I am in the research phase for a new book I am writing called Finishing Well. Over the next few months I plan to write more articles on this subject aimed at helping Gen X and Boomers prepare to maximise the potential of their latter years.
As we work and live each day, not too many of us are focused on the finish line. In fact, the whole idea of finishing up does not have very positive associations. It is associated with loss, and even death. A time when options close and ultimately cease. Something we would rather not think about. It is certainly not usually viewed as a motivating subject.
Most people under 40 have no idea about their superannuation or retirement savings plans. They are just doing whatever it takes to grow their life – relationships, family, career or business.
Sometime during our 40’s we start to become aware that this issue requires a little attention. Maybe it is a health issue. Maybe it is a business or career setback. Maybe it is becoming aware that our parents are slowing down and have changing needs.
Two halves or three thirds?
Life used to be roughly about two segments. Bob Buford wrote an influential book, called Half Time. Until 40, Buford observes that life is about success, about making our mark. After 40 he suggests we are better served to aim for a life of significance.
With life expectancy increasing so dramatically in the past 50 years, Jane Fonda has a TEDx Talk in which she uses a metaphor of life as 3 Acts of a Play. She calls the last segment, from 60 – 90 years, The Third Act. As a very active septuagenarian she argues there is a huge opportunity for individuals, families and our whole society if we can help more people finish well.
There is so much potential in older people. The trouble is that finishing well requires some forethought and preparation; something that few have done.
Some of the issues each person must work through to finish well
Finishing well involves far more than making sure you have enough superannuation. It involves many of the following issues as well:
1. In a fast-paced world, how to ensure you do not become a grumpy old person
2. How to ensure you leave a positive legacy
3. How to manage your health effectively
4. How you maintain healthy intimate relationships like marriage and friendships for the long haul.
5. How you rebuild relationships that have become jarred or fractured
6. How to have resilience to bounce back from the setbacks and traumas of life
7. How to ensure you have strong mental and emotional health
8. How to keep learning and growing so you stay relevant to the next generations
9. How to manage your money to make sure you have more than enough to the end
10. How to ensure you always have a strong sense of purpose and meaning all through your life
11. How to make sure your close relationships (friends and family) are strong and growing
There are many more issues that can be added to this list as well.
The truth is the whole of your life is preparation for finishing well.
I have learned that anything you ignore or neglect because it is hard, or you do not know what to do, is likely to become a much bigger problem over time. I lost a marriage because I avoided confronting some difficult issues. The process would have been painful. My avoidance led to loneliness, separation and divorce which was ultimately much more painful and took 10 years for me and other family relationships to recover.
In my view, finishing well is more to do with who I am becoming than any achievement in life.
What do you need to confront in your life to make sure you have every chance of becoming the person you want to be and have the best chance of finishing well?
How true. I appreciate many of your points. One piece of research I did a couple of years ago was on end of life issues. Who would people talk to? Who would respect their wishes at the end.
All were happy….relieved, even…that someone was interested. Most were confused and lost, and 75% would not speak to their GP.
I spoke to GPS. 75% of them were unhappy to raise such a topic.
We can all intend to end well, but at the very last, we need help to do so.
Thanks for your thoughts Linda. I totally agree that we need help to finish well. Your research is a little alarming but not surprising. Hence my current research as I write my book on this subject. We owe it to ourselves and the next generations to become better at doing life well to the end.