Sometime last year, I was on the rower at my gym, where I’m found quite often, going nowhere fast as I like to say. On the TV hanging from the ceiling was The Today Show, and Al Roker was wishing someone over 100 years old a happy birthday. Something clicked for me, and I realized: I want to live to be 100.
The implications of this realization were liberating. I understood that I could contemplate any career I want, as I have a long time to retool. I could set exotic travel goals. I could learn skills, languages. I have high hopes of reading books to my grandchildren and even great-grandchildren.
Now whether I’ll actually make it to the centennial mark isn’t really the point. The real point is that we shouldn’t allow ourselves to coast. For me, here are some things I’ve vowed to keep in mind as part of my plan to flourish until age 100:
- The best return-on-investment comes from relationships – Spend significant time every day in nurturing relationships with your peers and those who mean the most to you. You might be shy about asking someone to lunch. Indeed, you don’t even have to let on to what you are doing. Just take 10-20 minutes to listen to someone else, giving him or her an opportunity to say what’s on his or her mind. This will go a long way!
- The only time that’s worse than your current age to begin pursuing a new hobby is your current age plus one day – What is it that separates you from those who can do the things you’d like to do? Time and effort. If you’ve made it to middle age, you’ve earned the right to spend a little time indulging something you’ve always wanted to do.
- The world is a big place; get out and see it – Few things widen our horizons as much as travel. Last year, I took trips for the first time to Alaska and Las Vegas. I will never forget either of these and reflecting on these trips and reminiscing with my family about them makes us long for the adventures we’ll have this year.
- Your scars, physical and emotional, are badges of honor – I can count about about eight scars on my body, from as long ago as five years old to one from last year. Each has a story. You have these too. They help make you unique and you should be proud.
- Try to give back as much as you’ve been given – My childhood was not that of Beaver Cleaver. My parents were both addicts and I had many harrowing adventures. Yet my neighbors, coaches, and teachers all kept a watchful eye. For example, my neighbors across the street kept me one night when my father was in jail, and both my next-door neighbors showed me what a normal home life looked like. When I can feel like I’ve given back as much as I’ve received from others, I’ll be satisfied. Good thing I have almost a half-century to do it!
What is your plan? Are you playing out the clock, or are you planning for the second half? If the notion of fifty more years seems more like a sentence than a joyful promise, cast your mind back to when you were a child and the future was in front of you and yours to shape as you want. It still is.