The 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.
- 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?
In truth few of us see the scope, the range, the complexities or the possibilities of older lives. But you’ll figure this all out with some work.
Right now if we are going to develop a clear-eyed view of our future, the very first thing to do is to establish our philosophy of aging. Create your own personal Post50 Manifesto.
Begin with these questions:
What do you believe about life in the last half of the journey?
Where does work fit?
What does freedom look like?
Could this phase of your life hold more happiness than another time of your life?
Might it be exciting?
How do you feel about the leap toward a developmental life stage where years are limited?
As a practical matter if you want to engineer a pretty fabulous life, your attitude about aging can impede the process. If you feel misery is part of getting older, have a grim picture of the future and dread thinking about it, or are accepting of old models of work and life, your limiting beliefs may not serve you well in your design phase.
For instance, if you’re proceeding toward early retirement or a traditional retirement and have no plans to work, you might want to imagine a forty-year phase of a life of leisure. That’s a lot of beach sunsets, national park hiking or RV meet-ups.
Maybe an opportunity to to redesign work-life so that work is less demanding and more satisfying could have more appeal (as well as a financial benefit) along with that life of leisure.
Ideas to contemplate. (You can investigate this more in-depth in the section Myth #3: Work Hard, Retire Harder in this excellent book, A Long Bright Future: Happiness, Health and Financial Security in an Age of Increased Longevity by Linda Carstensen, Ph.D., founding director of the Stanford Center for Longevity.
Before the design phase of a third act, examine what you believe to be true. Start an internal dialogue about what you know or don’t about aging, longevity, and the best way to live this stage of life. (Reading this blog is a good start; you may find The Life Manifesto Post 50 sparks a thought or two; explore these essential books; acquaint yourself with HuffPost50 and Booming in the NY Times.)
With aging, if there is no philosophy, there’s no serenity, there’s no wisdom, there’s nothing but falling apart.
Not an appealing proposition.