Yesterday was my birthday. I turned 61.
Yeah, I’m old. But I’ve known that I’m getting old for a while now.
It’s just that in the daily moments of life, one who is “getting old” doesn’t really feel old.
As a boy, young man, and middle-aged man, I didn’t understand this. I used to feel that old people just felt old.
I figured that they somehow had crossed over into a different realm of some sort, and they felt things that I just couldn’t feel until that time.
But here I am, now considered old by many, and I still don’t feel old.
Oh, sure, I have aches and pains from years of sports injuries and just the general wearing down of life that make me hurt at various times throughout the day.
But for the most part, I still feel as if I’m a 30-year-old guy. And I think a lot of people who are considered old feel that way, too.
The saying is, “You’re as young as you feel,” and in many ways I totally agree.
I have always felt younger than my age. As a kid, I didn’t feel nearly as mature as others around the same age me. As I became a young man, I never felt comfortable calling myself a “man.” I always felt I was still a kid, even when I was well into my 20s.
Then middle age came along, but it didn’t compute in my brain. “Where is the middle?” I thought. It seemed like most people live into their 80s, and in my family they were living into their 90s. “Does that mean my middle-age is my 40s?” I asked myself. But in my 40s, I still felt like a younger man, so it didn’t compute.
Now that I am in my 60s and a card-carrying member (if I could just remember where the card is!) of AARP, I guess I’m considered old. It’s just that I still don’t feel all that old.
I wonder if my dad felt this way. To me, he was always old. I don’t mean he was decrepit and falling apart or anything. I just mean it always felt like he was an older man.
He was bald ever since I was little. That contributed a bit to him seeming old. Also, he didn’t get out and play sports and do the things that I did. He wasn’t all that active in those ways. He smoked, read the newspaper while having a couple of cocktails in the evening while watching the news, and then sat and watched TV until he went to bed.
I, on the other hand, was always active. I played sports. I worked out. I did “young things.” And I continued to do them as I continued to get older. In fact, I still do some of them, even at this age. So, I don’t feel old like I felt my dad seemed old.
What You Do is What Matters
But age is just a number.
It’s what you do with your age that should truly matter.
So as I sit here typing this and another year has gone by, I reflect on what I did over the last year.
Did I make a positive contribution in some way?
Did I grow, improve, or develop in some way personally?
Did I help other people in some way?
Was the world a better place because I was in it for this last year?
Those may seem like fairly heavy questions and ideas, but they really shouldn’t be, should they?
Shouldn’t we all be trying to do those things every year?
Some of the great artists of the world take a year or more to create the great masterpieces they created. Shouldn’t we all be trying to create a masterpiece of our lives every year?
After reflecting on these questions, I inevitably then point to the future, especially to the next year. I am a huge fan of figuring out goals at the end of one year for the following year. I think it helps give us direction.
With my birthday somewhat near the end of the year, as I reflect on getting another year older, I can also start looking at the goals I had set for this year, see how I have done on those goals, and start thinking about what goals I will want to begin focusing on for next year. While I will do my actual goal-setting exercises and activities during the last week of the year, now is a good time for me to start considering them.
And it’s a good time for you to do the same.
While I will revisit the topic of goal-setting at the end of the year, now is a good time to start looking to see how you are doing and what you will want to do differently next year.
It’s for All of Us, Not Just Old People
But for someone in his 60s, this is especially important. I don’t have as many years left here as the number of years I’ve already spent here.
That means I’m living in a tight window of making the most of my life while I can. I need to treat each day as a gift. I need to make the absolute most of every day I have on earth since they are now more limited than they were when I was younger.
But here’s an even more important point.
It’s easy for people in their 60s, 70s, and beyond to realize that they better make sure they do all they can to make the final decades of their lives as meaningful and joyful as possible. They can see that they are coming to the end of them.
But what about all of you in your 50s? Your 40s? 30s? 20s?
Are you living life that way?
Are you making sure that you are filling your life with as much living as possible?
Chances are you’re not. It’s quite natural to feel that you’ve got a lot of time left to make your contribution in whatever way you hope to contribute to this world and to our society.
But let’s face it… you have no idea how much longer you’re going to be here. There is no guarantee that you will live into your 80s or 90s.
And even if you do live to an old age, why wouldn’t you want to make the most of your life everyday anyway?
Imagine looking back on your life when you are 85 and thinking, “I am so glad that I did all that I did every year of my life. I’m so glad I lived with purpose and passion. I’m so glad that I didn’t just drift through my days, wandering around without much direction or focus.”
Then imagine the opposite. Imagine realizing that there was so much more you wanted to do, could have done, and should have done to feel that you lived a full life.
Which way do you want to feel as you look back on your life?
Complete, joyful, and fulfilled?
Or wishing you had done more, lived more, enjoyed more of life?
The beauty is that even though you don’t know how much longer you have to live, you can choose right now to live however many more of the days you have to the fullest extent that you possibly can.
In his book Essentialism, author Greg McKeown talks about the importance of having a clarity of purpose in our lives and living with “Essential Intent.” He says, “A true essential intent is one that guides your greater sense of purpose and helps you chart your life’s path.”
What would that mean for you?
Trying new activities?
Visiting family, friends, and loved ones more?
Spending more time pursuing activities that bring you joy, enrichment, and meaning?
Or is it something else?
The character Andy Dufresne, played by Tim Robbins in the movie The Shawshank Redemption, says, “I guess it comes down to a simple choice really. Get busy living or get busy dying.”
The choice is yours.
It’s time to LIVE your life to the fullest every day!