Most of us have spent a lot of time in our lives trying to achieve certain goals, obtain particular possessions and create and maintain relationships.
By the time we’re in our 60s, we might even have the feeling that we’ve worked hard enough and that we should simply be happy with what we have. I’m all for that, but as I move closer to 70, I am reminded that this period of our lives can be much, much sweeter if we have five important things.
I don’t mean this in the same way I meant it in my 20s and 30s, when passion was all about the people with whom we were in relationships, although that is good, too. At this point in our lives, what we need is a passion for something outside of ourselves, whether it’s art or music or architecture or knitting or walking.
We need something that we love to do, that challenges us and keeps us moving, intellectually or physically, or both. When I was young and trying to figure out a college major, counselors would ask me what I felt passionate about. My answer was always that I could not think of one particular thing. At this age, I realize that I’m still passionate about many things, but my focus changes. I’m good with that.
Right now, I’m engaged in running and weight training and writing. Maybe next year, it will be learning to really speak French. It doesn’t matter what it is and it doesn’t have to be something about which other people feel passion. This is yours and you need it. You also need other people.
For you, your tribe might be your family, but for others if may be a conglomeration of people who have come into their lives for a variety of reasons. Whoever they are, you need a gang of folks – for fun, support, company and perspective.
You don’t need tons of people, but enough to remind yourself that you aren’t alone in the world. If you are alone right now, and you’re feeling as if it’s too much trouble to make new friends, give it a try anyway. Join a book group, go back to church, jump into a Saturday morning running group or take a class.
It may seem scary meeting new people, but everyone has a story to share and it’s often very similar to our own. And not everyone in your tribe needs to be your age. It’s great to become friends with the young and old alike. The key is simply to maintain our connections with other people – to give and to receive.
As important as it is to have at least a few people around us at this point in our lives, it is also vital to be able to sit in comfort with ourselves. Many of us have been so surrounded by our families, friends, and co-workers, that we fear the idea of being alone. And this is not to say that loneliness is a good thing.
The point is, we need to make friends with ourselves and learn to enjoy our own company, especially in our older years when we have the time and opportunity to reflect. As Albert Einstein once said, “I live in that solitude which is painful in youth, but delicious in the years of maturity.”
Many of us may be alone not because we planned it, but because we have lost friends and family members. Even then, writer Phyllis Hobe wrote, “Living alone, though it may not be the state you ultimately desire for yourself, affords an unparalleled opportunity to know yourself, to be yourself, and to develop yourself as a unique and interesting individual.” It’s never too late for that kind of development.
For some people, this may be Paris, and for others their own back yard. Some people feel inspired when they sit in church, or when they listen to a symphony, or when they’re at the beach or the library.
Whatever places make you feel engaged and excited, be sure to visit them as often as possible. Many of us at this point in our lives fill our thoughts with memories of places we love, but it’s important not to keep all of those in the past. We need to appreciate the beauty of the experiences these places offer us and be proactive about visiting them whenever we can.
If it costs money to get there, then all the better, because having goals and moving forward is also a vital part of feeling good about our lives.
Whether you’re planning a trip to New York next summer or a dinner party with your son and daughter-in-law, you need to have plans and goals. You need to be moving toward something at all times. This doesn’t mean you can’t be happy with where you are, because that’s the point of all of this, but having a next step helps keep us alive and excited and engaged.
And your next step doesn’t have to be like anyone else’s. You may have a plan to take a train trip across Canada, while your best friend hopes to read that stack of books next to her bed. If you have a plan and a goal, it can help with boredom, depression and even physical health.
The great thing about getting older is that we’re all getting better. These five elements contribute to that improvement by keeping us interested, involved and inspired.
What is your passion in life? What is your goal for the next year? Who are the people in your tribe? Please share about these – and your next step – in the comments.