Jane Fonda’s Better Metaphor for Aging.

June 21, 2022

Jane Fonda’s Better Metaphor for Aging.

May 29, 2023

“We’re still living with the old paradigm of age as an arch. That’s the old metaphor. You’re born, you peak at midlife and decline into decrepitude…A more appropriate metaphor is a staircase. The upward ascension of the human spirit, bringing us into wisdom, wholeness, and authenticity.” - Jane Fonda

Jane Fonda articulated this idea in a TED talk almost a decade ago. I would add that the staircase should have been a spiral staircase, which allows us a 360-degree opportunity to become a “first-class noticer” of all that’s below while also allowing fewer blind spots. Besides, who doesn’t love a spiral staircase?

Unfortunately, some people want to move through life on a “stair lift,” one of those hydraulic devices that allows you to sit on a seat and be effortlessly lifted up the steps using the stairs' railing as a track (please don’t beat me up if you or someone in your family uses this…I’m speaking metaphorically here). The truth is, healthy aging requires that we take active steps (inward and outward), however boldly or gingerly the moment calls for. It’s not something that happens miraculously or with the push of a button.

Healthy aging is a deliberate and conscious ascension that ideally begins early in life (but can also start at any moment). It takes willpower, courage, resilience, humor, self-awareness, the support of others guiding you, and possibly faith—all of which combine to give you the kind of stunning view that comes with your later years. In short, we earn the view with hard work, wisdom, and our willingness to keep climbing.

I don’t know about you, but my high school dances always ended with the lights turned low and the song “Stairway to Heaven” playing from the cheap speakers. This classic Led Zeppelin song was the crescendo moment of the night and our cue to make our “final move” on that boy or girl on the other end of the gym. The choice was always ours.

You might say stairways are in our generational DNA. They are the hard fought and joyously earned stepping stones that take us to a higher place, where the views are as glorious as they are inspiring.

How might we think of aging as a crescendo, not a cataclysm?

P.S. LAST CHANCE. We have only three spaces left for the “Own Your Age” workshop July 3-10 in Baja, our last public workshop until the fall. Join my two co-founders Jeff and Christine, our mindfulness teacher Teddi Dean, and our neighbor Tim Parr, the founder and CEO of Caddis, a guy who has built culture-driven brands for more than 30 years. This is your last chance to visit MEA Baja for a workshop until mid-October as we’ll have Sabbatical Sessions going on all summer.

Go deeper with a workshop, in person or online.

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