The LIFE model of dynamic human systems development is based on the application of Dynamic Systems Theory (DST) to human systems change. It can be applied to all levels of a human system (individuals, relationships, groups, organizations, and society in general), but for the purpose of this website we will be discussing it mainly in terms of the aging process, and how we as individuals (along with our relationships) must continuously grow and adapt to the rapidly increasing levels of complexity in the world around us – if we want to age more positively.
By following this model, and becoming a dynamic system our self, we can learn to adapt effectively to nearly everything that is changing in our lives. And, not only is the world around us changing at an increasing rate but, as we age, we ourselves start to change at an escalating rate – and not always in a pleasant manner. We can’t make this any different. We must instead completely accept this process of change, and allow ourselves to change with it. In fact, we must become change itself.
This ability to optimally change and evolve as we age – at the same rate as our bodies, minds, and the world around us are changing – is the foundation of the dynamic aging process.
The four principles of the model – each grounded in the science of dynamic systems theory – are as follows:
Principle #1 – Maximize Learning
Learning in this case does not refer to what most people consider traditional learning. This is not about taking more history classes, learning to become a better photographer, or figuring out how Medicare works. These are all wonderful things to learn, but the type of learning we are referring to here is about ourselves and how the world works – so that we can optimize our own decision-making process, and improve the quality of life for ourselves and the people around us.
In today’s world of escalating interaction and change it is sometimes very difficult to predict the results of our actions. We have unrealistic assumptions, based on a paradigm created when we were much younger and the rate of world change was much slower, and we inevitably suffer the unexpected consequences of our actions. The only means of operating more effectively in an environment such as this is to learn as much about it as you can – before taking any irreparable action. But we must also learn about ourselves, because most of what humans interpret as “free will” or “choice” is actually deeply conditioned behavior – conditioning based on an earlier time in our lives, and when the world was different.
As we learn more about the real world, ourselves, and how we interact with our environment, we will begin to view things more realistically – not through the eyes of our conditioning, significant other people in our lives, or the mass consciousness. We can make better choices – in service of ourselves, loved ones, and the world we live in. This type of learning, especially in conjunction with the other three rules, is critical to the dynamic aging process.
Principle #2 – Maximize Interaction
Even though our actions sometimes interact with the environment to create negative consequences, this does not mean we should avoid interaction. Human beings can only learn through interaction (with others, new ideas, new ways of doing things, new experiences, etc.), so – if we want to age more dynamically – we must instead increase our levels of personal and relational activity to match the levels of interaction found in our environment.
However, much of the interaction found in our environment is meaningless or even harmful to our psyches, so we must also learn to discern meaningful interaction from that normally observed in the mass consciousness of today. We need to emphasize both “internal” and “external” interaction in this process, try to improve the quality of our interactions (more supportive, productive, meaningful, etc.), and each find our own “edge” – where we are operating outside of our comfort zone but still within healthy stress levels. The results of this interaction will be an alignment and integration with our surrounding environment, adaptability to change of all kinds, and a sense of “flow” – where we are constantly learning more about ourselves, and operating at levels of maximum performance.
Principle #3 – Maximize Flexibility
As we age, we probably need to exercise each day to maintain as much physical flexibility as we can. And, similar to the muscular and skeletal rigidity that will set into our bodies if we don’t keep stretching, a mental rigidity can set into our minds if we don’t continuously aspire to keep ourselves mentally open to the new challenges, opportunities, and other inherent changes the aging process will bring us.
An individual becomes mentally rigid, and therefore not particularly adaptable to external or internal change, when they completely identify with their own ego and messages of the superego – thereby reacting defensively to perceived threats, including almost all forms of change. Some research has actually shown this to be a natural tendency for certain people as they age. To offset this potential to become more rigid as we age, and perhaps even become more flexible and open to new ways of being than when we were younger, a person needs to proactively pursue their own personal development. This developmental process can occur naturally as a result of interaction and a mindful engagement with our environment, and/or it can be pursued more directly by doing things for ourselves that escalate self-awareness and self-learning.
The result of our developmental process will be an increasingly flexible and interactive set of internal mental, emotional, and physical structures that together comprise our feelings of identity or who we think we are. Instead of rigidly believing we are a certain way and nothing can change us, these structures become more porous, changeable, and integrated. As this occurs, we no longer need to impose change on ourselves or have changes imposed on us from the outside – but change will instead “emerge” from our own internal systemic interaction through a process called “self-organization” – and is nearly always positive in the sense that it leads to ever-greater levels of personal development.
Learning and Flexibility work together to create a continuous and self-perpetuating cycle of growth and development – which is further enhanced by the Model’s emphasis on mindful and meaningful interaction with our environment around new people, ideas, and ways of doing things. These developmental changes will create their own energy, making this process also largely self-sustaining. Continuously changing cognitive structures have also been proven to be the best way to stave off cognitive decline as we age, by building new and more realistic synaptic pathways in our brain.
Principle #4 – Maximize Energy
As the aging process progresses, an individual’s energy levels become increasingly important to manage. What we used to do that seemed simple and effortless, now require greater and greater effort. The literature on gerontology talks about the importance of both our current and reserve energy levels. We need to nurture both, but reserve levels become particularly important as we age in order to recover from disease and other hardship, as well as cope with aging’s inevitable physical decline.
Optimizing our energy levels requires the interplay between the following four variables:
- Input – The infusion of new energy through constant interaction with new people, ideas, technology, and ways of doing things. This will include healthy nutrition.
- Generation – We can learn to generate much of our own energy through the development of self-motivation, appropriate attitudes, creativity, meaning, purpose, inspiration, and positive affect.
- Utilization – Much of the energy we have is diffused in mindless activities and the pursuits of the mass consciousness. We can learn to be more efficient and conserve our energy through an increasing integration, coordination and prioritization of our activities.
- Elimination – Certain people, pursuits, and activities tend to actually drain a person of their vital energy. As we age, we can more easily feel when this is happening to us because we have less energy to give away. We can easily increase our available energy levels by eliminating these people, ideas, and activities from our lives.
This model has many layers of understanding and complexity. It is not something that can be easily or completely implemented in your own life, except in stages and with some guidance. However, even the initial stages of this model’s implementation will produce some startling results. You will start to become more open to all of your life’s possibilities and opportunities. Passion for living will re-emerge and find its nest in new meaning and purpose. You will come alive in your interactions through a new self-acceptance and acceptance of others. And, boredom becomes an impossibility as this model’s principles and practices work themselves into your every action and interaction.
Each person will have their own resistance to fully implementing this model into their daily routines. Extraverted types will have greater ease with integrating the horizontal axes – Interaction and Energy – because of the external and experiential focus of these principles. An introverted type will have greater ease with the vertical axes – Learning and Flexibility – because of the internal and self-reflective nature of these principles. Each type needs to act outside their comfort zone, to varying degrees, in order to fully integrate this model. However, because of natural processes inherent in the aging process itself, the last third of life might be the only time anyone can do this effectively.