The Fountain of Youth

youth-570881_640On this day in 1513, Juan Ponce de Leon, an explorer from Spain, “discovered” Florida. The peninsula that makes up our southeastern-most state had been sighted before, but Ponce de Leon was the first to make landfall, arriving near the present-day city of St. Augustine. He named the new land “La Florida” since his arrival occurred during the time of Pascua Florida – the Easter Feast.

Legend says that Ponce de Leon was searching for the Fountain of Youth, a fabled stream of water that restored health and vitality. Stories of this mysterious spring were recorded as far back as the 5th century BC, when the Greek historian Herodotus wrote about it. Myths about the Fountain of Youth have been part of various cultures across the globe.

While there may not be an actual Fountain of Youth, I think it’s safe to say that we’d all like to maintain as much energy and vitality as possible. And it isn’t necessarily age that saps you of your youth. I know teenagers who act as if they’ve given up on life and senior citizens who are more active and alert than I ever was.

Obviously, exercise and diet play huge roles in prolonging life and providing energy, but according to research, there are a handful of intangibles that are just as important. Youth isn’t simply a matter of the body; it involves the mind as well. Here are three characteristics of youthful people to take note of.

They play. Think about the amount of time you spend at work. Have you ever noticed how the time seems to pass more quickly when you enjoy what you’re doing? That’s because we lose ourselves in the work when it’s enjoyable. We aren’t as prone to distractions and don’t even think about looking at the clock when we’re mentally engaged in the task at hand.

Studies show that laughter and mental engagement are key contributors to growth. We learn faster, perform better, and contribute more when we enjoy the work we do. Just because it’s called work doesn’t mean it can’t be fun.

They pursue. One of the things that make stories like the Fountain of Youth exciting is the pursuit of it. Ponce de Leon and other explorers left the comfort of their homes behind in search of something new and exciting. They weren’t content with what already was – they desired to accomplish something new.

What are you trying to accomplish at work? Do you have a goal that drives you to explore new opportunities on a regular basis? Without something to pull you forward, there’s no excitement. Don’t wait for someone else to introduce a little adventure into your job. Be an explorer and seek out opportunities that no one else has before.

They bend. It’s no doubt that, as we age, our bodies become less flexible. The same goes for our minds – unless we take care to exercise them. I think the term “malleable” is most apt to use in this context. Substances that are malleable aren’t flexible by nature, they’ve been pressed or even hammered into shape without breaking.

The key for us to is to view change as a chance to become something different – to assume a new shape without allowing the process to break us. People who are too set in their ways have a difficult time flexing or morphing into something new. Yet, as youths we did it without even thinking about it. It’s in our nature to flex. We lose that tendency over time and start to remain fixed.

Often it seems the biggest life-suckers of all come from work. For many people, work is drudgery – a grind. They live for the five o’clock whistle and the weekend. But that’s no way to live. It’s a definite recipe for growing old. And there’s no reason why it has to be that way.

Seek to incorporate some play into your profession. Pursue a goal that’s bigger than yourself. Try to roll with the changes that come your way, maybe even initiate a few yourself. Odds are, the Fountain of Youth is closer than you think.