It’s the waning hours of April Fools Day! And today I turned 74 years old. For some people, that’s old. For me, it’s just getting started. I have a purpose! To create a movement and to encourage men and women over sixty that you can come alive and live your life with health, energy and purpose. Do you have a purpose in life? If you don’t, you might just want to create or find one. If you do, you’ll probably live a longer, healthier and more fulfilling life than most older adults. Read on and find out why.
Here’s what I often hear from older adults. “I’m too old to start anything new” or, “I just want to kick off my shoes, put up my feet, and relax forever” or, “I just want to go on cruises and eat a lot and drink myself into oblivion with all the rest of the people my age” or, “I’ve had a good life. Now it’s time to settle down and take it easy” or, “I don’t have the energy to do anything new.” Ah, the life of the “default senior”’ the life of “quiet desperation”.
Living your life with purpose is the common denominator of nearly every self-help book, New Thought philosophy, human potential seminar, or even biographies you read. It’s the main theme for a long, healthy, successful and fulfilling life. Napoleon Hill talked about it in his classic, Think and Grow Rich. Rick Warren wrote a best seller about it called A Purpose Driven LIfe. Dr. Wayne Dyer refers to living with purpose or intention in just about all his books and seminars. Read what Bruce Lee, the Martial Artist, Actor, and Philosopher said about Purpose:
”The function and duty of a human being, a “quality” human being that is, is the sincere and honest development of potential and self-actualization. One additional comment: the energy from within and the physical strength from your body can guide you toward accomplishing your purpose in life – and to actually act on actualizing your duty to yourself.”
-Bruce Lee, Striking Thoughts, Tuttle and Co., 2000.
Your Purpose is your “why”. It’s your reason for getting up in the morning. In fact Dan Buettner, the award winning National Geographic writer and author of the book The Blue Zones, wrote about the longevity principles lived by the people located in certain areas in the world where there is a high concentration of people living past one hundred years old. He found Purpose to be a major longevity factor in keeping people not only alive, but energetic and active past their one hundredth birthday. He found that in Okinawa, there is a term, Ikigai, which means “reason for getting up in the morning”. In Nicoya, Costa Rica, another Blue Zone, the term is Plan de vida (plan for the day). Yes there are other longevity factors in all these Blue Zones, but a sense of Purpose seems to be the universal common denominator for an active life, filled with both physical and mental longevity.
Stop reading for a second, blink your eyes, take a deep breath, now read on . . .
That’s all well and good, but what do I mean by purpose? A Purpose can be a cause, a quest, an intention or desire. But that’s just playing with the language; it’s really a state of mind. Do you have a project you always wanted to do, but never did? You could be out to change the world, or you could just have a “bucket list” of things you dream of doing before you die? A purpose could be as simple as a quest for health and fitness, or perhaps starting a new business, or writing the next great novel, or becoming the next Picasso or Grandma Moses. The Washington Post, my local paper, published a story last month about a ninety-one year old man who just published his first novel. Hey, having a Purpose keeps people alive, as well as giving a person a reason to stay alive.
What is it about Purpose that adds to the Energy and Vitality of Life? Motivation? Momentum? A sense of accomplishment? An attitude of self-actualization, the top rung of Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs? While I’ll talk about self-actualization as a Vitality Principle in its own right in a couple of weeks, it’s important to understand that to be a self-actualizing person, there must be a Purpose to move towards.
Here’s a fact. Older men and women who have a purpose in life are happier, healthier, live longer and feel better about themselves than those who don’t. That’s backed up by medical studies from some of the most well known medical institutions in the world. Psychologists have been studying this phenomenon for years and have found that if you live your life with an intention and a purpose, your body and attitude are better off than those who just exist in their old age: “Lives of quiet desperation” someone once called it. You’ll feel better, sleep better, eat better and live better. Which is the cause and which is the effect? That doesn’t seem to have been sorted out yet, but does it matter? The Come Alive Project is all about working on both sides of the formula. Have a Purpose to look and feel better. Look and feel better and you’re more likely to search for and find a fulfilling Purpose in your life.
Let’s face it, health, fitness, and a Purpose to live are all parts of the reality of being older today. Years ago, old age was fifty and life ended at sixty-five. Today, life can begin again at age sixty-five if you have a Purpose to aim for.
So create a “bucket list” of things you want to do before you die. Create a cause and change the world. Make it your Purpose to be physically independent, healthy and fit as you move through your senior years. Make it your Purpose to do that one thing that you wanted so badly to do, but you just never took a chance to do. Take action now! Self-Actualize! You’ll live a longer, healthier, and more fulfilling life if you do.