The poet Robert Browning wrote, "The Best Is Yet to Be." I have added the word, maybe. Maybe the future will be wonderful if we can figure out how to live well. Ted Fishman, author of the best selling book, Shock of Gray, wrote: "And while we will likely engineer ever-longer lives, can we figure out how to fill the extra years with vitality and joy? (2010, p. 14)."
George E. Vaillant, M.D., followed many groups: Harvard freshman over a sixty-year period, inner city non-delinquent youth, and 90 women from the Stanford (Terman) study of gifted children. This extensive data provided the groundwork for his book, Aging Well: Surprising Guideposts to a Happier Life (2002). "Positive aging means to love, to work, to learn something we did not know yesterday... Successful aging means giving to others...receiving from others, and...employing elegant unconscious coping mechanisms that make lemonade out of lemons (pp. 16 & 61)."
I searched the web for advice on how to live well. I found many recipes--eating properly, exercising, meditating, balancing competing demands, attending to your spiritual life. I learned that there is no single magic bullet. It is flexibility--the ability to engage in periodic assessments of yourself and your environment and figure out what is working. Just as we meet with our financial advisers yearly, and often have a yearly physical, we need to conduct our own "living longer, living well checkup." Based on Vaillant's work, our checkup can include tracking our answers to these question:
Am I learning something new?
Am I giving to others?
Am I able to accept from others?
Can I make lemonade out of lemons?
Am I able to work, love, and play?
Do I still have a passion that gets me going in the morning?
Revisit these questions periodically. If your answer is yes to all of them, then you clearly are living well.If your answer is no, think about some ways to make needed changes. That way we can eliminate the maybe!