In the last trimester of life walking goes from being more than a pleasure cruise on two feet to a world-class prognosticator of longevity. As overall health begins to decline in later years, one illness, or a backpack accumulation of illnesses, cause what researchers call a “disease burden” that restrains our gait and slows us down. For seniors, as their walking speed declines so does their life expectancy. Yet, those who pick up their pace and make regular efforts to walk faster – live longer!
Groupthink, Confluence, Synchronicity, Conformity, or “Herd Instinct”
Seniors know this, and can be more than a little obstinate, downright ornery when it comes time to move from their family home to an assisted-living facility. They know that living with slower-moving neighbors tends to slow them down, too. Just as seniors and walkers of every age match their speeds to those around them, individuals tend to “groupthink” by minimizing their personal opinions and adopting the more consensus, more average view. People in all countries and situations show an innate desire to stay in step on many levels, and not miss out on whatever is causing all the hubbub.
Whether it’s in the stock market, on the floor of the Senate, or in the home team section of a sports stadium the “herd instinct” saves thought, pumps blood to the face and unites us. Like other animals, we move in herds to minimize loss to predators. Wolf packs and hyenas run with a coordinated attack strategy, birds fly long distances in flocks and formation, and schools of fish change course in a flash.
With half the world living in burgeoning cities, factors like anxious urgency, economic insecurity, diverse opportunities, greater financial rewards and the herding instinct are driving us. It’s reassuring to be confluent with our families, neighbors, teams, tribes, and country, and mostly works to everyone’s advantage. But, whether we call it groupthink, confluence, synchronicity, conformity or “herd instinct” the tendency to “stay in step” thwarts creativity and stifles innovation. Many successful companies are conceived by those who “think outside the box.”
Getting In Sync with City Living
A century ago, Albert Einstein, better known for his theories of Relativity, Quantum Mechanics, Brownian Motion, Photoelectric Effect, Black Holes, and Ripples in Spacetime, got down to earth and simplified things for us when he observed that,
“Life is like riding a bicycle; to keep your balance you must keep moving.”
Keeping your balance becomes even more important as those around us keep walking, communicating, doing business, and creating everything faster and faster.
Recently, another physicist, Geoffrey West, has shown that not only walking speed but a number of other measures of city living are increasing with population, and, like walking speed are subject to mathematical laws. Wealth, wages, patents, crime rate, energy consumption, AIDS cases, are just a few examples.
We're not only on a treadmill that's going faster: we have to change the treadmill faster and faster. The question is, can we as socio-economic beings avoid a heart attack?
West at a recent TED talk.
The trick to living well and staying healthy in a metropolis is to “tap into the best and tune out the rest,” to get in sync with the energy, speed, and verve of city living, and step around those nasty causes of stress. Walk around any downtown corner and a kaleidoscope of extraordinary events, exhibitions, highly motivated people, and sights and sounds opens wide, as you absorb the raw energy and vibrant pulse of the city. Picking up your pace is the first step – not only to getting in sync with city living – but to a long and healthy life. After all, a little stress can be a good thing.