BEHIND THE BESTSELLER : It’s All in Your Mind
THE LONGEVITY FACTOR by Lydia Bronte (Harper Collins: $20) . AGELESS BODY, TIMELESS MIND by Deepak Chopra (Harmony Books: $22). Boomers weary of corporate downsizing, the youth culture and other pressures of the clock (biological or work site) often ease their Angst by consulting a career guru or splurging on the latest fruit-acid anti-wrinkle cream. What would probably help even more, two recent books suggest, is a new attitude toward both work and aging.
In “The Longevity Factor,” Lydia Bronte shows via case histories how long careers--which are becoming the norm with expanded life-spans--can lead to richer, healthier lives. She’s discovered five basic career models. In “Ageless Body, Timeless Mind,” holistic medicine doc Deepak Chopra suggests our attitudes age us very prematurely and that the power to turn back the clock is indeed in the mind.
Bronte (ironically a cousin of the literary Bronte sisters, two of whom passed in their 20s) traces the career paths of 150 people, ages 65 to 101, in her Long Careers Study. From 1987 to 1992, she conducted personal interviews, collecting 9,000 pages of raw transcripts and some surprising revelations.
Absent is the stereotype that most older workers all stay at one job, their eye on the gold watch and retirement party. The workers Bronte calls homesteaders (such as Actress Jessica Tandy) do remain in the same field but are endlessly fascinated, never experiencing the twangs of midlife crisis.
In contrast, transformer types (Sen. Margaret Chase Smith, Julia Child) required a major career change before finding their life’s work. Explorers (Studs Terkel, Robert McNamara) changed careers often throughout their work lives, while late bloomers (Frances Lear) and long growth curve folks (management consultant Dr. W. Edwards Deming) reached their peaks of success later in their careers. Then there are the retirers and returners (Sam Goody), who left work but soon returned.
Bronte’s information will be invaluable as the work force comes to terms with the reality of expanded life-spans and the realization that there’s no single “right” career model. But her participants’ list, which reads like a hybrid of a social register and “Who’s Who,” can leave the reader wondering why there aren’t more interesting “everyday” folks featured, such as Ollie Thompson, the Alabama farmer-turned-maintenance-man and then chauffeur.
Once the mind-set toward work has improved, why not tune up that ageist, self-defeating attitude? And what better guide than Chopra, the mind-body guru whose other bestsellers include “Perfect Health” and “Quantum Healing.”
The human body, Chopra points out, is in constant renewal--in a single year, 98% of the body’s atoms are replaced with new ones. Put another way, only a tiny percent of aging can be blamed on birthday-related changes. The rest of that downhill slide known as middle and old age is due to society’s attitudes and personal bad habits like smoking and lack of exercise. Change personal perceptions (along with some habits) and one can change not just one’s own body but the world, Chopra insists. Reprogram the mind to remain youthful and it will listen.
As proof that much of what is termed inevitable aging is hooey, Chopra relies on both establishment research and new-age techniques. He cites a well-known Tufts University study, respected by exercise experts, that found men 60 to 72 who pumped iron boosted their muscle mass and could lift heavier boxes than some 25-year-olds. But he also includes more avant-garde techniques such as how to improve time “metabolism” and how to develop an awareness that is timeless rather than time-bound.
Chapters end with practical exercises, teaching readers such techniques as body breathing. The quizzes (“How Do You Metabolize Time?”) are pretty irresistible.
Both books are quick and inspiring reads. At the very least, readers will hear a new spin on how to handle the stress of jobs and birthdays. Ponder the points further and the feeling can be one of boundless energy--if not invincibility.