Most of us don’t want to think about how we’ll manage when we’re very old. And yet, aging happens to all of us. Are you already at an age that you see yourself as old? Does this then mean that you now believe many of your dreams will never be fulfilled, or are you using them as a tool for revitalising life in your old age?
December 31, the last day of the year, has for many taken on a ritualized aspect, like every other event during the holiday season, a final hurdle to cross before reaching the New Year. Gone are the days where these people are excited by their New Year’s Eve. No more celebrating the year just gone and rejoicing about the year to come. It has become just another day to fear like the 364 that have gone before and every day that will come their way.
The older they get the more insignificant this day becomes. The feeling that life is ebbing away, everything is on the way down, no more career plans, savings dwindling away, health worsening year on year, their children seeing them less and less. ‘What do I have to celebrate,’ they say ‘ the end of another year, who knows whether I’ll reach another year turn.’ The excitement of life has disappeared.
As the clock strikes 12, my glass clinked with others as we toasted the in the New Year. Not just a new year where I turn one year older, but another year to work on my dreams as well as enjoy my life here and now. To me, the excitement of what I do, writing and speaking, and the time spent with my family and friends, particularly my 2 wonderful grandkids acts like the “Fountain of Youth.”
Life will always be a mixture of gains and losses. There are losses associated with every stage of our lives. At birth we lose the security and comfort of our mother’s womb; as we enter teenage years we lose our time in babyhood. From there on in we can face many losses, from having to deal with divorcing parents, to facing the death of a loved one and many other personal losses.
Yet there will be many gains too. To me the number one gain that we will have is personal growth. Living without change is not living at all, and our old age can be the greatest opportunity for growth. For me it is a time where I ensure I live life more fully, savour it, and am better able to weather crises.
“The greatest loss would be where life no longer has any meaning, as the greatest loss is what dies inside you while you’re still alive.”
Victor Frankl said that “Meaning is something to discover rather than to invent.” So how do we find meaning? Frankl discusses three broad approaches. The first is through experiential values, that is, by experiencing something – or someone – we value. The most important example of experiential values is the love we feel towards another. Love, he says, “is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire.”
A second means of discovering meaning is through creative values, by “doing a deed.” Providing oneself with meaning by becoming involved in one’s projects. It includes the creativity involved in art, music, writing, invention, and so on.
The third means of finding meaning is attitudinal values. Attitudinal values include such virtues as compassion, bravery, a good sense of humour, and so on.
All of us, no matter what are age are therefore, by this explaination of ‘meaning’ able to live a life of meaning.
“Age puzzles me. I thought it was a quiet time. My 70s were interesting and fairly serene, but my 80s are passionate. I grow more intense as I age. To my own surprise, I burst out with hot conviction … I must calm down. I am far too frail to indulge in moral fervour.” Florida Scott-Maxwell
People can revitalise themselves at any age; we can go on learning and developing until our final breath. Let me share one of my mantras:
“Live as if you will die tomorrow. Learn as if you will live forever.”
Although I love to spend my days working out in the gym, eating in nice restaurants and spending time with my grandchildren, I am excited every day by making a contribution to the world through my writing, speaking and coaching.
My health may be a challenge at this precise moment but I know my best days aren’t behind me, and that my legacy that I will be leaving behind is not yet complete. The vision I carry for the rest of my life is massive and I’m determined to bring it all about. Age certainly won’t stop me.
We all have potential for purpose, meaning and continual growth, to help make our later years our greater years. Maybe it will include a commitment to sharing your hard-earned gifts, wisdom and talents to help create a thriving world for future generations.
So, if you want to live a life full of passion and purpose – to be out there contributing, giving and growing, and being engaged in creating a legacy for your children, their children and all of our children – start both celebrating and living life.
If you’re ready to step out of your sadness about aging and begin to experience what’s possible in the later chapters of your life – simply take a look at the Single Page Plan.
You’ll discover wisdom, inspiration and practices for cultivating more inner growth and wholeness, as well as those that can support your health, vitality and overall well-being as you age.
What’s next for you on your journey into old age?