Virginia Bianco-Mathis
University professor, author

Virginia Bianco-Mathis

Business department chair of management programs at Marymount University and author of two books on executive coaching.

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Smart, calm, old

Q: For years, we were told that human brains peaked in their 20s, and then came a slow, downhill slide. But a new book ("The Secret Life of the Grown-Up Brain") says that researchers, thanks to high-tech brain imaging, are proving that's all wrong. In fact, we get smarter, calmer and happier in middle age, defined as lasting into the 60s. Has this been your experience? Are there aspects of age that are far more positive than you expected?

The new brain findings definitely coincide with my own aging experience.

The truth of increased happiness, calm, and smarts is evident when you hear people in their 50s and 60s say things such as: "I feel like a young person in an old person's body," or "I wish I could be 20 again with my present brain."

It is interesting that the study shows that the happiness, calm, and smarts are greatest from middle-age into the 60s. One would assume that after the 60s, various physical ailments start to erode happiness and calm. As my 85-year-old dad just said to me, "It's amazing. I feel I am very intelligent and centered as a human being. I have a peace I never was able to obtain in my youth. But now I'm so damned tired, I have to constantly rest, take medication, and struggle to breathe. I'm now using my mind to stay alive, not have great thoughts."

However, as an active woman "over 40," I can verify that I am experiencing increased calm, happiness, and smarts. These wonderful qualities are manifesting themselves through being more centered, letting go of competition, having perspective, and making decisions easily.

As an older woman, I'm much more confident in myself. I know who I am, leverage my strengths, and manage my weaknesses. I no longer view life as a series of accomplishments, but rather a road of continuous improvement. I compete only with myself and don't give two hoots about what others think. If I want to wear my green, ugly hat, I will do so.

I have already achieved success in various aspects of my life, so I am no longer clawing my way to the top. Thus, I have more energy to dedicate to more peaceful endeavors. Because I have experienced many scenarios and events, I have a depth of understanding and an incredibly balanced perspective on all the ifs, ands, and buts. This allows me to reflect, consider, and make decisions with ease -- no longer having anxiety-ridden nights of uncertainty and fear.

By Virginia Bianco-Mathis  |  August 23, 2010; 12:00 AM ET  | Category:  Success and age Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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