Have you heard of The Legacy Project?
It was a study started in 2004 by Karl Pillemer, a professor of Human Ecology at Cornell University, and aimed to collect practical life advice from America's elders. Basically the research team posed the question “What are the most important lessons you have learned over the course of your life?” and received 1,500 responses. The compiled responses can be browsed on the website and have also been compiled in a book, "30 Lessons for Living: Tried and True Advice from the Wisest Americans".
The advice is split into categories, and the results are fascinating - mostly in their simplicity. The seniors who were interviewed didn't say that amassing a ton of wealth and owning lots of expensive designer clothes was the key to happiness. They said things like the following gems:
Surround yourself with people you love. It’s nice to have money and be able to live well, but loved ones are more important than possessions. (Malinda, 72)
Love life! Yes, just being alive to experience the joy, exultation, love of one’s wife/husband, the satisfaction of succeeding in a task set before you, the challenges you face and overcome, the social intercourse of friends and their imparting of knowledge you could never otherwise know. The wealth of memories. (Harry, 81)
Don’t give into every ache and pain and be thankful for every day that you have on this earth, and enjoy your family. You can’t change anything by thinking about it. Whatever is going to be is going to be, and your worrying and concerning yourself is not going to change it one little bit. (Frank, 88)
See a theme here? The same points come up throughout the results - enjoy life, slow down, appreciate the people who love you, do nice things for other people, don't waste your time on things and people you don't love, never give up, it's the time that counts, avoid regrets...
Most of the advice is related to things we know we should do but have trouble actually doing. Perhaps as we are going through life and making decisions, we should think about how we hope to be when we're a senior (if we aren't one already). When you are 80 years old and you look back on your life, what do you hope to be able to say about it, what do you hope to see? You want to look back and be proud of the life you lived right?
That's it, I have a new life philosophy - live your life so that when you're 80 you can look back and be proud...or something less awkward. You catch my drift?
Or you could always read this post by a palliative care nurse about the main regrets that people had on their deathbeds. Food for thought about what is really important in life in the end (hint: it's not that new Louis Vuitton purse).