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The Neglected Key to a Long Life

October 25, 2020 by  
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I started to re-read the book entitled I’ve Decided to Live 120 YEARS: The Ancient Secret to Longevity, Vitality, and Transformation written by Ilchi Lee. I’ve written about this book in a previous blog post but I didn’t mention an incredible statistic I learned about in these pages.

It turns out, you can do this very simple thing that, on average, can lengthen your life by 7.5 years. That conclusion was reached based on data from 143 studies with a total of 300,000 participants. In that previous post, I mostly talked about how a long and healthy life is primarily about eating nutritious foods and staying physically active but there’s a bit more you can do.

So, during my second read of the book, what really jumped out at me was something that I’ve not been doing much of since I retired. I’m kind of surprised that I’ve ignored this critical part of living a long life and I have suffered because of it.

What is it that I’ve ignored that could have possibly lengthened my life by 7.5 years? It’s this thing called a social life! Having and keeping a good strong and active social life does things to the brain including sending signals to various body parts that keep it healthy and helps you live longer.

When I retired, I let my social life slide down big time! I stopped going to the office and so I stopped seeing my coworkers, clients, partners and business associates. I also moved into a big house on the mountain side with no neighbors, so that made it even worse. And this COVID-19 has certainly not helped in the least. In addition, there’s no kids here at home anymore. It’s just me and the wife in our big, empty nest.

Lee says in his book, “The isolation of the elderly doesn’t only cause loneliness, it has been shown to have a negative impact on physical and mental health, increasing conditions like chronic disease, high blood pressure, depression, cognitive decline, and dementia”. In addition, he notes, “Having people around us with whom we can communicate on a heart-to-heart level may also reduce the effects of stress.”

We all want to be happy but things can quickly change when we suddenly retire–Lee goes on to say “People, especially as they get older, are experiencing deeper and more frequent forms of unhappiness in many spheres of life: chronic illnesses, alienation or disruption of personal relationships, weakening of economic power. Suddenly facing their social roles greatly reduced during retirement, people are likely to find their self-esteem withering away.”

Most of that has hit me hard so I’m here to tell you that, whether you are retired yet or not, it’s a good time to start making a list of plans and actions that you are going to take on when that day arrives and be sure an active social life is on there. Personally, I’m bound and determined to catch up and do just that!

In Lee’s book he also talks about another thing that can lengthen and make your life more pleasant and happy and it’s something that I’ve talked a lot about over the years – having a good strong purpose and hopes and dreams. I will talk more about those issues in my next week’s post.

Getting On With Living

October 18, 2020 by  
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As mentioned last week, retirement has challenges that aren’t always anticipated and so I gave you some ideas to overcome that. This week, I have more ideas to help you deal with the struggles that many people have when they retire, including me. Even if you are not retiring now or anytime soon these ideas and methods can still enhance your life.

When I found that I was struggling with retirement I sought answers in a few very helpful books written on that very subject and what I learned helped me a ton. By the way, the current pandemic can have us struggling in a similar way as our routines and schedules are thrown out of whack.

Elaine St. James wrote a great little book titled, Inner Simplicity: 100 Ways to Regain Peace and Nourish Your Soul. ln the book, she talks about how important it is to have a routine and follow a schedule that you set up for yourself, retired or not. Of course, before we are retired, most of us have a routine and schedule due to our job and family but most of that goes away as we enter retirement.

For St. James, “inner simplicity” means creating joy in our lives and staying connected with that joy every moment of the day. When many of us retire, along with a loss of routine, we may stop or reduce how connected we are to our joy which is due in part to our reduced connection to other people, like work associates and even friends.

St. James goes on to say, “Now that I’ve simplified my life, I find it easy to get up at the crack of dawn, or even earlier. In that quiet time, I can do you yoga and stretching, write in my journal, do some deep breathing, work on affirmations and visualizations, meditate or have some quiet time to just sit and think.” That’s some very good stuff we can learn from and follow.

Another great book is What Will I Do All Day?: Wisdom to Get You Over Retirement and on with Living!, by Patrice Jenkins, PHD. She talks a lot about energy and also notes how much we get from working with other people when we are on the job.

She asks, “How do you discover your work’s energy source? Think about what parts of your work you enjoy most. Is there one part of your work that charges you with high-octane fuel? “

She continues with suggestions and probing questions. “Maybe your energy source comes from being involved in teamwork with coworkers. If you have already retired, you may have insight on what parts of your work provided you with the most energy. Was it a chance to help people, to teach, to solve problems, or be physically active? ”

Later, she makes this great point: “Once you have identified your energy source, you will know what it is that you’ll want to keep alive in retirement.”

Wow, that’s some great advice and it has helped me a ton. I hope this will help you if you are retired or planning for when that day arrives, or even through this terrible pandemic. Routines, staying in touch with people, and knowing the source of our energy can help us through unexpected struggles and back to living a full life.

 

Retirement – The Best or the Worst

October 11, 2020 by  
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I’m sure you, like most people would agree that the majority of us humans look forward to the day we get to retire. You know … no alarm clock to wake us up, no worrying about pleasing our boss, and so many other things we won’t have to do. You imagine life will be so great, that you will be able to relax, do anything you want to do, have tons of fun, and be able to travel anywhere in the world (that you can afford) on a whim.

Well, you know what? Some of that may be true. But when you find yourself without a schedule or purpose, that can get very depressing. You might even go a little crazy. And nowadays we have COVID-19 on top of that so it can be even worse. In fact, most of us are getting a preview of retirement now that our routines have been so dramatically changed.

You might find yourself asking, “Just what am I going to do today?”

The smart one’s among us begin to make lots of plans long before they hit that retirement wall. When I was preparing to retire, I made a few plans, but I didn’t create enough to-do lists or new routines.

So, what did I do when I was feeling down because of my lack of a schedule? I turned to books written about retirement. In Ernie J. Zelinski’s great book The Joy of Not Working, he makes lots of great suggestions such as, “One of the chief sources of happiness is having a special purpose or a personal mission in life … Finding and pursuing your true calling can make life a totally new experience.”

He then gives some examples of personal missions:

1. Make the world a better place to live by reducing pollution.

2. Raise money to help care for others in need.

3. Help children develop a special talent or skill, such as playing piano.

4. Write entertaining children’s book that help young boys and girls discover the wonders of the world.

5. Give foreign travelers the best possible tour of the Rocky Mountains.

6. Create a committed relationship and keep it exciting and energizing.

The author goes on to say, “Although a true calling should be closely tied to your values and interests, it can also be determined by your strengths and weaknesses. Your personal mission will intimately connect you to who you are and to the world around you. Taking the time to answer the following questions may help reveal a personal mission that you would like to pursue.”

I must say that his questions really helped me:

1. What are all your passions?

2. What are your strengths?

3. Who are your heroes?

4. What do you want to discover or learn?

Answering those great questions can put you on the right track. It has for me. So, if you are not retired yet, start making specific plans. And if you are retired and struggling, answer those questions above to help you discover your great purpose and direction for this new chapter in your life.

 

The 120 Year Goal

December 29, 2019 by  
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It’s not too late to make some New Year’s resolutions, a.k.a. goals for 2020!  What are your New Year’s resolutions? Hopefully you have a detailed, clear, and measurable set of goals with timelines attached and, of course, written down.

With those in hand, my first suggestion is that you make your start date TODAY. That’s right – start right now. There is no good reason you can’t take those first, maybe very small but necessary steps, toward your goals for the new year. I think that the goal of great health is, or should be, on the top of most people’s list. It’s been proven that if you set a reasonable goal for great health, the odds are very high that you will achieve those health goals.

My son gave me a book entitled I’ve Decided to Live 120 Years by Ilchi Lee. The author makes a big point of how a decision or goal to live a very long life can push you toward looking and finding what you want to live for. The problem for most people, when they get to around the age of 75 or 80, is that they don’t have a specific purpose.

Mr. Lee says his choice to live to be 120 was not based on his family history or his current health. “My choice stemmed from my desire to be of service to the world and to take responsibility for the great dream that I’ve set for my life.” Lee has a big project in New Zealand called “Earth Village,” which is a “residential school and community where hundreds of people can experience a self-reliant, earth-friendly lifestyle in a place where humans and nature live in harmony”.

It’s so important, especially as we age, to have a project and an agenda that we can totally throw ourselves into. Without a goal, a plan, and a timeline agenda you really won’t be driven to do much at all, especially if you are 70 or 80 years old and retired. Before retirement you would likely have a work routine that pushes you out the door and off to work. But after you retire, you really don’t have much pushing you, so you have to set that up yourself if you want a life full of joy, happiness, and a great feeling of accomplishment.

So, what do you want to accomplish and how you can help others lift their dreams and goals for a better and longer life?

At this time of year, I certainly ask myself that as well as taking a hard look at what I had set out to do in the year that is just wrapping up. I take note of where I fell short and where I exceeded my dreams and goals.

One of the items at the top of my list last year that I’m, again, putting on this year’s list to is the goal of “Top Notch Health”.  If you decide to live to be 120, which is not common but certainly physically possible, you will most likely take a hard look at what the key to good health might be. You, no doubt, will discover that what you eat as well as keeping active and moving are at the top of the list to increase your chances of reaching your big goal.

In all my years of reading about health and longevity I have found and am convinced that the diet called “The CRON Diet”, is a huge key to success and has studies to show that it can extend your life and your health.  I will talk more about next week though!

Wishing you all a happy and healthy new year!

 

Refilling Your Social Life in a Fulfilling Retirement

February 8, 2019 by  
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The great thing about regular work or a job is that it gives you a good reason to get out of bed each morning and get going, and it is very important when you retire is to set something up that replaces that for you. One way to do that, as I mentioned in last week’s post, is put yourself to work in a way that can better the world.

As you push yourself to get involved with a charity, or whatever it is that you choose, you will find that you can replace what your work gave you in terms of structure and routine with the activities of your new mission. This will give you something to get you out of bed but, just as important, that structure and routine will also give you a new social aspect to your life.

Most of us develop a significant social life that revolves around work, but then, when we retire, this is often lost. So, getting involved in a charity or other organization can replace what you are missing when you leave your job or no longer work. It will do all that while you do a little something to make the world a better place.

Most of us humans really don’t realize how very important our social contacts are until they disappear or are greatly diminished when we retire. It’s not that you won’t know those same people or continue to have great friendships with some of them, but when you’re no longer working together, you are suddenly not nearly as involved in each other’s lives and you don’t see each other nearly so often. Most people will greatly miss the regular social contact if they do not replace it with another purposeful and regular activity that also involves time connecting and interacting with other people.

Each of us will have our own plan but here is what I plan on doing to push myself to create a new routine, structure, and source of social connections in my life that will make me get out of bed every morning and look forward to the day: I would like to teach grade school, high school, and university students in classes on writing, marketing, public speaking, financial methods and strategies, and maybe even tennis, on a regular scheduled time and day. I know quite a bit about all those subjects, and I do love to teach others how to do these things and show them how they can have great success and a huge sense of fulfillment and satisfaction from learning these new skills.

So, my challenge to you is to start thinking about your own retirement and start making plans on what you will do to create routine, structure, and social connections. Make a list now, even if you are many years away from retirement. You can change up that list as things come to you but just being aware of the necessity will help you create a fulfilling plan. You won’t be sorry if you do that now!

Retirement Can Create a Better World

February 1, 2019 by  
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I want to write a bit more about last week’s theme of retirement – how it can be good, bad or sometimes very ugly. Even if you are many years away from retirement, you can make your retirement much better and have an easier transition if you are aware of some of the pitfalls that many people stumble into when they retire. I want to share a few secrets to making your retirement transition quite comfortable and pleasant.

Part of the reason I want to share these points is that, for me, retirement came close to driving me seriously crazy. It made me feel worthless and caused me to have big mood swings. Last week I wrote about some of the great and promising ideas from Patrice Jenkin’s book, What Will I Do All Day. She points out that many people go into retirement without realizing how critically important it is for them to still have routine and structure in their lives. Most people’s work lives automatically give them those two critical things. Plus, their work usually results in a lot of measurable production which lifts the human mind and spirit and gives us great personal satisfaction. The huge problem comes when a person retires and most, if not all, of those satisfying items quickly disappear. One other thing that also goes away or is often greatly diminished is one’s social life!

So, what is an excellent antidote to the retirement blues and the great letdown? In one word it’s WORK. But it has to be much more than just busy work. It has to be meaningful and productive.  Ideally, it’s doing something that you love and something that helps other people. It should be something that helps make the world a better place because, although you don’t really need to make a dime out of doing that work, it needs to be purposeful.

For me, the answer was going for the great feelings I get from donating my time and money to charity work. What is especially appealing to me is helping kids. Even doing a little thing like reading to them or telling simple, fun stories on a regular basis is fulfilling and purposeful. Even more fulfilling for me is teaching, because of my background and my passion.

I’ve done a little of this already, but I’ve just begun this particular new mission in life. The time I spend with the kids involves simple things but it is now part of my routine and structure and is a huge mood lifter for both me and the kids. A similar mission could do the same for you no matter what charity you choose. In a small but growing way, we can make the world a better place all while staying fulfilled and purposeful in our retirement.

The Freedom of Structure

January 25, 2019 by  
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I’m reading a great book that my son gave to me, titled What Will I DO All Day, by Patrice Jenkins PHD.  It’s all about retirement and how it can be either a really good thing or something that drives you crazy. And it can all start long before you retire. It may even start from the moment you just begin thinking about what the heck you are going to do when you retire.

Most people think, “Oh, it’s going to be great when I retire. I’ll have all that time to do all those things that I’ve wanted to do but haven’t had time to do.” But when people actually retire, many of us can become very frustrated because, all of a sudden, we don’t have a routine or the structure that a regular job gave us. Now we must set a routine and a structure of our own and that takes some thinking and some work.

So much of what this author talks about that needs to be done also applies to all of us in our daily living long before we even think about retirement, such as setting goals, writing them down, and writing daily “to do” lists. We all know, or should by now, that when we write down a list of things to do the night before, the likelihood of us following through and actually adding action to that list and doing it, increases big time. I’m sure you have seen that happen in your own life.

Patrice has a chapter called “Structure is Freedom”. When we are working full time, structure doesn’t seem like freedom. She tells the story of this one guy by the name of Jim. Jim said, “You have to know what you’re getting up to each day.” Here is what she wrote about Jim and what Jim’s thoughts were:

“When Jim first retired he was looking forward to having his days free to do anything he wanted to do. But, after a few months of this, he told me that he, ‘found it to be more work not to work. My energy level was lower than when I used to work 10 hours a day. The truth is I was puttering around the house most of the day.’

“It was at this point that Jim acknowledged that having more structure in his days would improve life in retirement. He started scheduling appointments, making commitments, and setting deadlines. He decided to set his alarm for 7 a.m. and start each day with exercise. He made a rule to turn the television off by 9 a.m. so that he could start doing something more productive. Jim also volunteered for a couple of organizations which required weekly commitments of his time and talents. He told me these changes gave his life a more focused direction. ‘Now I know what I’m getting up to each morning,’ he said. ‘I really needed the structure to give me the freedom to enjoy retirement.’”

What Jim learned is something we should all focus on and be sure we do it whether we are retired, close to retirement, or many years away from that status. Yes, our full-time jobs give us structure and a routine, but our lives can be, and will be, so much more fulfilled and productive if we set up our own routines and structure totally independent of our jobs. Now that I’m semi-retired I am going to work much harder on my own routines and structure too.

Big Challenges on the Brain

November 3, 2018 by  
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Have you ever met someone who has made it to the 29,020-foot summit of Mt. Everest? Yes, I know, most of us think they’re crazy, but maybe they’re not as crazy as we think because their high satisfaction level seems to last for a lifetime! Years ago, I wrote the following.

Again, the tough challenges and hard work over a period of time, equals long-lasting satisfaction and contentment.  One of the big and growing problems in today’s world is that too few people believe or know this simple principle

Or maybe they used to know it and they’ve forgotten it.

We all should never forget the great zen saying, “To know and not to do is not yet to know.” Many people, for example, think they want a ton of money—and fast—so they can sit back and relax and really live. They think they want to sit around the pool and drinking a Mai Tai or watch movies all day. They think that will bring them satisfaction and contentment.

Our very retirement system even promotes that idea. That’s one reason we have so many mid-lifers and beyond who are downright miserable, and it doesn’t seem to matter whether they have a huge net worth or not. With too much of a slowdown, there’s an inevitable letdown, and as you’ve probably noticed, good old Fred or Mary retire at age 65 and pass away at age 67 or 70.

The bottom line is, if you stop challenging yourself, you’ll start dying. It’s almost a one-to-one correlation and all of that usually starts inside your mind. But if you “take a trip inside your mind,” you’ll find there are plenty of ways to program your brain so you’ll avoid the trap that snares so many people.

Next week I want to tell you the great story of Erik Weihenmayer who push himself to climb Mt. Everest. He did it even though he was totally blind – he was the first blind man ever to accomplish that super human feat!  Talk about giving oneself a huge challenge! Wow.  How long did his satisfaction and contentment last?

So, are you and I pushing ourselves and putting big enough challenges in our minds and then going after them to enhance and make our life more exciting and fulfilling? I can’t speak for you but I know now, at age 74, I need to challenge myself much more than I’ve been doing lately. But I really do have to ask you—-do you need to challenge yourself a bit more or maybe even a lot more?  Only you can answer that question.

Personal Value Versus Work Value

July 27, 2018 by  
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You probably have heard other people say, and you may have even have said it yourself, “I’m so looking forward to my retirement.” Most people think that their life is going to be so great and so much better when they retire. When you are retired you don’t have to get up when the alarm goes off and hurry off to work to arrive at a very specific time. You probably think that life after retirement is going to be a breeze, giving a person all that free time to do whatever they choose to do.

Those were certainly my thoughts and feelings, that is, until I suddenly hit retirement and found myself sitting at home with not enough to do and absolutely no timelines or deadlines to push and motivate me to get much of anything done. Ok, I did set up goals like that 20,000 steps per day goal of mine that pushes me to get up off my butt and get moving, but once I’ve hit that goal for the day, I would find myself bored out of my mind. Yes, there’s that bit of fun traveling to exotic places that I love to do, but between trips it quickly becomes a real downer.

Even if you are not even close to retirement, I think it’s a real good idea to start planning specifically on what you are going do when you reach that status. I hadn’t given that subject enough thought and planning before I retired and, wow, was it ever a huge letdown when I found myself there.

But thankfully, I had a huge breakthrough that is changing and improving everything and every day! Thank God for great authors who write wonderful books that can make a major difference in many different parts of a person’s life. That’s what Hyrum Smith and his book Purposeful Retirement did for me.

Hyrum talks about how so many beliefs can be so wrong and hurt you. Like the belief that personal value only comes through hard work, or important people have important titles, or if you are busy then you are important. Those beliefs can be so very harmful, especially to you when you move into retirement. Your work value has nothing to do with your value as a person.

Quoting Hyrum Smith, “My value as a human being is independent of my job. If I based my value on my job and my job goes away, my value as a human goes away with it. This leads to big trouble. This leads to unhappiness, isolation, depression, and eventually death. The minute you find value from just being you, you will find inner peace. But first you must not only understand but you must know your value has nothing to do with your job title.” These are some very wise words that we all need to pound into our head.

Next week I want to dig deeper into Hyrum’s book and pass on some more great advice about how important it is to stay productive and have meaningful projects. I’ll also talk about how important it is to start giving back and helping others after retirement and how that keeps you excited about yourself and your life.

A Busy and Purposeful Life

February 9, 2018 by  
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I am so very impressed by people that keep themselves involved and busy with work, social connections, play time, and, yes, no matter what their age is, investment goals.  Look at Warren Buffett—he’s 87 and worth billions but is still out their investing.

Speaking of age 87 and of someone who keeps on moving and staying involved, take a look at my January 10th post. After I wrote about my very talented tennis buddy, I asked him if I could post his full name and a photo of him in my blog. So here he is, standing to my left in the photo. Ken Greenbaum, a super, great, inspiring example for me and many others, looks a lot less than 87 years old. And you ought to see how he runs! He plays a great game of tennis.

Right after writing that January 10th blog post entitled “The Key for a Longer and Healthy Life”, I read a great article by Claudia Dreifus in Kauai’s Garden Isle newspaper, entitled “When Work Brings Joy, Why Quit?”  The author highlights 3 great examples of people that have not let aging slow them down.

“On most mornings,” Claudia writes, “Jack B. Weinstein rises at 5:30 to exercise. At 7, a car takes him from his home on Long Island to Cadman Plaza in Brooklyn, where he is a senior Federal District Court judge for the Eastern District of New York.” That morning routine might sound pretty ordinary until you find out that the man is 96 years old. That is very impressive and it no doubt helps keep him alive and healthy.

For Adolfo Calovini, a 82-year-old New York City high school teacher Dreifus writes about, ” the need to earn income is part of his motivation. The approximately $110,000 annual salary he earns … is a necessity.”  When asked if he’s ready to retire, Calovini shook his head, saying, “to me, teaching is about life. This is what I do. I can’t see a time when I wouldn’t.”

Then there’s the 88-year-old Dr. Kandel.  He works in a research laboratory at Columbia University. “I like what I do. Keeping engaged keeps you intellectually alive.” He goes on to say, “If you are healthy and enjoy your work, continue. At the very least, it gives you additional income. Even if you don’t need it, the money can be for your kids and grandchildren.”

I don’t know how old you are but I’m getting up there in age myself. The more I think about it, however, and the more of these stories I hear, the more it motivates me to do everything I can to prolong my life and health and create my own great story of keeping busy and purposeful far into my later years.

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