Want a Pretty Great Life? Start With the End in Mind.


        Here is the test to find whether your mission on Earth is finished; if you're alive it isn't.   - Richard Bach -
Here is the test to find whether your mission on Earth is finished; if you’re alive it isn’t. – Richard Bach -

How well people fare as they age is not just genetics or good luck. It is affected by education, energy, social networking and planning.

What’s your plan?

One of the great motivators for starting a new career in my sixties and getting my act together was the powerful understanding of my mortality.

Yes, I understood that growing old today is embarking on a new frontier and living longer is possible, but what did that mean for me personally?

Discovering my estimated life expectancy (96.18) stacked favorably against the average for women in the US today (82.2) was sheer infatuation. Rather than a mere 22 years, I had the possibility of 36 more years.

I thought of myself at 30 trying to imagine life stretched ahead until I turned 66. It was impossible then to grasp all that life could hold for me just as it is now.

But as a new horizon of ‘what could be’ began to appear in front of me, I got excited. I still am.

Not everyone is so positive about living long.

In the advent of advancing years, some are defiant about how many more they want to take on. Oh, but I don’t want to live until I’m ninety-something. Maybe you’re saying this.

What if we could not only add years but spend them being physically fit, mentally sharp, and functionally independent and financially secure. Do you want those years then?

I do.

This post is not about old age. This is about a long life.

I understand it can be uncomfortable thinking about surrendering your lifelines. Most of us ignore thoughts about the timing of our demise or act as if we have an infinite number of days.

But I promise you’ll be a lot smarter and motivated to design a fantastic third act if you’ll create a space in your mind for a conversation regarding your earthly finish line.

Ready? Good.

Now, let’s consider your last breath.

Last week Atlanta airport down escalator to Concourse B. What’s wild about that sign is that seventy-eight is just an average.  Many of us will breeze past eighty, ninety and beyond.
Last week Atlanta airport down escalator to Concourse B. What’s wild about that sign is that seventy-eight is just an average. Many of us will breeze past eighty, ninety and beyond.

Your Life Clock

On Tuesday I returned after three months to Brittany, my young talented hair stylist. I had been in Ecuador and since my hair experiences in Latin America are so far unsuccessful, I let my hair grow.

As we contemplated leaving the length Brittany asked, “When’s the last time you had it long?”

After a mental calculation the answer, “Oh, about thirty years ago,” took me by surprise!

“Wow. That’s a long time,” replied the twenty-three-year-old who wasn’t even born the last time I could pull my hair into a pony tail.

Yeah it is. Time moves on.

Financial planners and insurers use new mortality tables that have increased life expectancy – an actuarial estimate of the average time an individual is expected to live – from 100 years to 120.

But if you’re like me a mortality table is dry, unemotional data.

So, let’s try this. The first day of the new century will be celebrated in a huge New Year’s Eve celebration in 2099. You and I won’t be going to that.

Too bad really, but chances are you will have a longer future than you may be considering.

Would you like to know approximately how many days you may have remaining? Invest five minutes in The Longevity Calculator designed by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania to help you explore this.

If you’d rather not, then soak in the reality that at forty, a man’s average life expectancy consists of fewer days ahead than behind – the ones that cannot be recaptured – while women are not quite at the half way mark.

If you are fifty or sixty today, your remaining lifetime could realistically be forty to twenty-five years.

While it is not a limitless future, we can question ourselves well about the possibilities:

  • If you know you were going to time out in 25 years would you change your game of life in any way?
  • If you had 36 years left, how would that change your planning?
  • How would you change your approach to get results different than what you have been getting?
  • What are your intentions for living a long life?

Age does not have to diminish the thirst for lusty living, though it sometimes does. Cancer-free individuals or those in remission do better with the awareness of time than the rest of us.

We should all try better for more potent days and become mindful of time.

I can tell you from my own experience that the conscious acknowledgement of my personal demise provides a sense of urgency and I move through days with purpose I once could not find.

The best thing you can do is invent a life – the one you want to live.

So don’t spend all of your life addressing the challenges of each day versus giving consideration to the stark reality of your life ending.

Make a plan. Intention is important in every stage of life. It’s especially critical in the last part when hopes and dreams can still come to pass.

I believe life is about becoming more than we are now.

Time is waiting to see just what each of us will do about that.7404526564_1bbcc9a058_b

Additional Information on Longevity

1. Northwestern Mutual developed The Longevity Game – to give you a sneak peak at your future. They have been collecting statistics since 1857. It’s entertaining and you’ll learn something about yourself. (Watch how those numbers in the top right corner change!)

2. You are bound to find something surprising in these takeaways on the effects of The Longevity Revolution.

In the United States:

  1. Today there are more than 70,000 centenarians, roughly four times the number there were just ten years ago. A conservative estimate is that will exceed 1 million by 2050.
  2. Children who are now in grade school will grow up in societies filled with old people. Most children- not just a lucky few – will grow up in families in which four or five generations are alive at the same time.
  3. The population pyramid (young at the bottom; old at the top) is now a rectangle. Check this cool graphic out. We are growing toward now non-white and grey.
  4. Boomers are turning 65 at the rate of 10,000 per day and 79 million of them will enter a third stage of life longer than any other generation has ever known.
  5. In the next twenty years instead of one in ten Americans being over age sixty-five, that number will be one in four.
  6. Over the next 30 years, the US population age 65+ will double from 40 million to 80 million, and the share of old people will increase from 13% to 20%.
  7. By the time the last baby boomer turns 65 in 2029, one in five Americans will be age 65 or older.
  8. By 2032, there will be more people age 65 or older than children under 15.more old than children Screen-Shot-2012-10-12-at-12_42_22-PM

Globally the population is on the brink of a remarkable transformation.

  1. The worldwide population of seniors is expected to surge increasing from 530.5 million in 2010 to 1.5 billion in 2050.
  2. Japan has the number one life expectancy of any nation; the US falls around 19th.


Resources for Data: Stanford Center for Longevity. 




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Me-And-Only-Me: Learning My Way Around Loneliness

2014-02-03 19.43.36 (2)I have lived and worked in Latin America during the first three months of the past three years. These experiences are at the core of my third-act design for living the life I want and so far I’ve immersed myself in Granada, Nicaragua, Quito and Cuenca in Ecuador.

I go alone because there is no one else to go with.

Each journey begins with excitement but the outer limits of something else I feel moves through the daily routines of getting ready. I am choosing to be alone and it doesn’t take a remarkable social experiment to figure out that I’ll be lonely.

While it doesn’t deter my choice to leave, I do give a lot of thought to it.

Living alone is not traveling a safe path. Deep loneliness is more dangerous than obesity. When a person feels lonely his or her skin literally becomes colder which could explain why I wore fleece when the couple from Vermont were in t-shirts.

My lonely will not be social isolation but still, in a strange country with no friends and only silly Spanish to make do, I know to expect a visit from Mr. Lonesome.

Before you let your heart shrink thinking you will read a painful narrative of soul-crushing emptiness, let me assure you that time will not stand suffocating still during my journey. There is joy and wonder in these ancient cities and I find it.

But I will also find a haunting social stigma of singleness. I will miss physical touch, chit chat, the moment where someone takes the map from my hands and points to where I am, and making a cup of tea to give every morning as a gift of love. I will miss the recognition and respect my husband, the tea drinker, bestows on me.

I will not feel unloved but I will feel uncared for and sometimes misplaced.

How to be alone is one of life’s most important skills and ending up at the tender intersection of life and loneliness can make you strong, reduce you to tears or kill you.

2014-03-15 16.04.22Joy and Sorrow of the Unaccompanied

Crossing a sable sea back-lit by the moon in a small sailboat with my daughter was one of the most exquisite and surprising joys I’ve ever had. Night sailing was a new event of solitude and rapture encountering an extra thump of my heart if I gave way to worrying that the next wave could hurl a container into the bow.

On the three-day crossing from Dominican Republic to the coast of Puerto Rico across the Mona Passage, routine and diligence became mundane but night watches never were. With only the hue from the radar screen, alone in the cockpit a little more exhausted than the night before it was a magic carpet ride in the dark. I learned to love it.

Being alone can be wonderful. But we don’t love it every time.

I discovered a mess of words associated with being alone- loneliness, lonely, lonesome, solitude – each with differing explanations and opinions by credentialed experts that left me with no real clarity on which word to use when. I would need to get another degree to be able to use them accurately.

Some examples:

Lonely is typically used to describe a person who desires a companion or friend.

Loneliness is a feeling of emptiness. or Loneliness is a negative state of mind where you are always longing for the other, never satisfied being by yourself and always looking elsewhere for fulfillment.

Lonesome is beyond simple loneliness; it’s a state of all-consuming loneliness.

Alone is a positive state of mind, a very fulfilling place to be, a state where you are always and constantly delighted in yourself.

Solitude is your own conscious choice to be alone, irrespective of whether you have a galaxy of friends or not. When you’re in solitude, you don’t crave or think about others.

And on the other end of the lonely stick? The opposite of loneliness is unlonely. That’s not helpful.

I am clear about it is and feels like for me. Despite my success meeting people this year in Cuenca, the structure of work and scheduled social activities, there were times I was ‘lonely’ and  ‘lonesome.’ I interchange these words for the same feeling.

I wasn’t depressed. There were no crying jags. I never felt homesickness but maybe more lovesickness. I didn’t spend time contemplating the meaning of life. I would just have liked someone to appear, give me a hug and say ‘hey, wanna go for a walk?’  

Most of us have a kind of loneliness we can describe. According to AARP, 45 percent of adults 65 and older are divorced, separated or widowed and more than 50 percent of American adults are single, and 31 million – roughly one out of every seven adults – live alone.

Today, for the first time in centuries, the majority of all American adults are single and the typical American will spend more of his or her adult life unmarried than married, and for much of this time he or she will live alone.

To be sure, this trend is far from confined to the U.S. — the four countries with the highest rates of solo living are Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Denmark, where up to 45% of households contain just one person.

“Despite its prevalence, living alone is one of the least discussed and, consequently, most poorly understood issues of our time,” states Eric Klinenberg in Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone.

2014-02-09 17.46.41You Can Do Hard Things

When you are alone, the evidence is everywhere. During the last three months I never failed to notice the half empty space of a double bed, restaurant tables set for two or four, the empty tour bus seat beside me or of wondering who might enjoy the rest of my morning banana.

My thoughts always entertain me yet I was distracted by couples talking at the next table or in seats behind me on a bus. Not only did I listen to their conversation, but I’d silently engage answering this question or that. It was fun for a while.

A sound sleeper, I would wake in the middle of the night speculating whether it was the husband or wife peeing in the upstairs toilet.

I wanted to give you, my readers, and me cures for loneliness but I stopped looking because the suggestions were hazy or border-line bizarre:

“Feel god”

‘Take an online class”

“Add more happiness to life”

“Talk to statues”

“Discuss it in a forum on FB”

I am not profoundly fond or exceptional at being alone. Like most of us, I have learned to construct a kind of scaffolding that keeps loneliness at bay. When a weak spot in my protection threatens I’ll say: “okay, we’re going to need to do something about this.” And with each action, I feel strong and it passes.

2014-02-15 15.26.32Sometimes all I needed to do was walk four blocks and have a stilted broken-Spanish conversation with the old woman whom I visited at least every other day. She’d greet me with a smile and together we’d fondle and rave over the avocados. Qué hermosos aguacates hoy!

She was “my fruit lady.” I also had “my bakery lady,” “my tamale lady,”  “my flower lady,” and “my shoe shine man.”

In a March 2014, Issue 459 of The Sun, author Barbara Kingsolver says she learned from her children’s Montesori teachers how to teach the mastery of difficult tasks. “When a task was difficult, that’s when I would tell them, ‘you can do hard things.’ Both of them have told me they still say to themselves, ‘I can do hard things.’ It helps them feel good about who they are, not just after they’ve finished but while they’re engaged in the process.”

Never expect to outgrow loneliness. You just have to sort it out and learn your way around it.

Companionship is not something we can bank on and living life the way we want may mean we’ll do things alone. It’s okay. We can do hard things.



You may enjoy this beautiful video: “How to Be Alone” by filmaker Andrea Dorfman and poet/singer/songwriter Tanya Davis.  I did.


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Travel Unnecessary for Fulfilled Life Post50

2014-03-04 16.20.55For many the first activity of a post-retirement life is to pack up and leave home for a far flung experience. For individuals who plan to continue to work Post50 taking a gap year is growing in popularity.

Seems we all want to be on the move. Travel is a top priority for 59% of retirees according to a 2013 study.

With late-in-life freedom, there’s a romantic notion to the idea of leaving home. We hear a siren song from Tahiti, the RV points westward, Italy beckons, New Zealand’s Milford Track craves our boots or ghosts of past lives plea for a visit to grandpa’s cabin deep in the Nantahala Forest with ten long lost cousins nearby.

Must we go? We must.

Compelled to enter a Post50 life with travel at the forefront, we pocket the AmEx, grab a neck pillow, Ziplock our snacks and set off  on a journey.

What I want to know is ‘why?’

What is to be accomplished or gained? Are we off to capture lost adventures of youth? Will you be happier after you see inside the Louvre? Will finding your center happen after 4 days walking on the Inca Trail?

As for that 40% who don’t have travel as a top priority, do they risk ending up on the low end on the totem pole of life satisfaction?

For the record, it is not documented that travel is necessary for a happy, well-lived life. Continue reading

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Why You Must Dare, Dream and Work…Forever

030 If work is not working for you, the forever in this post’s title is upsetting. More than that you say? Annoying. Dreadful. Nasty.

Let’s settle on stomach-turning and agree you are highly resistant to the idea you should work any longer than necessary – certainly not for the rest of your life.

You aren’t alone. When I suggest Post50 years are a time to plan how to extend a career arc, explore new work possibilities or get some entrepreneurial chops, people bristle and say:               

  • You have got to be kidding. No way do I want to work after I retire.
  • When you tell me I need to keep working after 65 I don’t even want to listen to you, Barbara.
  • I don’t need to work. I will have enough money.

It took me a while to understand the intense reaction against working after a traditional retirement age.

I have always enjoyed my work – except for one job as a sixteen-year-old sales person in women’s apparel at one of the Elder Beerman’s department stores in Dayton, Ohio.

Mr. Beerman, CEO, spotted me on one of his random walkabouts at the beginning of my summer season when there were no customers in the store. “Straighten those sweaters,” he said pointing to the perfect stacks I had just finished. “Always look busy,” Mr. B barked. “And the next time I see you, you will look busy.”

I hated that work more than any I would ever do.

If you work for this kind of jerk, are just worn out and tired of your job, chose work that has never given you any sense of satisfaction, or have lost zest for a chosen career, I get why you aren’t wild about the idea of working right up until your last breath.

Still, you’re going to want to work forever and I’ll bet you can’t wait until I tell you why.

So here we go. Continue reading

Posted in Productive Longevity, Reconstuct Retirement | 2 Comments

The Aimless Post60 Tribe: Failing to Grasp the Meaning of Their Decade


Behind that social mask is personal truth - what we really believe about ourselves and what we're capable of.              - Phil McGraw
Behind that social mask is personal truth – what we really believe about ourselves and what we’re capable of. – Phil McGraw

If all goes well people will stop choosing traditional retirement and start living vibrant lives they have created.

They will use a framework of freedom, geography of place and a personal version of productivity. They will live as if inventing lives of productive longevity were the most natural thing in the world and as if their future of wellbeing depended on it- which it does.

Then AARP can cease shouting, “Sixty is the new 60.” We’ll already know it.

Marc Freedman, author of The Big Shift: Navigating the New Stage Beyond MidLife, declared, “The sixty-somethings will invent an entirely new stage of life – between the end of middle adulthood and old age and retirement.”

I’m all for forging ahead with this new spirit of aging but Freedman’s forecast –now four years old – is not happening. There is no uprising of individuals enthusiastically engaged in transformation and the creative design for a new stage of life.

Instead, many of today’s individuals at 60 proceed using a bare outline of what they want in life.

So, Here’s the Deal.

Trying to figure out the decade while you’re in it is really hard to do.

The transition to late adulthood – without thoughtful planning – is one of the most precarious, interesting and increasingly important stages of life. (Hey, it’s your last thirty years on earth.)

Think of this leap to a new life stage as kayaking a life threatening Class V whitewater rapid that you didn’t bother to scout. Those rapids – “Beast of the East” “Inferno” “Terminator” – are named for a reason.

Shaping a future in all of your other decades was an inventive endeavor that involved dreams, priorities, trade-offs, risks, choices and challenges.

Unfortunately in your 50s this original approach to life design is stymied by a looming social construct. Retirement was once considered the golden twilight of an American life cycle – kind and comfortable.

But traditional retirement no longer works in reality. It hasn’t worked for a long time and  we just haven’t gotten around to creating a new version to take its place. No wonder the shift from traditional retirement to a new paradigm is not well underway.

We are older and healthier for longer, but not smarter it seems. Continue reading

Posted in Reconstuct Retirement, Self-Management | 4 Comments

Three Things We Can Learn from Bruce Dern’s Endless Career


2014-01-29 15.15.10I’ve had several moments in life when an unknown person exuded an invisible energy to say, “Hello there. You know me. I’m famous.”

It’s happened to you too.

An individual’s simple air of distinction – no pomp or pretentiousness, no ego involved, always unassuming – lights a fire under our intuition. We’re not obsessed with finding out who they are, but the circumstance gets a grip on us.

Here’s me over thirty years ago remembering every detail of this kind of meet-up:

After landing at a small dusty, open air rectangle of an airport in Loreto, Mexico, one person in the mostly empty place catches my eye.  

He leans against one of the support beams of the thatched roof with his right knee bent and the back of his boot planted firmly on the rounded wood. He surveys an airless, outside panorama; he’s a do-not-disturb dude.

This spare man in a worn cowboy hat removes his sunglasses, wipes his sweaty brow with the back of his hand and replaces the glasses. He’s not shaved in a while.

I scrunch up my forehead. “Geez, he seems familiar.” 

Meanwhile, my fifteen-year-old daughter in a wide brimmed straw hat, socks with Tevas and  dressed in a long sleeved t-shirt under scrubs heads my way. This outfit reflects her theme for the upcoming two week family sail in the Sea of Cortez – “no sun will touch my body.”  

She asks quietly, “Mom, why are you staring at that guy?”

“Because he is somebody and I don’t know who.” Finally, the neurons fire.

“You know, I think that’s Bruce Dern.”

“Whatever,” says the superbly executed teenage shrug of the clueless.

My discovery was meant to be a whisper but was not. Upon hearing his name the actor looked my way and tipped his hat.

I manage a small beauty contestant wave.

Ever since, Bruce Dern, the perfect picture lonesome cowboy, has been a favorite of mine.

 Career Without High Notes

Not to go all Hollywood on you (a recent post was about Matthew McConnaughey), but retrospective pieces investigating the ups, downs, luck and sustainability of the 2014 Oscar nominees mirror individuals – like you and me, except for the fame – who work hard at their craft, endure lows and at times struggle to find a vision for the future.

While Bruce Dern’s career is stronger than ever, his look back is full of accolades that forever eluded him. Not winning top roles makes for career angst. Continue reading

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Five Reasons You Have No Plan for Your Long Life


Made possible by Hurricane Ivan - my closet of Ikea.
Made possible by Hurricane Ivan – my closet of Ikea.

In 2006 after Hurricane Ivan propelled 16 inches of water into our house, my husband and I did what most everyone else on the Gulf Coast did. We rebuilt our home. 

For over two years, we lived like nomads and dealt with insurance issues, which wasn’t much fun, but the result is a house with every built-in I ask for and new everything. 

Every room is picture perfect, as far as I’m concerned.

So I’m baffled as to why I continue to stack up copies in my office closet of Dwell with ingenious ideas of storage design, how to build luxury modular units in lost valleys and glamorous photos of furnished industrial lofts in Belgium. 

Maybe I think next time a hurricane hits, I’ll be ready. I won’t be stunned by loss, but instead, inspired to move into the future with grand ideas and creative juices flowing.

Metaphorically, my stack of Dwells is really about how preparedness can eliminate  angst when faced with unknowns. 

Too bad, the magazines didn’t fall on my head to remind me of this critical message when the inevitable challenge of designing my life for the third age rushed in.  

For a person knowledgeable about passages in adult development, I was ill-prepared.  

I wish I had a do-over on that transition.

Why Late-Life Design is So Hard

It’s no secret we are living longer (I would discover it was a lot longer than I supposed) and no secret that in your mid-50s, transition into another stage of adult development is around the corner. 

Like others, I arrived at this corner with a string of achievements during my lifetime to be proud of, good health, abundant energy and a financial plan – albeit one whacked about by the economy.

Still, the future could be bright. Yes? 

Why didn’t I feel that?

Spanish lesson's questions about life.
Spanish lesson’s questions about life.

Too much time parked on my office couch with morning coffee asking, “What now?” produced a soul-searching inertia.

The ticker tape of questions included:

Why should I choose a lower-key life that emphasizes leisure and a bucket list, but not work?

Why didn’t my future seem as exciting as it did when I turned twenty?

Why should I volunteer my talents when I wanted to get paid?

Why wasn’t I equipped for navigating this terrain of aging and longevity? 

A strategy and plan for my super-sized life appeared daunting, and exposed a blunder I had to own. I didn’t given my late-life design nor the necessary transition as much attention as I had other pivotal places in my life.  

Hence a sloppy entry into the big jump to a third age. I am not alone; many are befuddled and bewildered.

With an extra thirty years for the average person, why do these newly minted lives in which most people will reach a very old age seem so hard?

“This is a uniquely a twenty-first century question,” states Laura L. Carstensen, professor of psychology at Stanford University and founding director of Stanford Center on Longevity.   

The Big Picture of Planning Future Life after 50

I tracked down and read every available source of information needed to plot a course through this third age, as the French call it; I can report the pipeline of understanding, skill and know-how is just now filling up.  

Nonetheless, navigating a transitional terrain is much less complicated with a prior aerial view of the best information found.

Here  is your big picture map:

1.    We are in the midst of the “biggest demographic adventure in history.” According to Carstensen, the number of centenarians in the United States is roughly four times the number just ten years ago and will likely exceed 10 million by 2050.  . 

As a result, everything will change -education, work, financial markets, retirement and how we choose to live and work during our lifetimes.

2.    Old age is a new phenomenon creating new territory, yet unexplored. Yes, stories of late blooming entrepreneurs, octogenarians pushing physical boundaries and ninety-year-old lovebirds prevail, but not enough information exists to create surefooted pathways for the rest of us. All we know is we’re breezing through our 60’s and 70’s, past eighty and ninety and beyond. You don’t feel old at 75 because you aren’t old but how to carve out productive longevity is largely ignored and processes or tools unavailable.

3.    We lack new social benchmarks.  You can get lost easily when social benchmarks like when to get an education, marry, work and retire don’t apply. These markers evolved when lives were half as long. If you aren’t careful, you’ll find yourself on the brink of a next phase of life – like retirement – buying into traditional thinking that truly doesn’t make any sense anymore.

4.     Excitement is missing from old age. Carstensen poses this question and your response could be an uncomfortable chuckle: When’s the last time you caught yourself daydreaming about your exciting life after 60?  

When the future is hazy, chagrin replaces excitement. Once we poured hours into daydreaming about choosing a career, finding the right mate and starting families. The third age is a time to daydream and design things anew. The element of excitement – always an individual’s responsibility – cannot be secondary to  design.

5.    Why not work to enlarge a career arc not phase it out? There’s a thousand good ways to life productively until 90, but we are wedged into accepting that careers are better replaced by volunteerism, being super grandma or playing bridge while cruising the Med.  

Working identity – a fabric of our entire life – is defined by what we do, professional activities that engage us, and the company we keep. While trying to escape numbing corporate politics or dull-as-dishwater work, creating a late-in-life future without work is a drastic change of story and creates a fragile self.  

Still Unsure How You’ll Navigate Your Longevity?

 A hurricane’s landing is unknown; but human development life stages are destiny.

While each individual arrives at the crossroads of a the last third of life with a unique composition of data and experiences, a good comprehensive playbook – one taking into account longevity, societal norms, our true finances, and the pillars of the wellbeing (career is number one) is crucial.

While this information does not provide your specific plan, it does lead to the thoughtful preparation which could result in the very best time of life.

If you are post50, I encourage you to get to work. Give a voice to your future life. Be defiant. Challenge your thinking.

You can  leave a legacy of productively longevity for future generations (your grand-children, nieces or nephews) to envy enough to emulate.

Bravo in advance.

From a collection of stone faces - Museo Municipal de Arte Moderno in Cuenca, Ecuador.
From a collection of stone faces – Museo Municipal de Arte Moderno in Cuenca, Ecuador.




Posted in Productive Longevity | 3 Comments

On Decisions At Any Age

The very idea of a wrong or a right choice is polarizing. No matter what decision we make, we may end up pining for aspects of the life we declined even as we celebrate the many advantages of having moved on.

You’ve lived a lifetime of decisions. And sometimes when you feel you made a mistake, you have.

A Mistake is a Marvelous Thing

In my twenties, enchanted by a picture in a popular home decor magazine of a dark green hallway in a Los Angeles residence, I asked my husband to paint the stairway to the basement of our Ohio rental the exact shade of fir-tree green.

As the painting progressed, I often peeked down the stairway ever hoping the dried paint might transform into a magnificent color -more like the green in the magazine picture would be fine. Soon enough reality deemed my decision “dreadful.” Continue reading

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Personal Evolution: Who Can You Be Tomorrow?

2014-01-24 15.27.44The amazing capacity to be different tomorrow than we are today is inside each of us. Change is often thought of as something bad to something good.

Change is also something good to something better.

From graduate school through careers of counseling and coaching, I find the wonder of change in human behavior is not a miracle, but purely a choice – stop doing A and start doing B.

I observe good leaders become great leaders doing just that. And never mind the individuals who astonished themselves (and often me!) by one day taking an untried path leading to amazing success and gratification.

Do you think about how you can live differently tomorrow than you do today?

Matthew McConaughey does. McConaughey, 44, is a collector and creator of aphorisms – from bumper stickers, truths and rhymes. His favorite is “Just Keep Livin.”

The line belongs to Wooderson, the long-graduated Lothario he played in 1993’s Dazed and Confused and it’s become a motto for McConaughey, inspiring the names of both his foundation J.K. Livin and his clothing line,(JKL) whose tagline is yet another McConaugheyism, “Find your Frequency.” Continue reading

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Want a Fabulous Third Act of Life? Begin With Your Truth About Aging.

7404197414_8a55dcc43f_o7407550458_e3f396be18_oThe quality of a life is defined not by its length, but by its depth, its actions and achievements.              -Ann Patchett, best-selling author of Bel Canto and six other novels-

People often tell me they have no idea what they want to do or even where they want to live for the last half of third of their life. Not a clue, they say.

I don’t believe this is the truth.

Contemplate you-growing-old-with-a-life-to-live for ten minutes -write down something or don’t. Some of what you want and more of what you don’t want will be identified. 

For example:

  • Work eighty hours a week? No.
  • Work at something I hate? Never.
  • Start a new business? Maybe.
  • Travel? Definitely.
  • Make time for more fly fishing? Absolutely.
  • Babysit my grandchildren? Uncertain.
  • Live in Chile? Big no.

Okay, so now we’re getting somewhere – a skeletal beginning for sure – but you can identify a few things after all.

The next biggest mistake people make (after telling the lie that they don’t have any idea what they want their life to be) is presuming they should know. 

How many of us have a subtle and complex understanding of being older until we are older ourselves? How can you know what you want- or what’s good for you – at 50, 60 or 70 when you’re not there yet? Continue reading

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