“To be productive and contributing to society when I am 110 years old” is my reply when I am asked what my long-term goals are.
What might surprise you is that you too could have and achieve what appears to be an audacious goal.
For ease of navigation, to allow you to jump to the parts that interest you, here is a hyperlinked content list.
B A C K G R O U N D
Goals are a Problem
Time-Optimized-Living is a Solution
D I S C U S S I O N
The Question of Horizon – Subjectivity Alert!
The Answers for Horizon – The Maximum Lower Limit is Key
Why not 100? Why not 150? Why not 80?
My Problem with Your 80
Caveats and Sympathy
Stars and the Moon
Self-fulfilling Prophecies – The YOLO Bullshit
Self-fulfilling Prophecies going the Right Way
I am OK with Dying Tomorrow
Why I am OK with You Dying Tomorrow
You have been Enjoying Too Much
You or My Planet? I choose My Planet!
F I N A L T A K E A W A Y
Simple near-zero effort tweak
Goals are a Problem [top]
There are many things we know about goals, goal-setting, and goal-achievement. One of them is that, as humans, we are not naturally great at them! Plants and other animals are far better at it – mostly because they don’t think ‘rationally’ – they just go with what nature programmed them to do both in terms of ‘knowing’ what their goals are and achieving them. Humans might come in the way of the survival of other animals and plants (deforestation, animal agriculture, fish farming, fossil fuel burning to name a few) but, unlike other animals and plants, even when we are left alone, we don’t do ourselves too many favours for a long, joyful, pain-free life. So how do we go about not allowing our supposedly higher intelligence make our lives worse when they could better?
Time-Optimized-Living is the Solution [top]
When I spoke 2½ years ago about Time-Optimized-Living the key takeaways were:
- If your focus is on work-life-balance then you might be missing out on something bigger (read)
- It is better to focus on Time-Optimized-Living with ‘lifetime’ as the horizon for optimizing your lifestyle and family-life plans
- Then your focus will automatically encompass work-life-balance and not be replaced by work-life balance focus
- Many practical tips exist for, for example, financial matters and anticipated medical treatment costs that are easy to implement and help with executing the solution to the grander optimization problem (read)
The Question of Horizon – Subjectivity Alert! [top]
Having identified that the time horizon for the optimization was important to set right, and that the horizon to use does not have an objective measure (e.g. 1 week or 10 years) but one that is subjective i.e. ‘lifetime’, the question that you are then posed with is “how should I define ‘lifetime’?”
Read: Ageing and Time Travel
The Answers for Horizon – The Maximum Lower Limit is Key [top]
Ask a child, and they think 25 years is a long time. In fact, for them, a 25-year old and a 45-year old are not very different.
Ask a 25-year old, and to them a 50-year old is old!
When I was 40, the idea of being fit at 80 was what was effectively setting a horizon. Not because I did not think about life beyond 80, but in order to set a target for good health, one also needs a timeline coordinate.
Today, at 50, I know that “to be productive and contributing to society when I am 110 years old” is not me saying that that is what my upper limit on life expectancy is. It is just about me setting a lower limit for the numerical value for my desired Healthspan. So, it does not mean I do not want to be socially productive at the age of 115.
Read: Coding @ 50
Why 110? [top]
In in the middle of a conversation about life goals an extremely intelligent school friend stopped me partway through a sentence to ask “Wait, did you say 110?”. When I said “Yes”, and explained why, he replied that he’d thought his life would only be until he was 75. I can understand why, at 50, he felt that, but I also realized how that kind of thinking was severely flawed, even for him.
A few weeks later he sent me a message saying how my statement and my detailed explanation of the thought process behind it made him rethink large parts of his own future life. For a start, he too was now planning to live beyond 100 not just to 75.
At a sadder end, when someone is informed that they have a serious disease giving them only a few months more to live, they change their priorities of how they will spend their time (and money).
So, clearly, changing the maximum limit for the horizon of decision making does have an impact on a whole bunch of life decisions.
Why 110 and not 100? Why not 150? Why not 80? [top]
Sometimes I am asked, “Why 110? Why not 100?” I have a short joke I reply with but the important takeaway for you today is that “the specific number does not matter”. What matters is that it is long enough away to make you live well today so that when you are at that point very very very far into the distant future you do not regret what you did today, this week, this month and this year.
Having said that, with approximately 123 years being the longest human lifespan recorded, to aim for 150 years sounds absurd. If you are going to make up a random number, at least allow it to be based on the original design nature programmed into you.
What is equally absurd is statements that relatively healthy 40-55-year olds often make – “I don’t want to live beyond 80”. It is absurd because I have never met an 80-year old who is in good physical, mental and emotional health and still wants to die at 80.
My Problem with Your 80 [top]
Caveats and Sympathy [top]
There is a tiny minority who live life beautifully for themselves so as to reach 110 while treading softly on our planet. It happens that, every once in a while, suddenly one of them is faced with a life-threatening condition or caught in a terrible accident that leaves them unable to live their lives like they used to. I hope I can help them whenever our paths cross. The next few paragraphs are not addressed to them.
For the rest of us…
Stars and the Moon [top]
When Olympic stars train to compete in the 100m sprint race, they do not train with running 100m, they do a distance of 110m. And, though the rest of us may run less than 42km when training for a full marathon, the elite Kenyans will run 50km as their long run in order to race for 42km.
Clearly, if you don’t aim for the stars, you will not even make it to the moon!
Self-fulfilling Prophecies gone Wrong – The YOLO Bullshit [top]
The phrase “you only live once” is ridiculous. I don’t live only once. It is dying that we all actually do only once. I know I live many times, every single day, and I enjoy every bit of it.
Every time you hear someone say “life is short, enjoy it like crazy, anyway you’ll die” you know they haven’t really thought at all deeply about their own words. What they call “enjoy” ends up making it true that their “life is short”. That is “crazy”. A self-fulfilling prophecy.
Those who live only for today are caught in a terrible lie they tell themselves daily. They say ‘enjoy a lot and then die’. I agree that it is good to be ‘enjoying a lot’. And we will all ‘die’. However, the implicit lie they tell themselves and propagate is that the time-gap between enjoying a lot and dying is zero.
They try hard to convince themselves that their lie is the truth. They are wilfully blind to the fact that they will not ‘enjoy a lot and then (suddenly) die’. In fact, they will be lucky if they suddenly die.
What is almost guaranteed is many years of very-little-enjoyment!
The vast majority who live only for the pleasures of today are very likely to face many years of physical, mental and emotional pain. And when such individuals are in such pain, spiritual health is likely to be zero if not negative!
Although it is not impossible to reverse many things with a change in your lifestyle even when you are older, there is only so much reversal that can be engineered that way.
Self-fulfilling Prophecies going the Right Way [top]
If you want success but do not work towards it every day, then you will never have it.
If you do make a deliberate effort towards it every day, you increase the likelihood of getting there.
You will die only once, and you live not just once but many times. Every day could include joyful effort in many ways that are directed towards that large number – whether it is 100, 110 or 120. This daily mantra “To be productive and contributing to society when I am 110 years old” can be realized if I have internalized it into every hour of my life. When I am awake. And equally importantly, when I am asleep.
Your daily effort is what will make it a prophecy that comes true!
I am OK with Dying Tomorrow [top]
The listener is perplexed when I say that I am very OK with dying tomorrow (preferably run over by a speeding bus please). There is no paradox. Dying tomorrow is not my preferred option. On the other hand, I don’t see any specific reason why I must live to contribute to society at 110. But, of course, I still do want to. To live each day now so that I live to be socially productive at 110.
Read: I am NOT a fitness freak
Why I am OK with You Dying Tomorrow [top]
I get looks of horror when I also say that “I am OK with you dying tomorrow” Again, it may not be my preferred option (see below) but if it does happen, it is not going to leave me traumatized.
So, why might I be very OK with you dying tomorrow?
You have been Enjoying Too Much [top]
To avoid the self-fulfilling prophecy going wrong, to save you the agony of a long life between ‘enjoying a lot’ and ‘dying’ I am OK with you dying tomorrow to ensure that your lie to yourself becomes the truth. I warn you though – the sickcare system (what most people around you incorrectly call the healthcare system) will do its damndest best to keep you alive and sick. Remember – for them, there is no money in you being healthy or dead – you are repeat customer only if you are alive and sick.
You or My Planet? I choose My Planet! [top]
If you are someone who does not act to improve the state of the planet. If you think everyone else out there is doing their bit, so it’s OK if you don’t, then, I would love it if you died tomorrow. And, of course, you won’t mind that. You have been “enjoying a lot” haven’t you? So, it will be good to reduce your footprint on the planet.
Simple near-zero effort tweak [top]
It is an observation, if not a law of the universe, that you get what you deserve and you reap as you sow. Don’t focus on your life ending as early as your 70s or 80s. Instead, focus your daily life on living well to a very, very, very ripe old age. If you get your thinking right, the action will follow. And only that can generate results.
The alternative will suck, I guarantee you. (Read: Balance is True Mastery)
As always, I hope you found this note useful. If you did, please share it with your family and friends.
Dr Purnendu Nath spends his waking hours focusing on helping individuals and organizations reach their goals, to make the world a better place. He speaks, writes and advises on topics such as finance, investment management, discipline, education, self-improvement, exercise, nutrition, health and fitness, leadership and parenting.