I would like to thank everyone who took interest in and left comments on my last blog post, "I've decided to live to 120." I'll have to pour more passion and energy into my book, making sure it can give new inspiration and hope to those who are preparing for their second life.
I definitely learned something during the 67 years I've been living: life isn't complicated. All life that is born eventually dies. We've already been born, and we can't change the fact that we will one day die. And we can't turn back the past, either. We can decide how we'll live our lives in the future, though. Destiny is something we choose and create for ourselves.
Will you lead a life controlled by your environment or situation? Or will you choose and design your own destiny? Will you just live without thinking much until you realize one day that you're 80 or 90 years old? Or will you look back on your life then and say, "I lived the dream I chose and was who I wanted to be; I led the life I designed for myself"?
You get old in the moment you stop dreaming
We are living in an age of longevity different from our parents' generation. More time – as few as 20 years or as many as 60 – has been given to us even after we retire. Do you have a design for that time? "I'm retired now, so the important work in my life is over. All that's left now is living comfortably and resting until I die painlessly." In the moment you choose this, your brain starts actively supporting your choice.
Your brain chooses the status quo instead of challenges, backing out of the way even when new opportunities come, "At my age? I don't think so…" In the moment you abandon hope and the will to make your tomorrow better than today, your brain gets old and becomes lethargic. And it starts sending that energy of lethargy to your body and out into the world.
The kind of information you give your brain is important. If you don't stop dreaming and continue to actively design your remaining years, your brain will fill with hope and a new sense of anticipation. It will work to maintain your body and mind in better health, fully mobilizing your muscles, bones, organs, nervous system, and hormones.
There is already plenty of information out there on how to live life after 60. TV advertisements tell us to spend all the money we've worked so hard to save on maintaining our youth, beauty, and vigor. Investors and insurance companies say, "Entrust us with your money and health while you enjoy a sailboat and a romantic beach." "Trust me," politicians advise. "I'll create policies that will keep you safe in your old age."
Information comes from the outside, but it also wells up from within. It's like how flowing water collects into ponds, but spring water wells up from the ground. What information are you giving yourself about your remaining years? No matter how well we manage them, our bodies grow old with time. There is something that never ages, though. Our spirit. The great spirit that wells up from within human beings, that free, creative consciousness, when we encounter that consciousness, we become the masters of our own destinies. We can transcend all excuses and make choices that change our lives when we encounter that spirit. We can take our choices all the way, acting on them without losing heart or giving up in any environment or situation.
What we need most for healthy, happy aging is not Botox or Viagra. It's not a financial expert to help us design our later years or a coach to make exercise programs and diets for us. What we need most is to listen to our inner voice, our spirit, and to choose how we really want to live and what sort of people we will be.
This is the first time humanity has lived so long. So we don't yet know how we should live our long lives. We are now wandering between the fixed ideas about aging we've inherited from previous generations and the infinite potential that has newly opened before us. In that sense, we are pioneers. We can establish a completely new perspective on living well as we age. Each of us can give birth to a new current and spirit in these times depending on how we spend our later years.
Water flows where directed
It’s ideal that you plan your later years in your early 40s. It's about picturing how you want to spend that time. If you do that, you can also live life much more fully from your 40s through your 60s. You can reduce the time, emotion, and energy you waste on less important things.
Not even an experienced architect can build a wonderful building without a plan. In the same way, it's hard to live full, happy later years unless you think in advance about your life after retirement. If you don't design your life, you just end up being dominated by your environment, letting yourself go wherever your situation takes you.
"I'll have lots of time. Why hurry? Yeah, I'll take my time thinking about it." If you're still thinking this way, read the following words. Introduced in a Korean newspaper in 2008, this article was written by a certain 95-year-old, and it has inspired many people.
I really worked hard when I was young. As a result, I was recognized for my skills and respected. I was able to retire, proudly and confidently, at the age of 65 thanks to that. I shed such tears of regret 30 years later, though, on my 95th birthday.
My first 65 years were proud and honorable, but the 30 years of my life since then have been full of shame, regret, and bitterness.
After retiring, I thought, "I have now lived my life. Any years I have left are just a bonus." With that thought in mind, I just waited for a painless death. I lived such a pointless, hopeless life for some 30 years.
Thirty years are a long time, one third of my 95 years of life so far.
When I retired, if I had thought that I could live another 30 years, I really would not have lived that way.
It was a great mistake then for me to think that I was old, that it was too late for me to start something.
I'm 95 years old now, but I have a clear mind. I may live 10 years, 20 years more.
I'm now going to start studying language, which is something I've wanted to do. I have just one reason for this . . . It's so that, on my 105th birthday 10 years from now, I won't regret not starting anything new when I was 95.
The person who wrote this was Dr. Seokgyu Kang, founder of Korea's Hoseo University. Even at the age of 100, he would stand at the lectern and share the wisdom he had learned in life until he passed away at the age of 103. When he was 95, he knew that he hadn't had a design for his later years and regretted it. Whether long or short, time just flows by unless we live consciously. There is a Korean saying: "Water flows where directed." Where will the water of your life flow? The time has come to create a new stream for it to follow.
It's never too late to start over in life
Congratulations if you're ready and have a picture of how you will live in your later years. There is no need to panic, though, if you find that you've retired somehow without adequately preparing for the second half of your life. It's not too late, even if you're already in your 70s or 80s. It's never too late. It's never too late to start over in life. Better late than never, as the saying goes. Dr. Seokgyu Kang realized he was late, but he really lived the rest of his life earnestly, truly considering each and every day precious.
Where should you begin? Begin with asking yourself. Don't start with the answer established by the world, but with finding the life your spirit wants. Once you've found it, then all you have to do is start by choosing to do your best to live that life, that new dream.
All changes, whatever they may be, begin in choice. What you choose becomes reality. And only what you choose. We could fail many times, sometimes because of the ups and downs of life beyond our control, sometimes because of our laziness, fears, and habits. However, we draw closer to the life we choose, step-by-step, when we choose and act sincerely, without giving up.
There is another wisdom that life has taught me: We each captain the ships of our own lives. We can drift through life, or we can make our lives an epic voyage. One thing decides that: whether you know where you are going. The power to look back on our lives, to reflect, to dream and choose to be a certain way is a gift given only to human beings. Until the final moment of our voyage, we should go forward, never holding back on this great, beautiful power.
What have you learned in your life so far? I want to hear your story.
To learn more, click here to get Ilchi Lee's book, I've Decided to Live 120 Years: The Ancient Secret to Longevity, Vitality, and Life Transformation