“You must be present to win.”

A group I belonged to had one rule: You must be present to win. The rule was implemented at the first meeting when someone’s business card was drawn for a giveaway, and they had already left.

To me, this rule applies to life, and conscious aging, as much as it does to giveaway drawings. To “win” at life you must be present. By winning, I mean getting the most out of anything that happens in your life.

I’m not talking about just being physically present. It’s easy to be there but distracted. Phones, food, drink, drugs and sex are a few of the means we use to distance ourselves from the present moment. Such things may start innocently enough, as a salve for an unpleasant event. But when they become habitual, they can take us away from experiencing important things.

One might not fully experience meaningful happenings, or miss communications that are vital to understanding a relationship, or forego a chance to learn something about oneself.

As one gets on in years, additional barriers can arise. Perhaps your hearing is not as good, and you withdraw some from life because you cannot grasp everything that is being said. Maybe your vision is failing, and you can no longer read emails or letters. Perhaps you no longer drive and feel stuck at home. These are all realities of aging.

But you still have choices; these are not life sentences of isolation and boredom. The easy choice is to give in to such limitations. The more life-affirming choice is to find ways to work around them, to find ways to stay present. Sometimes it’s hardware like glasses and hearing aids. Sometimes it’s new habits, new ways of being, like learning how to use Uber to get rides, or even taking a bus. Our evolution doesn’t have to stop, ever.