As I mentioned in my previous post, I decided to live to 120 as I walked a woodland path called "The Way of New Life" in Earth Village, which is located in Kerikeri, New Zealand. There is a steep hill about halfway through the wooded trail. On that hill, we installed wooden stairs with signs along the way containing my philosophy for living to be 120 years old.
With up to 120 steps, the stairway continues without a break until the 60th step, which has a broad wooden deck to the right. This deck is the halfway point. The first 60 steps represent the first half of life, and the later 60 steps represent the second half.
Sixty years for success
The first 60 years, for most people, are a time of learning, working, possessing, and accumulating. Our key motivator in this period is success. During this time, most of us get a job and earn money, create a family, and live our lives pursuing social stability and recognition. We try to get qualifications and abilities according to worldly standards. It's a time for accumulating the most achievements, experience, and know-how; if we look at it in terms of the body, both individually and socially, this period acts like a backbone.
We get what we want through vigorous activity and contribute to the growth and development of society during this period, but we encounter problems inevitably caused by the nature of going after success. Competition and victory are the paradigms dominating our consciousness during the time of success. The message drilled into our heads at school, at work, and even at home is: "Life is a battlefield. So you have to fight, and, when you fight, you have to win." Losing means failure, so we ceaselessly strive to win. When you win, your existential value feels greater than anything in the world, and, when you lose, it's like the value of your existence instantly vanishes.
As we already know so well, not everyone can win in a competition. If someone wins, somebody else loses. This divides us into a minority, who are the winners, and the majority, who consider themselves "losers" and applaud the minority. In a competitive structure where the fittest survive, though unintended, your success hurts others and the success of others makes you uncomfortable. In the name of success, many are often pulverized in the massive, grinding gears of possession and competition.
So we rejoice over achievements great and small, but then, all too soon, find ourselves worrying. Why aren't we happy even though we have more than enough to live on? Why do we feel empty and dissatisfied? Those who seriously ask, "Why," without avoiding these questions when they arise in their hearts naturally come to reflect on their lives and to realize that there are important values in life other than success.
Sixty years for completion
If success is the value that pervades the first 60 years of human life, then the value that permeates the remaining 60 years is "completion." Completion means "everything is actualized." But what is actualized? What we actualize is life itself. So completion is finished only when we go to the final moment of life and breathe our last. A life of completion is one that allows you to look back on your life in the moment of death, feel satisfaction and gratitude, and bless the lives remaining behind as you close your eyes in peace.
In your last moments, if you look back over your life and think, "This was not the life I wanted," then you definitely won't be able to have the feeling that you have completed your life. Instead of satisfaction and gratitude, you will have anger and regret. So those who have entered into their time of completion should realize what it is they really want to achieve through life and should make good use of their remaining time to achieve it.
I've asked countless people this question over the last 37 years: "What is it you truly want?" Answers have differed a great deal from person to person. Some people have wanted to start a big business, others to help people who are powerless and have less. Some people have just wanted to live simple, comfortable lives free of great conflict. When I've gone in deeper, though, I've found that there was something in common behind all those different answers.
What people have ultimately wanted was not a lot of money, a cool, new car, expensive clothing, or a lofty title allowing them to have a lot of people below them. They haven't been external, material values, like certain items or objects, or social status. What they have wanted was the feeling that they can live freely and independently as a human being, the feeling of loving and being loved, the feeling that their life is precious and valuable, the feeling that they're contributing to making the world a better place. In short, it has been the feeling of inner satisfaction that comes from the realization of their meaning and value.
Behind the material goals and values we want in our time of success are other, internal values that we think we can achieve through those goals. Of course, we obviously need such external, material values, too. But they don't bring us ultimate happiness and satisfaction. That's why, when we enter our time of completion, we should go straight toward the mental and spiritual values that give us true satisfaction instead of taking a roundabout path.
Don't repeat the life you had in your period of success, when you anxiously worried, comparing yourself with others. You'll end up living an empty life with no inner satisfaction if you do that. The greatest difference between success and completion is that competition is not needed for pursuing completion. Material value is limited. So we inevitably compete and fight for more because sharing makes our portion smaller. But mental and spiritual values are infinite, so sharing what I have doesn't make my portion any smaller. In the time of completion, the world is no longer a battlefield where we have to fight to survive; it is instead a field where we reap what we sow. In this field, we don't need to compete with others and should actually share our labor and help each other bring in the harvest.
Find the self that allows you to say, 'I am me'
There are two things we need to live as we should during our time of completion. One is ceaseless self-exploration. The other is contributing to the life of the community through sharing.
Remember this. I am not my body nor my mind nor my life. I am not what I have gained or lost so far. I am not my successes or my failures. I am just me! This is the attitude of self-exploration we should have during the second half of our lives. Although there are universal patterns in human life, no two people live the same life. I have been living a life unique to me, and I will do so in the future, too.
I have to find the "self" that will allow me to say that my body and mind, my work, my whole life is "mine." I have to listen more frequently to what that "self" is saying and take more time to meet with that "self." I should study hard to know myself, and, if I know something, I should sincerely put it into practice.
You should discover your own value by encountering yourself, a self that allows you to say, "I am me." Our true value is not something that is external and always changing. External things break down ceaselessly. You have money and prestige one minute, and then they are gone the next. Your body grows old and sick with time and, in the end, breaks down completely with death. It is the "self" that can dispassionately watch the body breaking down in its final days of life.
A life headed toward completion begins in meeting the self that allows you to say, "I am me."
The good news is that we all have this "self" and that we have perfect senses able to find it. What I'm saying is that, in the second half of life, we are given more and more free time to further develop that sense and to be immersed in finding ourselves.
Live a life of contributing to your community through sharing
Make tight fists and take a deep breath, as deep as you can. Continue in that state. It will be really hard. Now, relax your fists and breathe out. You'll feel more comfortable. If we compare our time of success to our bodies, then it's like having our hands in tight fists and breathing in as much as we can. No one can continue in that state. We have to relax our hands and breathe out. This is the attitude of life in the period of completion. We must share with and give to others in our period of completion the things we have obtained and received through our period of success. Only if we do that is the full cycle of our lives completed.
The time when we feel the greatest internal satisfaction is when we give rather than when we receive. The influence we can have on the world does not come from what we can get but is determined by what we can give.
It is definitely not the case that you can help other people only if you have a lot of money or are in great physical condition. People who are in the second half of their lives have diverse life experiences and skills accumulated over a long period of time. All they have to do is share these with others as their conditions and situations allow. Look for opportunities to share with and serve your neighbors and community, as well as your close friends and family. When you have the self-development goal of "completion," you gain new hope and meaning in life and constantly see things to do.
Completion is the greatest hope we can give our brains in the latter half of our lives. Nothing is as wretched as a hopeless life. Life without hope is like a boat whose engine has shut off in a boundless ocean. When hope vanishes, anxiety, worry, and fear take its place. There can be no hope in that condition. There is only regression. A hopeless person, mentally, is already dead, even at the age of 20. People whose goal in life is completion, who develop themselves with hope for a better tomorrow, and who work to leave behind a world that is a little healthier and more peaceful have youthful spirits and passionate hearts even at the age of 80.
If you who are reading this post are not yet 40, then start incorporating the philosophy of completion into your life. In fact, what's most desirable is learning the value of completion as well as success in life, beginning when you're very young. If you think of success as your only goal in life, it's easy to be extremely selfish and live in a very close-minded way because of your obsession with success. Those who know that the value of completion is above that of success, though, can live much more balanced, richer, and fuller lives. Starting now, encounter yourself, a self that allows you to say, "I am me," and work to contribute to increasing the quality of life of your community through your life. If you do that, then we can say that you have already started on a good design for your time of completion.
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