a college education regardless of being the oldest freshman on campus. Age was of no consequence to me. In fact, the eight years I spent as a student on several college campuses to earn my three academic degrees were accomplished in part because I was so unconcerned about my age. I was living my passion, and everything else took a backseat to that vision.
My second huge calling came at the age of 65 years and one day. Compelled to detach myself from worldly possessions accumulated over many decades, I disposed of clothes, furniture, books, records, awards, photographs, and memorabilia of all description.
Studying and living the Tao Te Ching, I wrote an essay on each of the 81 verses in a book titled Change Your Thoughts – Change Your Life. That I might be too old simply never occurred to me.
As I look back on my life, I realize that I’ve made many smaller decisions where I refused to consider age as a factor. At the age of 42, I decided to become a long-distance runner and ran the original Greek marathon. At the age of 17, I decided to write my first novel; and at the age of 9, I faked my age to get a paper route (10 was the “required” age). At the age of 68, I can’t conceive of thinking that I’m too old to do what I love. Without that excuse, I continue to live life by activating my particular dharma or destiny.
In fact, I just completed a brand-new career undertaking as an actor and a filmmaker – I encourage you to view The Shift and tell me if you think I was too old for such a project.
13. The Rules Won’t Let Me
Perhaps the most famous of Henry David Thoreau’s observations is this one from the conclusion of Walden: “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.” Thoreau is referring to the unlikelihood of being able to always march to the same beat as everyone else.
There are times in your life when you have to listen to the rhythm of rules that are beating within you, and only you, instead. But perhaps you’ve latched on to a belief that the rules of society are so sacrosanct that bending them would be crossing a line that you (or anyone) should never cross.
The words that follow the above sentence in Walden are even more compelling for living an Excuses Begone! life: “Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.” I’m not making a case for being a lawbreaker just for the sake of nonconformity – I am encouraging you to give up habituated behavior that demands following the rules and obeying laws when this keeps you from fulfilling your destiny.
Bertrand Russell observed that “from childhood upward, everything is done to make the minds of men and women conventional and sterile.” This includes many of the edicts, both written and spoken, that you’ve been taught to observe as you move through life.
Many of these rules are simply the shoulds: “You should do things the way we’ve always done things in this family,” “You should keep quiet and do as you’re told,” “You should fit in and take the courses that the school offers,” “You should take the advice of authorities, rather than have a different opinion,” “You should want to continue living near family, instead of moving across, or out of, the country,” and so on.
All of these shoulds are designed to keep you from hearing a certain drumbeat, which, if further ignored, may lead to disastrous results.
Thoughtless obedience to rules and laws is both dangerous to society as a whole and an impenetrable obstacle in the way of your health and happiness. You see, your subconscious mind may be so programmed that you allow all of these memes or mind viruses to dictate your options in life.
If you recognize that you’re a spokesperson for always obeying rules and laws and doing as you’re told, you need to also recognize that you pass on mind viruses to others similar to the ones that are curtailing your own life. Some of the most heinous acts in human history have been performed under the umbrella of “the law” and “the rules.”
And many beliefs and opinions are merely excuses defended as rules or laws.
Listen to your own heart, and obey whatever is consistent with what you know to be the highest law of all. Subscribe to edicts that encourage you and others to be all that you’re capable of becoming without interfering in any way with anyone else’s God-given rights. In this Excuses Begone! attitude you’ll never be limited by laws, rules, or shoulds. As the 18th verse of the Tao Te Ching states: When the greatness of the Tao [God] is present, action arises from one’s own heart. When the greatness of the Tao [God] is absent, action comes from the rules of “kindness and justice.”
Let the greatness of the Tao live in your heart and encourage you to act from that elevated place.
14. It’s Too Big
The “It’s too big” excuse is so big that it seems to plop on top of people and totally immobilize them. Perhaps surprisingly, this belief only needs to be reversed. If you believe that people are successful because they think big, for instance, I’m here to tell you that success demands small thinking!
Bring this realization into your consciousness and you will have accessed the ability to think small and act on what once seemed to be big issues. Some of these include: being overweight, battling an addiction to legal or illegal substances, having an unwanted self-image, earning your Ph.D., building your new house, getting out of debt, fixing your relationship with your mother, or becoming more self-reliant.
Verse 63 of the Tao clearly and gently explains what I’m talking about:
Take on difficulties while they are still easy; do great things while they are still small. The sage does not attempt anything very big, and thus achieves greatness. These words may appear to be paradoxical, but they’re the unquestionable response to this particular excuse.
As I write this, there’s a 12-story structure being erected next door to my condo building. Admittedly, there had to be some big thinking on the part of those who imagined and designed this project. However, the actual creation of this beautiful new edifice is being accomplished in terms of what can be done right here, right now – one step, one brick, and one shovelful of dirt at a time.
What a great metaphor to touch base with when you feel overwhelmed by the sheer scope of something. You cannot lose 50 pounds or quit smoking in a single day, get your Ph.D. tomorrow, or eliminate all debt from your life forever . . . such goals are too big when approached that way, and this makes it too easy to fall back into habituated ways.
The Excuses Begone! method invites you to challenge your thought patterns and encourage your own success. So acknowledge that you can’t get the humongous things done today, but you can take that first step. While you can’t receive your Ph.D. today, you can register for a course that begins next week, and that’s all you can do regarding that lofty goal for now.
Think small and accomplish what you can in the here-and-now. You can’t quit drinking alcohol or smoking cigarettes for the next ten years, but you can refuse to give in to your addictions today, or even smaller, in this moment. That you can do. And that is precisely how all habituated thinking habits get changed: by thinking and acting small in the now moment and living the only way that anyone really does live—one minute, one hour, one day at a time.
With this new consciousness, you can begin thinking in terms that encourage you to eliminate excuses and elevate success.
Stay tuned for part 5 – I Don’t Have the Energy
Available now from Hayhouse: Wayne Dyer – Excuses Begone
It will look like this: A Catalog of Some Common Excuses – Part IV