I’ve been whining about missing my stairs ever since I moved from a two-story house to a rambler 18 months ago. Those stairs really were a plus in my life–I got exercise without having to schedule it all day every day. But a week ago, in an editorial in Talent Management magazine, Mike Prokopeak upped the ante. He suggested “taking the stairs” in the business setting as well.
He was making the same point I’ve been–the more we incorporate physical exertion in subtle ways to do the things we have to do anyway, the easier it is to maintain some semblance of fitness even when things get overbusy.
He pointed out that some business meetings are now conducted standing up (which accomplishes two things–it involves more physical effort, but it also makes the meetings shorter.) Some managers conduct important one on one conversations by taking a walk with that person. That also has some extra pluses. Difficult subjects are easier to address while walking. Creative ideas also seem to come more easily when you’re moving on foot.
But after I thought about his suggestions for a while, I realized this is not just about being less sedentary in business settings. It’s not even about real stairs. It’s about taking the more demanding route on anything and everything just for the extra benefits that those approaches often bring.
Deepak Chopra and Rudy Tanzi advocate something similar to this interpretation of “take the stairs” in Super Brain. If you want to keep your mind operating at optimum capacity for the long haul, you can’t just do the same old stuff the same old way and hope for the best. Look for a new restaurant instead of going back to the same old favorite every time you eat out. Learn a new sport instead of relying exclusively on the one you already enjoy. Make a point of meeting new people and going new places.
To live well as we age, we need a steady diet of new stimuli. According to Chopra and Franzi, that keeps our brains creating new synapses and the more synapses you have, the better you can weather a situation where some of them are injured or die.
To create those synapses, we need to “take the stairs” as many different ways as we can.
Every time we decide instead to run on autopilot, we lose the chance to build more brain strength. We lose the chance to build an even stronger social network. We lose the chance to find new ways to love deeply and be involved in new things that are meaningful. Those are the real elements of a rich life. Why forego them just to avoid exerting yourself a bit?
Once we retire, even if it’s to–or in–a single story home, we need to remain committed to “taking the stairs.” Do something that takes more effort than “same old same old.” It will make a huge difference as time marches on.
Mary Lloyd is a speaker and consultant and author of Supercharged Retirement: Ditch the Rocking Chair, Trash the Remote, and Do What You Love. For more, see her website.