The benefit of living backwards



A FRIEND who was making a speech at her 80th birthday celebrations suggested that maybe we should live our lives backwards. Think about it, she said, you would climb out of your coffin, gradually lose your aches and pains, get your job back, emerge from that mid-life crisis with everything back in place (minus new spouses, sports cars or whatever,) celebrate your wedding then have an absolute ball in your 20s. Drive your parents mad with your adolescent angst, play all you want in childhood, get loved and looked after in babyhood and start out with really great sex.
The last bit guarantees a good laugh but seriously, age is a great vantage point given all the benefits of hindsight. Just imagine that you are about to pop your clogs, as my sister euphemistically puts it, and that you are reviewing your life. What would you say was the most fulfilling aspect of it? Fulfilment is not to be confused with gratification, that quick-fix pleasure that comes with getting some possession that you want, which wears off after you have worn that new outfit or driven that new car a few times. It’s that deep down contentment that comes with a state of expressing fully the real you, in living and doing in ways that give you a sense of rightness and harmony.
And that is the insight that should provide the essential clues to your future after you leave that permanent and pensionable job and start out on the next phase of your life. It isn’t the job title or the role per se like marketing director or mother that we are talking about here, but the qualities in you that selling or mothering brought out in you which gave so much satisfaction. The feeling of fulfilment might have been generated by a single event by a hobby, or by something that you did once but never had a chance to repeat.
Whatever the situation, it was one where time flew unnoticed, where when you think about that particular occasion, it brings a light to your eye, animation to the way that you speak and enjoyment in recollection. If you can put your finger on the skills and qualities that were in play at the time, those are the very things that you want to use in a new way in the future.
Bucket Lists are fun; if you get to do some of the things on the list – sky diving, walking the Great Wall of China – they will gratify you and give you satisfaction when you tick them off. But a far more meaningful list is what I call the ‘F-it List’ as in, I want to get that real, honest-to-goodness life is good feeling. That means finding ways to be fulfilled by being you. And you know it really never is too late to find your way to what you really want to be in love, work or the whole damn thing. The other day I met an 80-year-old man who is just about to start a new business in a field he enjoys as he really can’t stand not working, something he really enjoys. Another recent encounter was with a couple – not far behind him in age – who were relatively newly-wed and obviously still having a blissful time together and were full of plans for all the things they were going to do together. I came home after meeting the trio feeling full of optimism- there’s hope for me yet.
Marianne Heron is a Retirement Life Coach, and author of Irish Life’s Rewire don’t Retire.

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