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. 




About Barbara Pagano

Barbara Pagano,Ed.S., author and speaker, influenced over 3,500 executives in organizations to achieve higher performance. She is now on a mission to help individuals extend their career arcs and craft lifestyles of productive longevity.
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One Response to Want a Pretty Great Life? Start With the End in Mind.

  1. Pingback: Set the Stage for Your Endless Career: The First Four Steps » The Inventive Life Post50

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