“We can’t reach for anything new if our hands are full of yesterday’s clutter.”
In August 2021, I rebooted my life, seeking a new, improved version of myself. I started Beyond the Hype Media from scratch and began the process of getting a second undergraduate degree to launch my quest for a Ph.D. By society’s measure of my life expectancy, my version 2.0 was late to the game. Indeed, as I sought a bachelor’s in Political Science, I recognized that I had received my first undergrad degree before my fellow students or professors were born. No matter.
Besides wearing reading glasses and being secure in my skin, I blended into the student body. I made friends and formed study groups like every other student. Besides my birthday cake looking like a four-alarm fire, I am an average post-bac student looking toward graduate school. My grades are better than in my old undergraduate days. A lot better. My mind is very focused and expertly honed by life’s challenges, and my positive expectations for myself are exceedingly high. The Greek islands on our masthead are top of my vacation list. But I still need to improve if I want to publish two books before the end of the year and graduate with a 4.0 in December.
I must declutter my life, climb back inside my three-foot world and push forward with a sense of urgency if I am going to leap the high bar I have set for myself. From my perspective, I can always improvise, adapt, and overcome my version of reality. Nothing is outside the realm of the possible in my “three-foot world” because I control my actions. What in the world is my three-foot world? I introduced the concept back in June 2022 post. Look at the graphic below.
The graphic is adapted from my forthcoming book, “Thinking 4 Tomorrow”. During times of stress, pressure or worry, focus on what you can control at the moment and ignore everything else. Staying in your three-foot world is a helpful worldview (perspective) in any negative situation you encounter and can help declutter your life. Beyond learning from the past lessons, my yesterdays are dead and gone. Pieces of my past are just clutter. Your three-foot world brings your focus in tight to things you can “truly” control, overlapping with something you believe matters. Absent a time machine, remaking yesterday is way out of my control.
Below are current issues potentially vexing us in red and actions each can take in blue. Friends, family, and other significant relationships have their graphic and subsequent “what you should focus on” overlap. I am sorry, but very little about another person’s actions and reactions are inside your circle of control. Be the best version of yourself to others and let the chips fall where they may.
As I streamline my life via the “three-foot world” imperative, I become laser-focused on my positive expectations for the future. Positive expectations about matters I control. Notice that I use the term positive expectations, not just expectations. Why? Because many of us harbor dozens of negative expectations molding our future. Let’s consider one negative expectation most of us secret away; aging. Let’s look at aging gamed out in stereotype embodiment theory (SET). SET is a theoretical model first posited by psychologist Becca Levy to explain how age stereotypes influence older adults’ health. A stereotype is a version of expectations.
We pick up our negative views of the old in youth when they are initially directed to other people. However, we reach a milestone age, retire, or go gray, leading us to realize the stereotypes now apply to us. At this point, we begin to live out a negative self-fulfilling prophecy as the stereotypes become “embodied,” precipitating our physical and cognitive decline. (Robson 2021)
Individuals exposed to the negative age beliefs demonstrated a heightened cardiovascular response to stress. In comparison, those subliminally exposed to positive age stereotypes showed reduced cardiovascular response to stress (Levy, Hausdorff, Hencke, & Wei, 2000). Repeated elevations of cardiovascular stress response heighten susceptibility to heart problems, which perhaps explains why carrying negative age stereotypes from earlier in life to old age significantly increases the risk of cardiovascular events (Levy et al., 2009). And negative age stereotypes may adversely influence recovery from acute cardiovascular events (Levy, Slade, May, Caracciolo, 2006).
In a cohort of 440 participants aged 18 to 49, those who held more negative age stereotypes were significantly more likely to experience a cardiovascular event over the next 38 years after adjusting for relevant covariates such as a family history of cardiovascular disease (see below). The impact of positive and negative expectations on cardiovascular events is staggeringly significant.
Aging is one research-proven area of our lives where establishing and maintaining positive expectations matters. Research suggests that positive attitudes to aging protect us from certain kinds of dementia.
Although the precise causes of Alzheimer’s disease, the primary driver of dementia, are still being researched, we know many neurological changes accompanying the illness. The buildup of a protein called beta-amyloid between cells. As these clumps accumulate, they destroy the synapses essential for brain signaling. Patients with Alzheimer’s also develop tangles of another protein, tau, within the brain cells. We now know that specific gene variants—notably APOE4—can render you more vulnerable to the disease. But those inherited differences do not seal your fate; many people with APOE4 never develop dementia. (Levy 2016) Look below at the impact of expectations on dementia.
According to many neuroscientists, the brain is a “prediction machine” that constructs an elaborate simulation of the world based on its expectations and previous experiences as on the raw data hitting the senses. For most people, these simulations coincide with objective reality, but they can sometimes stray far from what is playing out in the physical world. (Robson 2021)
“The mind is its own place and in itself can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.” –John Milton, Paradise Lost.
As for me, I am decluttering, refocusing, and getting my expectations sky high. Until next time. Travel safe.
Levitin, D. (2020) The Changing Mind, London: Penguin Life. Also, see the website for further information https://www.newscientist.com/term/telomeres.
Levy, B.R., Ferrucci, L., Zonderman, A.B., Slade, M.D., Troncoso, J., and Resnick, S.M. (2016).
A culture-brain link: Negative age stereotypes predict Alzheimer’s disease biomarkers.
Psychology and Aging, 31(1), 82.
Levy BR, Hausdorff JM, Hencke R, Wei JY. Reducing cardiovascular stress with positive self stereotypes of aging. Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences. 2000; 55:205–213.
Levy BR, Leifheit-Limson E. The stereotype-matching effect: Greater influence on functioning when age stereotypes correspond to outcomes. Psychology and Aging. 2009; 24:230–233.
Levy BR, Slade MD, Gill TM. Hearing decline predicted by elders’ stereotypes. Journals of
Gerontology, Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences. 2006; 61:82–87
Robson, David The Expectation Effect: How Your Mindset Can Transform Your Life” Canongate 2021