Writing my new book, Courageous Aging (Morgan James, Spring 2017), has been quite the education. With more than 10,000 Americans turning 65 every day, the challenges and opportunities for each of us personally, and as a society, are unprecedented. Not only are we rethinking what it means to be 55, 65 or 75, we’re facing an exciting, yet uncertain, future when it comes to living longer. A host of ethical, psychological, technological and practical matters are looming before us. To address them effectively, we need to start with ourselves.
To live our best lives, we must put our houses in order, and I’m not talking about wills, trusts or living to 105. I’m referring to coming of age emotionally, spiritually and in our closest relationships. This means facing and overcoming, rather than avoiding, fears about getting older, compassionately greeting our older selves, carving out action plans for our best possible future and making peace with life itself. When we do these things, we are ready to look beyond ourselves to see how we can leave the world a better, safer place for our children, grandkids and future generations.
Successful aging takes courage. The demands of each season of life require us to be brave. And humble. I coined the term Courageous Aging to help myself, and others like me, who are determined to make the most of each precious breath, day, moment and relationship. To do this, and harvest the biggest opportunities, we must overcome the biggest challenges of getting older. Here’s an outline of how to do this.
Awaken to a higher level of personal awareness about age-related issues. A Courageous Aging audit is a self-assessment inventory that uncovers issues, unveils our vision, charts our trajectory and lays the groundwork for looking at opportunities that come with getting older.
Reimagine the future. Once we’ve had a chance to see where we’re headed, we must give ourselves time and permission to consider newfound options for getting older. Imagining our best possible future is an awakening unto itself. The possibilities are as unlimited as they are uplifting and transformative. Opening our minds and hearts allows us to re-energize our lives.
Formulate an action plan. Once we set our sights on what’s possible—and envision ourselves in a “perfect world”—we’re ready to put together an action plan outlining what it’s going to take to get from here to there.
Be a work in progress. The critical path to our best possible self and future comes together over time. As we learn to be more authentic and true to ourselves, the masks, pretense, arrogance and need for status fall away. Being all grown up does not, however, mean losing our playfulness, flexibility, open-mindedness, irreverence, sense of wonder or creativity. Nor are we 100 percent free of our insecurities, fears and demons. It means finally beginning to feel comfortable in our own skin.
Do the work and leave a legacy of love. Cultivating freedom, peace and calm and participating in daily practices that bring them about takes time and effort. The reward—that we get to enjoy life as never before, pay the good things forward, free ourselves of old fears and insecurities, and find deep peace—is in the effort. By putting our houses in order, and saying and doing everything important, we live our lives as fully as possible, pay the good forward and leave a legacy of love.
This article originally appeared in Costco Connection magazine. To be notified when Courageous Aging is release, enter your email address at the bottom of the page here.