What does it mean to you to live a life worth living?
This adage was popular around the turn of the 20th century. It was an exciting time, as the Industrial Age welcomed the Wright brother’s first flight and Henry Ford’s motor car. Yet, in those days most Americans lived an average of only 45 years. A life worth living included making sure that one had a job, was able to feed their family and to make the sacrifices necessary to give their children better opportunities.
Today, a life worth living has taken on a different meaning. We still seek to take care of our families, seeking to meet their basic necessities and to open doors for their successful futures. But most of us can look forward to living much longer than 45 years, which is well beyond launching the generation that follows us.
With the anticipation of living longer, we also talk about living well. A life worth living is an adage that is now used when talking about whether we have found meaning and fulfillment during our years here. We take stock of how we have contributed to the world, and we ask ourselves if we have truly made an impact.
Because of this development, behaviorists now see three distinct phases as they study life and aging.
The First Age is one of preparation and learning, as children grow and acquire life skills. They develop values that will govern their lives, and seek to answer such questions as, “Who am I and how do I fit into the world?”
The Second Age is one of achievement. This is the period of life when people establish their home, family and career. It is during this age that they hopefully become responsible members of society and make their professional contributions.
Then, as we move past the age of 50, we begin to shift into what is now called the Third Age. This age, previously considered as one of decline, is now seen as one of renewal.
Many reinvent themselves at this time, changing careers or professional paths, exploring new ways to enhance their lives and those of others. We step out to enjoy learning and trying out new experiences or interests.
This age can most often be a vibrant and exciting time, and I have often thought that the lexicon that accompanies this period of life does it a great injustice. Terms such as “retired” and “seniors” can serve as psychological barriers to a period of life that is ripe with rich and active opportunities.
How do we make the most of the Third Age? It’s an important question worth contemplating. Without designing this chapter of our lives with intention, we may miss the most meaningful and enjoyable part of life.
Here are five things to keep in mind so that you can make the most of this.
Live with purpose. What is important to you, now? Revisit your top values to see if how you are living now aligns with these. At the end of your life, what will you want to congratulate yourself for having accomplished? Is it a problem you will solve, or a contribution you will make to leave the world a better place? These are questions worth contemplating. Make this a point of discussion with friends or journal on this.
Power-boost your mindset. Do you enjoy a positive outlook on life? A negative outlook can actually cut years off your life. Signs you need to make a shift may include complaining about yourself or others, seeing the downfalls in opportunities before you see the potential, or talking about “why you can’t” with situations, rather than “how you can.”
Challenge your brain. Staying sharp means actively nourishing and flexing your brain. Some fun activities can include learning a new language, playing brain games, taking an online course and meditation. At a time when others are on the decline, decide to boost your memory and build gray matter.
Take care of your body. No list to age well would be complete without talking about things like exercise to maximize fitness, eating the right food, and reducing stress in your life wherever possible. You are never too old to start now. There are many resources online to help you get started.
Strengthening your social circle is a big part of what makes longer life enjoyable. Be sure your social circle is vibrant and meaningful. Do you have friendships that take but seldom give? Others that leave you feeling tired instead of energized? Take stock of your social circle to see if improvements need to be made.
Whether you are facing The Third Age, or well into it, it is not too late to take stock of where you are and where you want to be. Then make the shifts necessary to living a more meaningful and enjoyable life going forward, so that yours is a life well-lived.
Cotton works with executives, business owners, and their companies, to elevate and support leadership at all levels. Reach her via email at Patti@PattiCotton.com.
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