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I’m Not Old.  I’m Only 88.

Aim higher! Are your goals set for a 5-year run or a 40-year run? You may live a lot longer than you think, and you may need a bigger plan than you thought.  Here's how to make the most of it.

Going on 58. I mean, nothing’s changed. Well, maybe a little. When I was a seeming hotshot on Madison Avenue in NYC, I loved walking everywhere.  Nowadays, destinations on concrete are not on my list of priorities. I wonder what I would have done differently in my 40s or 50s had I known I’d still be kicking (i.e., writing, speaking, teaching, lecturing) 40 years later??? 

Fess up. Are your goals set for a 5-year run or a 40-year run? Do your Purposes in life have a longevity option? Chances are you’re going to live longer (maybe a lot longer) than you’ve planned for.

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While you’re planning how to be productive in your 80s (remember, I’ll be 89 this year), I have a suggestion for you — something I do every day. In the evening, I make a short list, hopefully no more than six or seven items. It’s a list of the things I most want to accomplish the next day. I try to get them done first thing during the morning and check them off. Wow! It gives me a great sense of accomplishment. It gives value to the day. But thinking back, I swear I never thought about life after the messy middle. Honestly, I don’t think I had a midlife crisis — I was too busy. Many, many years ago, I embraced a wise quip from the wiseass mouth of Noël Coward:  “Work is more fun than fun.” And of course, he’s right. Friends, who knew I had an unforgettable villa in Acapulco for muchos años, said, “Why do you work so much, Jim? You can float around a pool all day with a margarita in your hand.”  Hmm, that (was) true. And it’s Great — for maybe 20 minutes — and then the boring nothingness of it takes over.

I know you hear (and read) a lot of stuff about The Power of Purpose (wise words from Richard Leider) and the value of Atomic Habits (Mr. Clear will blow you out of complacency). And guess what? They’re true. Without Purpose, how can you get up in the morning? Yeah, yeah, you have stuff to do. Walk the dogs, make the coffee, maybe check the news to see what today’s traumas are. But, friends, that’s not enough. Yes, we all have the trivialities of living: the necessities of bathing, feeding oneself, cleaning our quarters. But you can do most of that with your eyes half open and your mind closed. I’m smiling, thinking about a good starter. Read Admiral McRaven’s wonderful quickie book Make Your Bed. Or maybe even better, find his speech on YouTube with the same title. It’s brilliant. I started doing it before I read his book, and I still Make My Bed every morning. I’m fortunate; I have a live-in full-time nanny (that’s what I call her) who takes care of most of the trivialities of my life, who will cheerfully make my bed. But I agree with McRaven. If you start your day making something that’s messy, neat, you’re getting your mind set in an orderly path. 

Of course, some Purposes in life can’t be knocked off in a few minutes. On my current list (I’m a writer!) is finish the novel I’ve been studiously avoiding because I know it will require total attention, which means I can’t play with the other things on my creative plate. I mean, I finished creating a TV series — even wrote the pilot. And I’m almost finished with a screenplay. If I could make this article five pages longer, I’d tell you about it and ask you for any ideas about how to finish the damn thing.  

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So, where am I going, babbling on and on about What Are You Doing That Makes You Wake Up With a Smile? And can you keep on doing it forever, without boring yourself? You are saying, “But I don’t have time. I mean, we still have children, ranging from teens to college, and they require so much.”  True. But they’re going to have to learn how to choose their own path; and suddenly you’ll turn around and the little darlings won’t be there, and won’t need you to hold their hand — and maybe won’t want you to hold their hand. I love my children and grandchildren. But I don’t call and ask them: “What shall I do today?” And, hopefully, your kids and grandkids are so busy with their own lives, they don’t want to manage your life.  

I really don’t have to tell you Life is a Gift, do I? I mean, there were no guarantees you’d wake up on the right side of the grass today, but here you are — Wow! Another chance to see, hear, taste, smell, touch — it’s called living. And even better than that, it’s an opportunity to help someone else, besides yourself. It’s especially good if you can help someone and not expect anything in return. 

Here’s an exercise for you. I can’t remember the smart professor or lecturer who said it, but it’s terrific. See if you can write, in just six words, a statement about who you are, who you want to be, why you matter — in other words, a six-word summary of the essence of you. Hey, being a writer, when I was given that challenge, I thought of the brilliant writer James Michener, who lived 90 extraordinary years and wrote immensely long historical novels, each one a treasure, who said of himself, “I can’t say Hello in six pages.” But I did it—printed it out and have it pasted to the bottom of my computer monitor, so I have to see it every day and try to live up to it. It says: “I am present —living, giving, loving.”  

Jim Flaherty was an international advertising writer/creative director, has published two novels, and two non-fiction books. Was also creator and innkeeper of a five-star country inn/conference center. He is a frequent motivational speaker to Elders and Almost-Elders, as well as parenting associations, and writing groups. A strong believer that you are only as old as you think, Jim cheerfully admits to being 88 (going on 58) and is a father, grandfather, and great-grandfather. Besides his books, he has a TV series, screenplay, and musical ready for public viewing. Home is a 1940’s art-filled dairy barn in the foothills of the Berkshires. His website: https://www.jamesbflaherty.com. Link to his latest book, EMBRACE YOUR AGE: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1737986744/

James Flaherty, age, longevity
See medical disclaimer below. ↓

7 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you, Jim. What a gift for language you have! I appreciate your guidance, but only read on if you have the time. What am I saying? That’s all anyone has.

    I am currently directing a show for a theater devoted to giving older adults the chance to express themselves creatively. The oldest member of the cast is 93, and she performs an 11-minute monologue brilliantly (memorized, of course). Other cast members range in age from 82 to 50 and they too are filled with life. As for myself, at the age of 74 I am finally using my MFA in Directing, something denied me for most of my life because “women directors” were not a thing. If I had stopped seeking, I’d have denied myself the chance to keep on growing.

    • Maybe we could do a twosome. Although, you’re a little, uh, young for me. I mean, my daughters are 62 and 64. But I love what you’re doing, Abby. What a jewel you are in the lives of your cast. Lucky them. xo, Jim

  2. Hello, thank you so much for your words, cant wait to read your book!

    Im a 74 year old composer and pianist who didnt ‘come out of the closet’ with my music till I was almost 60! Making music was always my secret passion, the thing that fired me up and got me out of bed in the morning, . . but remember, back then only men were allowed to be considered ‘composers’, and only then, preferably if they were dead. I mean who did I think I was ?

    Fuelled by actual jealousy seeing my talented daughters go off to music and dance school, I finally enrolled in a different music college, and finished with a BA in music aged 59. Fast forward and Ive now played multiple concerts throughout Europe, am signed with one of the most prestigious publishers in London (Manners McDade), and have a loyal Spotify following (link below in case youd like to take a listen)

    I make some money (tho not a lot) but that for me is not really the point. Im just so lucky to be doing the thing I love doing, and having it received. To be creating, engaging with people,, putting my energy into making something new, is such a gift and thanks for reminding me that this doesn’t have to stop. I honestly think its why Im still ‘young’ and despite life’s many challenges, happy and excited about my life !

    Im also a long term committed vegan and the proceeds of my next album (due out this summer will be dedicated exclusively to animal welfare charities and platforms educating people about what animal farming really is.

    I had better stop rambling! I will include a link to my music in case, and thanks again for your inspiration !

    https://open.spotify.com/artist/0oUU96ZHc648yvAP9JrQ9d?si=reJplkqpTRykN1grlLqjxw

  3. What an inspiring article. I’m 75 but in denial… and had excellent health until an autoimmune thing hit me like a bomb. Having to readjust to a new reality, I will take on your ‘6 things to achieve tomorrow’ advice. Love ageist!! Best wishes from over the Pond

  4. Hmm, I just left a note and it disappeared. I want all of you nice people to write: Leslie@meawisdom.com. MEA stands for Modern Elder Academy. Tell Leslie Jim said to put your name on the (free) mailing list for a daily blog that will warm your thoughts, plus free monthly webinars, plus a list of mind-blowing and mind-expanding workshops in their two campuses–one in the Baja of CA, on the Mexican side, and a new one in Santa Fe. I’ve been a participant in two workshops, and will be helping facilitate workshops this year discussing The Blue Zones, where there are more centenarians than anywhere else in the world. Maybe we’ll have a chance to share the magic of one of the workshops. xo, Jim

  5. how wonderful this all is Jim. Congratulations.
    You are innately sweet and you dish t his out generously. What a lovely gift you are to my life and those of us who love you.

  6. Love your article and your zest for life!!!

    I will accept your challenge is summarizing my life and my goals in six words. I think I already have!!!

    Thank you for sharing your story and your optimism!!!

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The ideas expressed here are solely the opinions of the author and are not researched or verified by AGEIST LLC, or anyone associated with AGEIST LLC. This material should not be construed as medical advice or recommendation, it is for informational use only. We encourage all readers to discuss with your qualified practitioners the relevance of the application of any of these ideas to your life. The recommendations contained herein are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. You should always consult your physician or other qualified health provider before starting any new treatment or stopping any treatment that has been prescribed for you by your physician or other qualified health provider. Please call your doctor or 911 immediately if you think you may have a medical or psychiatric emergency.

 

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