The first step to a 120-year life is having an attitude of self-sufficiency regarding your daily life. We’ve probably become conditioned to depending on factors outside of ourselves for our own health, happiness, and peace. Even if you look at health alone, if they feel just a little bit of pain or sickness, people turn to a pharmacy or hospital. Of course, when it’s necessary, you do need to get medical help. However, medicines and doctors will not assure the basic elements of health, such as our muscle strength, sense of balance, quick reaction time, or immunity. A healthy physical constitution is not something that any other person can cultivate for us. These are things we have to develop through our own strength and effort.
The same applies for happiness and peace. If you feel happy because you have something or someone in your life, then as soon as that object or person disappears, it’s easy for that moment to become the end of happiness and the beginning of misery. A life of this tightrope walk back and forth between moments of sudden happiness and misery determined by your external environment is the most anxious and insecure way of life possible.
Instead of depending on your external environment, hoping that health, happiness, and peace come to you, the best way to live is to get the hang of how to create those things for yourself. After that, when you’ve become the center of your health, happiness, and peace, you’re able to share it with other people as well.
Cultivate your physical power, heart power, brain power
In order to be self-sufficient in terms of health, happiness, and peace, you need to develop three kinds of power: physical power, heart power, and brain power.
Physical fitness is the cornerstone of health and happiness in the later years. Developing physical fitness and strength is also a shortcut to cultivating heart power and brain power. When it comes to designing your life, especially your later years, if you’re not sure of where to start, try developing your physical fitness first. When you generate strength in your body, you’ll also develop greater motivation, and you’ll find new things you want to try or come up with good ideas. It’s also a good idea to have a specific goal that you want to reach for your physical fitness or find an ideal model that you can emulate.
“Heart power” is the power to implement and stick to rules for daily living based on your conscience. This mental toughness, as with physical strength, increases the more you use it.
Heart power is strength that becomes cultivated through your relationships with yourself and with other people. Just like your physical strength, with training, the honesty, diligence, responsibility, tolerance, compassion, understanding, consideration, etc. that you have within you will increase. The close human relationships that you have with your relatives, friends, and colleagues, for example, are excellent training grounds for heart power.
Brain power could be expressed as creativity. Just because you have a lot of intellectual knowledge, doesn’t necessarily mean your brain power is strong. Brain power is the strength to utilize insight and wisdom to create something that is helpful to myself and to the world. There is a saying that goes, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” This phrase expresses all too well how creativity, the defining characteristic of brain power, is manifested. Creativity comes out of attention, affection, and curiosity toward yourself, objects, and the world. If you observe yourself and your surroundings with careful attentiveness and affection, it’s natural to come up with ideas for what to fix, what to improve, and what is needed. When you implement this idea with willpower and focus, it leads to creation.
Meet with yourself through 1-minute exercise
There’s a French cyclist by the name of Robert Marchand, who is 105 years old. He was born in northern France in 1911 and had various occupations, including that of firefighter, industrial truck driver, lumberjack, and farmer. He’d had experience cycling when he was young, but it wasn’t until he was 67 years of age that he started cycling in earnest. And in January of 2017, he renewed his world record of completing 22 kilometers in one hour at the age of 105. Results shown by measuring his maximum aerobic capacity (VO2 max), heart rate, and degree of cardiopulmonary health across two years revealed that he had the aerobic capacity of a 50-year-old, a whole 55 years younger than his actual age. What’s more amazing is that his maximum aerobic capacity increased 13% over the past two years.
Reading the news about this man made me open my eyes wide. For someone who wasn’t a professional cyclist, even at a younger age, it wouldn’t be easy to cover 22 kilometers in one hour. However, for someone at the age of 105 to be able to maintain such a level of health and vitality could only be an incredible shock. I printed out a picture of him cycling and put it up in front of my desk. That’s so that, every time I see that picture, I shatter the preconception that “the elderly are weak,” and I spur myself on with the hope of developing my physical strength.
The idea of working on strengthening your physical fitness generally makes people imagine going to a gym and running on a treadmill or doing weight training by lifting heavy weights. Even if you don’t come up with ways to make several hours of time in an already-hectic schedule, isn’t there some way you could exercise during your everyday life? That’s why I suggest exercising in the gaps. That means exactly what it sounds like—integrating lifestyle exercises into the gaps in your schedule, even for just one minute, in your daily life.
You may be skeptical about how effective exercising for one minute could be, but I can offer a definitive reply through my own experience. It really does give you a workout. Through these one-minute exercises, my body has become lighter and more agile, and my vitality has increased. Even at an age that’s nearing 70, I do handstands against the wall every day and do 10 pushups in that position. And when I play golf, the ball flies much farther now and with greater accuracy than when I was in my 40s.
As part of this kind of one-minute exercise, I’d like to suggest including moderate to vigorous exercises through which you can effectively use your muscle strength and increase your heart rate within a short period of time, such as push-ups, squats, sit-ups, running in place, or holding a plank. I recommend making one minute of time for them every hour. You can set an alarm to remind you. Then you can do it about 10 times each day, for a total of 10 minutes of exercise every day.
If you suddenly start to do moderate to vigorous exercise, you may experience some soreness in your muscles, and at times like that, instead of muscle-strengthening exercises, it’s good to mix in some light exercises, such as stretching. Also, there’s no rule that says you have to do it for one minute. You can exercise for 5 minutes or even for 10 minutes. When you have the time for it, if you do a set of several exercises, you’ll enhance their effectiveness by a lot more.
A minute may feel like a short time that slips by without any particular meaning, but when you actually try doing push-ups or squats for one minute, suddenly it feels so long. You might not even be able to fill up the whole minute with exercise, and plop down because your muscles lost their strength. If you try holding your breath and not breathing for one minute, you’ll realize how long a single minute is. By practicing making good use of time through one-minute exercises, you become motivated and inspired to use the rest of the time in a productive and creative way as well.
An important part of one-minute exercise is that it must not be separate from your daily life. Exercise must be completely integrated into your everyday life. Life becomes exercise, and exercise becomes life. That’s when your habits really change and your constitution changes. It changes into a constitution that lets you be responsible for your own health and that enables you to create happiness and peace.
When you do this for one month, and then two months, and three months, you’ll experience many changes. Not only will you certainly experience physical and chemical changes, as well as emotional changes, you’ll find yourself settling into a new lifestyle in which you move your body, no matter what. Ordinarily, there are many times when we become apathetic and space out, or when we waste time caught up in worries or mental chatter, but through one-minute exercises, it’s possible to put an end to that kind of wasted time. Even when you’re under stress, you can change your mood in an instant through one-minute exercise and get rid the energy of frustration.
As we perform one minute of exercise once every hour, we make our own bodies and minds clearly aware that “I am the master.” Then you can save that one hour. You become able to break out of the weak and lazy energy of the body and emotions so that you can wake up and pull yourself together and focus on your life.
The name I’ve given to this kind of lifestyle, where you build a habit of creating health, happiness, and peace for yourself and become the master of your body and mind through one-minute exercise, is “Tongchun Living.” This refers to a lifestyle of connecting and communing with heaven, and here, heaven refers to the great vital power of the universe that vibrates with infinite power and creativity, which at the same time is also who you really are, the True Self. Through one-minute exercise, you find the “real me” that lies beyond the thoughts and emotions, and you allow your True Self to lead your time forward.
A really important key point of one-minute exercise is raising the “temperature of passion.” Passion is the indicator with which you can glimpse the willpower you have about life. It wouldn’t be an overstatement to say that how much passion a person lives with determines the course of their life. Passion isn’t something that forms simply because you’re young or in a good environment for it. Nor can you expect someone else to increase the temperature of your passion for you, or expect your passion to come alive on its own due to improvement in your external circumstances. Passion is not something that somebody else brings to you. It’s something you make and bring up for yourself.
One-minute exercise is an excellent way to increase the temperature of passion within you. Through the pulse of your heart that beats fiercely inside of you, through your breathing that fills your chest as it causes its rise and fall, through the strength of your firm muscles that are hardened through training, get a real feeling of how alive you are. That’s the moment in which you increase the temperature of passion for yourself. “From now on, I’m taking charge of my own health. I make my life, too, and I’m going to create what I want.” This is the kind of will and intention, confidence and passion that will burst forth.
Through one-minute exercise, develop your physical power, heart power, and brain power, and create the final sixty years of your 120-year life as a time of completion that’s full of health, happiness, and peace.
To learn more about developing your physical power, heart power, and brain power, read Ilchi Lee's book, I've Decided to Live 120 Years: The Ancient Secret to Longevity, Vitality, and Life Transformation