The Perfect Age

Is the perfect age still ahead, or is it a distant memory? The answer lies in learning to live without apology or regret.

I remember driving to work one morning and listening to three radio personalities offer their opinion on the best age in life. After a minute or so of discussing the pros and cons of a younger body versus a wiser mind, they unanimously chose 35 as the perfect age.

At the time, I was 28. The idea of being 35 seemed impossibly old. I could feel thirty looming in near future and that was bad enough. The idea that my thirty-fifth birthday would be something to celebrate seemed insane.

That was over thirty years ago.

How accurate were the radio DJ’s at predicting the supposed best year of my life? My 35th year was nothing short of a trip to hell and back. I was frustrated, angry, dissatisfied, and confused. Not something I would ever want to repeat.

So what age would I pick as the best in life?

The more I thought about it, the more I realized there could only be one answer: I haven’t lived it yet.

Sounds like Pollyanna naiveté, doesn’t it?

It isn’t. Believing the best is yet to come is more than just another optimistic platitude printed across a motivational poster. It’s the mindset of those who continue to set goals, look forward to a changing future, and continue to adapt to life’s ever-changing transitions.

And that’s only part of it. Because if you don’t believe it, the alternative is to admit that you’re done— to declare your best years are behind you, with nothing left but to wait out the time, reminiscing about the good ol’ days while the rest of the world discounts you as just another doddering old senior with nothing left to contribute.

I’ve known men who were truly old at sixty-five. I’ve known others who were active and healthy at 85, and didn’t look a day over 60. Instead of aging, they simply lived. They remained involved with life, living it to its fullest every day, happy in knowing they were making a contribution in their own way. They seldom thought about how old they were, and if someone asked their age, they would get a puzzled, distracted look on their face and have to think about it—because their age didn’t define them. It was simply a number on their driver’s license, or a reference contained in a Medicare statement.

The best way to age? Without apology or regret.

Here are a few suggestions.

Do it now, while there is time, and promise, and possibility. Allowing the time to pass without taking action extracts a huge toll. Sit on the sidelines too long and eventually, we find ourselves in a place where choices are fewer, opportunities less clear, and life has become muddled and tedious.

Stay involved. Continue exploring and learning no matter where you are along the road of life. Create new goals based on what you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t had the time to accomplish. Very few of us have done everything in life we set out to do in our youth. And while some of those things may no longer be important to us, there’s always a few remaining items on the “bucket list” that would put the icing on the cake. And don’t be afraid to make your new goals ambitious and even life-changing. Age doesn’t automatically disqualify you to experience new adventures. I know seniors who turned a vacation into a working retreat, which eventually resulted in moving to a different country and learning a new language and culture. There’s no expiration date on personal satisfaction and accomplishment. But you have to make the effort to keep it fresh by rotating and expanding your inventory of ideas, goals, and interests.

Put yourself into situations in which you have the opportunity to meet new people. This includes your relationships at work, in social settings, clubs, church, and fraternal organizations. Take an adult-education class on a subject you already know a lot about. You’ll be the star student others will come to for help. And who knows? You may be asked to teach it in the future.

Offer your expertise and experience to others who need it. For example, over the last five years, I’ve provided management consulting to a half-dozen small business startups run by young people who recently made the transition from employee to entrepreneur. Total compensation I’ve received? Zero. But the value of their relationships in terms of networking, exposure to new ideas, and involvement in markets and industries outside my own has made the investment a good one.

Put a priority on diet and exercise. Your body—it’s health and condition—has a great deal to do with your longevity. It’s designed to last a long time if it’s taken care of. But if you mistreat it by eating garbage, or ignore its required maintenance, you can look forward to a future cut short by obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Which begs the question . . . knowing the risks, why would you do that? There are plenty of online sources offering information on how to eat healthy, including shopping tips and recipes designed to eliminate foods tainted with pesticides, fillers, sugar, antibiotics, and growth-hormones.

I’ll leave you with this . . .

I’ve clocked enough benchmark birthdays to realize the perfect age isn’t defined by a number. In fact, it has nothing to do with how many years you’ve lived, the experience you’ve gathered, or the success you’ve achieved. It’s about being fully involved, invested, and participating in life—right now.

Life can be a predictable rerun of a thousand yesterdays, or a path of discovery with promise and possibility—at any age. It’s a simple choice, but it must be a conscious one, especially if you’re ready to move forward into a future where the best is yet to come.

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.” Helen Keller

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