How long do you want to live? Have you ever seriously asked yourself this question? If not, then why not do it now? Is there any age in particular that comes to mind? If there is, then try thinking, why that age. If you keep asking and answering this, you'll realize that it's an extremely powerful question: "How long do I want to live?"
Not everyone thinks the same way about longevity. For those who are now living greatly troubled and without any hope, the very thought of a long life could be painful. For independent, enterprising young people, it's easy to view old age as a time of weakness and dependence, and they may think that they want to keep old age as short as possible. But the desire to live a long, healthy life is natural and widespread.
Just a few years ago, I thought, Wouldn't it be enough for me to be active and in good health until I'm 80? My father is 95 this year, but he lived an active life up through his early 80s. Knowing a lot about Eastern thought and feng shui, he had spent his time counseling townspeople on the sites of their homes, graves, and on life in general. Past the age of 85, though, he became much more frail physically and has ended up almost never leaving the house. It was probably seeing what was happening with my father that led me to think that I, too, should get ready for the end of my life after the age of 80.
In 2008, I wrote a book, In Full Bloom: A Brain Education Guide for Successful Aging, with Dr. Jesse Jones, director of the Center for Successful Aging at the University of California, Fullerton. In this book, we introduced the Jangsaeng lifestyle, which is about living in health and happiness as you realize your dreams, not just living a long time. But, even then, I had never thought I could live beyond the age of 100.
Several developments have caused my thinking to change. A few years ago, I had an opportunity to golf with one elderly gentleman in Korea who was 102 years old. Despite his age, he was very clear minded and vigorous enough to play golf. Moreover, he was so optimistic and witty that he really made things enjoyable for those around him throughout our game. It made me think, "He has really aged well!" After that, directly and indirectly, I met many impressive people who were living healthy and active lives and also using their wisdom to help others even past the age of 95. I started to really sense that the era of the centenarian has actually come, and that many people are already living that way.
Golfing with Jongjin Lee, a 102-year-old gentleman
I've spent a lot of time in Kerikeri, New Zealand for three years now. I'm receiving new teachings from nature here every day as I focus completely on the work of building Earth Village, a community for realizing the living culture of Earth Citizenship. One day I was walking a trail at Earth Village when I found myself thinking, "I will live to be 120 years old." It wasn't a result of calculating my current state of health or anything like that. It wasn't a conclusion reached after long deliberation. The thought just came to me like an inspiration or message. It wasn't a mere pipe dream to live that long, nor was it a premonition that I would live to be 120. It was a very sudden but calm, firm choice: "I will live to be 120 years old." Intuitively, I understood that this was a big idea and, from many perspectives, a crucial choice.
How did this idea and thought change my personal life?
First, the way I think about about my age changed greatly. My initial thought was to live to the age of 80, so that would make my present age of 67 being close to ending the stage of an 80-year life. But, thinking in the scope of 120 years, 67 is just t barely past the halfway point! More than 50 years are still left to me! How, then, will I live during that time? What will I live for? This change of thinking provided me with an opportunity to confirm again what was important in my life and to newly design my remaining years.
Second, I've come to manage my body and mind more actively. If I'm going to do more than just live a long time and if I'm going to achieve my dreams and help others as I live to be 120, then health is fundamental. So I exercise whenever I have the opportunity, and, thinking that I should maintain enough fitness to lift my own body, I do 10 push-ups in a handstand against a wall once a day.
Third, my brain was stimulated so I'm working more passionately than ever before. I'm diligently searching within for ways to change my thought patterns and habits, constantly demanding of myself things I should correct, and I've started pouring out new, creative ideas.
I feel that my mind and body are in an optimal state right now, and I'm working for my dreams with hope and joy.
I've started actively talking about my choice and these changes when I give public lectures as well as in private settings. Additionally, I came to meditate and think deeply more often about the social as well as personal significance of 120 years of life.
According to the experts, the average lifespan of the human species is currently 79 years, and, growing three months longer per year, it will reach 100 years by 2080. I think that humanity's centenarian age will come much more quickly than that and many people will actually live to be 120 years old.
Our bodies are designed biologically so that we can live to be 120. Many ancient texts of the East say that humans can live in good health to be 120 if they live in keeping with the principles of nature. However, most people fail to achieve that potential lifespan. Many social and environmental factors affect this and are little influenced by personal effort alone.
Currently, lifespans of over 120 years are individual cases that are extremely exceptional. Community culture and the earth’s environment must change for this to become a kind of social phenomenon. Unless we have a healthy planet and caring communities, it is impossible for many people to live in good health until the age of 120. Life extension will not necessarily be a blessing unless it's supported by the overall social culture. Who would want to live a long, unhappy life without satisfaction, just waiting to die?
I'd like it if many more people, despite this, would choose to live to be 120 years old. Why? Not only is this a choice to better plan and manage your life, but it could also lead to the will, conviction, and effort to create caring community cultures and a healthy global environment.
Of course, we can't control life. We've received life from nature, and all we can do is use that life during the time we've been given. My choice to live to be 120 years old is an impossible task without the blessing of nature. What is certain, though, is that when we make this choice, we can live happier and more satisfying lives by examining them and planning and managing them from a long-term perspective.
Many people have encountered an era of greater lifespans unprepared. Having 30 or 40 years of life remaining after retirement is an unprecedented situation. This has never happened in the history of humanity. Many people don't know what they should do in the time they have left. I believe that we can discover important insights and alternatives for any future for humanity for a peaceful, sustainable world. Additionally, depending on how we accept and use this era of longevity, we can personally live with great satisfaction and happiness at a ripe old age. I'm putting these thoughts of mine in a book I'm preparing, I've Decided to Live 120 Years. In several future posts, I will share with you some key ideas from the book.
What do you consider successful aging? How long would you like to live?
Click here to get Ilchi Lee's book, I've Decided to Live 120 Years: The Ancient Secret to Longevity, Vitality, and Life Transformation