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Cento di questi giorni. “May you have a hundred birthdays”, the Italians say. Positive as it is, this sentiment could also feel a bit restricting. Because why would a hundred be the limit? And what do we wish someone who already is a hundred years old? Various circumstances in life might flatten us so much that we already feel a hundred even in the early decades of our journey.

Conversely, some centenarians seem and behave as if they are still in their roaring twenties. In fact, the age-is-just-a-number attitude is precisely what might have gotten them to this magic number. Not everything can be fixed with the right mindset, we are far from being naive like that. Yet, a positive outlook may greatly aid your rejuvenation. So if you secretly wish to be younger, forget your birth certificateit’s only a document, what does it know about how old you are?

“And in the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years.”

― Abraham Lincoln

Our culture is fixated on numbers: mortgage rates, social media followers, exam scores—some of those measures are necessary but some of them are only distracting. There are so many factors outside of our control governing these metrics that it’s unfair, cruel even, to define ourselves and our lives in such simplistic terms.

Tara Thiagarajan, founder and Chief Scientist of Sapien Labs, conducts one of the world’s most important mental health surveys. Countries that score the highest, (e.g., Dominican Republic, Sri Lanka, or Tanzania) focus on building strong communities and relationships. On the other end of the spectrum, the most distressed countries (e.g., Brazil, South Africa, or the United Kingdom) are highly performance-oriented, basing their self-worth on achieving specific types of success, measured by specific numbers. And that negatively correlates with mental health.

Goals, targets, deadlinesthere’s nothing inherently bad about these measures, they keep the execution of anything in check and on the right track. However, what happens if we focus too much time and attention on hitting the metrics rather than the depth of the task itself? We run the risk of falling into the hamster wheel of “when… then I’ll be happy”. As soon as a high achiever reaches a certain threshold, there’s already another one looming on the treadmill. But where’s the finish line? And what fuels that insatiable hunger for success? All of us have our own answers.

We are built to walk uphill. But if you want to go fast, go alone, and if you want to go far, go together. Pick which data matters to you more, is it the number of miles you can walk or the number of hands to steady you when you trip? Does it matter more how many kg you can lift at the gym or that you have a smiling spotter cheering you on? The trick is to focus on the right elements that contribute to your success so that you can also enjoy the process.

Besides, numbers can be very misleading. The optimum water intake is around 8 glasses a day, but that will still vary from person to person based on weight, activity level, health status, or the climate in which we drink those glasses. Step on a scale, is the set of digits you see a representation of fat or muscle mass in your body? The famous BMI (body mass index) certainly does not differentiate between the two. If you lift weights, the more you exercise, the heavier you may get and that’s both counterintuitive and perfectly normal. And ladies, we know better than anyone that right before our period that number on the scale goes up as well.

Sometimes math doesn’t math and logic doesn’t logic, and all those numbers might do a number on you. Life is much more nuanced than two plus two.

Here’s another example: did you know that calories don't count? According to Giles Yeo, Cambridge University Professor and obesity researcher, a stick of raw celery is about 6 calories, but if you cook it, that same celery stick becomes 30 calories. Even the recommended 10k steps a day is a marketing stunt from the 60s―this arbitrary number was chosen because it was easy to remember. And while 10k a day is definitely healthy, research shows that with 7.5k steps you will reap the same benefits.

In any fitness journey, motivation plays a huge role. It’s fun to learn from sports celebrities and personal trainers who know a thing or two about hitting the right goals. But at the end of the day, you are your best reference point. Rather than smashing Usain Bolt’s records, aim to simply run faster than you ran yesterday. That’s how greatness is built, one small success at a time.

Smartwatches can measure a lot of useful data points but there’s so much more to your afternoon jogging session. Perhaps you’re recovering from a recent injury and you have to be gentle with yourself. Maybe some heavy emotions are running wild in your heart while your legs are stomping through the pain. What good is calculation then?

Where does your body end and your mind begin? Where does your mind end and your heart begin? How does one count on the muscles and bones to do their job without thoughts and feelings making it all worth it? We are complex and nuanced creatures who can adjust, shift, improve, and also empathize with our own selves. When the going gets tough, take it day by day. Whenever that becomes too much, take it hour by hour. And remember this math: if today your best is 20% and you give it your all, you gave 100%.

“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.”

― Ralph Waldo Emerson

What is a hundred years? It can be 1,200 months; 5,217 weeks; 36,525 days; 876,600 hours; 52,596,000 minutes; 3,155,760,000 seconds. Or, it can be the life of Saalumarada Thimmakka, an Indian environmentalist who planted over 8000 trees during her time on this earth. Let’s measure our lives in smiles, hugs, and planted trees. Let’s choose quality over quantity. The true measure of success goes beyond numbers.
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