I am the oldest male member of my gym who goes 5–6 mornings a week. In fact, at age 51, most of my fellow CrossFitters (here in a cramped basement “box” in NoHo, NYC) are at least 20 or even 30 years younger.
Does this bother me?
Yes and no.
Yes, because my ego is screaming for me to be taken seriously as an athlete, to be attractive (to the twenty-somethings who think its “cute” and “creepy” that a fat old guy works out with them) and for me to dominate the obnoxious millennial pissants who crush workout after workout while I lay face planted in a pool of my own sweat. It makes me mad that I didn’t start taking care of myself seriously 20 or even 30 years ago. Frankly, my “personal maintenance” for the last few decades can be described as inconsistent and indifferent at best.
When my first marriage broke-up, I did the “get buff” thing that all newly single dudes do. But it’s a cliche’ that didn’t last.
Lesson: you can’t prove anything to anyone else — ever. It’s called revenge and it leaves you swallowing the poison first. I did. It sucked. I immediately got fat (topping out at 340 pounds) and I just spent 7 years getting the weight off (130 pounds).
This morning, as I look around at the fresh-faced group of participants listening to our coach, do I know that most of these “younglings” (thank you Star Wars) work out so they can dabble in alcohol-fueled, sex-driven urban debauchery weekend after weekend? Yup.
Despite being sober 5 years (no, I am not anonymous about it) and having plenty of romantic “experiences” — do I feel a pinch of jealousy? Sure. But, I am reminded of that great George Bernard Shaw quote: “Youth is wasted on the young”. However, before I bore you with a deep dive into pathetic self-loathing, let’s get to the point:
What? (I can hear you reading this and thinking, “What?” really loudly.)
It’s called “The Merlin Principal”. Every wannabe “life coach” and self-help program has bastardized this concept, which is (very) loosely taken from the legend of the Wizard Merlin of King Arthur’s court who could shape-shift and even bend time. It posits that if you set a goal out in the future, you can bend time too — by living into the that future today.
Without attempting to retell the Merlin story, here’s what you should know:
In my mind, I have created myself to be a healthy, strong, viral, and alert 80-year-old man. He is fit and independent. He and his wife — who is also healthy — take walks together in the country everyday. I am that man 30 years from now.
QUESTION: What actions did the 80-year-old version of myself take TODAY in 2017 that resulted in a happy, healthy older me in 2047?
ANSWER: He went to CrossFit 5–6 days a week, ate well, slept well, laughed a lot, made love, and harbored no regrets. The old man was fueled by gratitude and forgiveness for himself and others.
Forgiveness is a big part of allowing the future you seek to call you forward. By not forgiving yourself, you can get lost in the regrets, upsets, and incompletions of the past. Forgiveness lets you accept and let go. Forgiveness gives you the ability to create your future from love versus desperation, anger, or cynicism. Maybe the “magic” of the Merlin Principal is that it forces you to confront what you must let go of in the past so you can create the future.
So, now that my face is back in that pool of sweat, I am not resentful. I am grateful. I am living into a powerful future where the older version of me is depending on the current me to do everything that needs to be done to be healthy in 2047.
The good news is that “present me” gets the immediate benefits of a healthy life even though it’s the “future me” that keeps calling me forward, getting me out of bed each day, and reminding me to be grateful for my awesome (though “imperfect”) life.
I am lucky to now see a pathway to a healthy future that gets created day by day. Nothing is lost or gained in a day of not doing anything. But, if something unexpected does happen , I can get back on track by simply letting my created future call me forward. What I need to be responsible for is listening for that call — every single day.
“The future depends on what you do today.” — Mahatma Gandhi
Michael Whalen is an Emmy® award-winning composer, music supervisor, professor, author and thought leader on digital rights and music copyrights. He has led personal development programs and courses all over the world. Most importantly, he is a dad, husband, a CrossFit newbie (7 months) and is training to walk his fourth New York City marathon in 2017.
Originally published at medium.com