None of us start out in life with this statement top of mind. If we have been lucky and had parents who have impacted our early years , we continue as young adults searching for success, marriage, parenthood or any other milestones that may define our lives. Few of us give much thought to what life may be like later in life, other than saving for this point many years away called retirement. Longevity and living longer is changing the way we need to manage our life earlier to prepare us for a life that is a gift in our later years.
The dictionary has this to say about these two words:
Legacy: Property (or money) left to a person by a will or something (as memories or knowledge) that comes from the past. The Latin word “legare” to bequeath.
Synonyms: inheritance, heritage, heirloom, gift, genealogy, contribution.
Tragedy: A very sad, unfortunate, or upsetting situation: something that causes strong feelings of sadness or regret.
Synonyms: disaster, failure, hardship, struggle, collapse, misfortune.
Many of us reach the age of 50 and looking back can reflect on moments both good and bad in our lives. Most of us may feel that some of our choices are setting us up for a life closer to disaster than a positive legacy. There are many life events that happen along the continuum of our journey and many can be celebrated but there may be some that make life ahead look more difficult than we had envisaged. The age of 50 is a great time to step back, assess where we are and plan ahead. It is no good believing that life is almost over and that we need to continue along a path of destruction. CHOICE belongs with you and can be the very thing that helps you step back into a life of legacy.
Here are some of the areas to assess in your life:
- Money. You may not have saved enough but it is now time to assess what this looks like by sitting with a financial adviser, understanding what you have, how it needs to grow. Establish a plan to become debt free and simplify your life. Find ways to earn enough for longer so that you do not draw down on your assets too early.
- This is a key gift for happiness as we grow older. If you have family and friends close to you where there is a wall of resentment and anger find a way to bring forgiveness into the situation.
- Vitality. Many of us have neglected our health due to the life we have lived. Take baby steps to build back good habits of eating, exercise, stress relief and sleep. More than any other area, this is a way to stay younger for longer.
- We all are a mixture of our genetic make-up, personality, experiences and beliefs. We have built up a view of the world that may not serve us. Are you angry, irritable, negative and unhappy? Or are you generous, kind, humble and engaged in your community? Our identity is moulded but can change. We need to make that choice both for our own health as well as the well-being of those close to us.
- Can you teach an old dog new tricks? Yes we can all learn, grow and change our lives by opening ourselves up to learning. Much of the world is now being transformed through technology and we need to find a way to engage and grow so that we can connect, share and collaborate.
- Do you volunteer in an area of your passion and skills? Giving to those who cannot pay us brings a sense of worth and depth of meaning that can only be experienced when you do it. Find a way to get involved in your community. It will change your life.
- If you are healthy, you can continue working much longer than previous generations. Work may not be like it was in your first season. Know who you are, learn new skills, build diverse networks, work with a coach and find a way to offer a service needed that you are passionate about.
Longevity is keeping us alive much longer than our parents and grandparents. The world has also changed. We are social pioneers walking in this season with many options ahead of us. I know many wealthy, unhappy people and many poor happy people. The defining line is around the choices we make in spite of the challenges we have had along the journey of life so far.
Make that choice today. Live your life to the full. Give your time to others, live simply and engage and love those around you. Your contribution to your family and society will be a legacy.