In this ongoing series, LIFE IN FULL, we are writing to Baby Boomers (those of us in our 50s, 60s, and 70s) about how to maximize our Longevity and our Legacy. Find new episodes here every Tuesday and Thursday, and read the overview and catch up on earlier articles in this series by clicking here. 

It’s one thing for us Baby Boomers to try to project and plan our lives over the next 20 or 30 years, but its something else again to listen to 85 year olds look back and analyze what they did and didn’t do and what they wished they had done and what they wished they hadn’t done.

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We put together a focus group consisting of 15 octogenarians that we know well—people we like and look up to and admire. These are people whose lives have been rich and full, and still are! Yet as we spoke to them, each had regrets too, things they wished they had done differently, things they had not prioritized that they wished they had.

These great souls have all lived through the 20 years that we boomers are entering. And they all had a lot to say. Here is the question we put to them:

“As you look back over your last 20 years from your sixties to your eighties, what mattered most—what do you now feel was and is most important?”

Before we get to what their answers were, it is interesting to note what their answers were not.

None of them named money as most important—or even anything that money could directly buy. Absence from financial worry was important but only as a means to other ends.

None of them said travel or ease or luxury—at least not directly.

None of them mentioned status or recognition.

What they did mention—over and over—was:

“Relationships”
“Health”
“Faith”
“Freedom and Flexibility”
“Grandkids”
“Friends”
“Memories”
“Experiences”
“Giving Back”
“Legacy”
“Character”

They mentioned many other things of course, but they seemed to agree on this list. The interesting thing was that each one of these 85 year-olds put these essentials in a different order, a different configuration. It seemed that the same things mattered to all of them, but they each had their own formula for them—their own elements or ingredients for them all.

After our dialogue with these Octogenarians, we were even more convinced that we Boomers, as we enter this autumn life phase, need a priority and paradigm shift. But we also began to understand that each individual needs his or her own unique design for each of the things that matter.

It caused us to think that we should begin a conscious, deliberate focus on these “things that really matter” right NOW, as we begin to contemplate retirement.

One way to do this is to simply create a set of “folders”—a place to collect the ideas and ambitions and insights that matter for you as a unique individual with a unique family. The folders can be the old school manila type, or it can be a set of files in the documents section of your computer. Here are the files we are working on:

  • “Possibilities Folder”
  • “Character Folder”
  • “Health Folder”
  • “Wealth Folder”
  • “Faith Folder”
  • “Family and Relationships Folder”
  • “Grandkids Folder”
  • “Service and Legacy Folder”
  • “Autobiography Folder”

The idea is, as you approach the transition of retirement and begin to think about what you will do for the next 20 years, you begin to collect possibilities relating to the type of person you want to be, the things in your life that you want to prioritize, and the good ideas you come across that may help you implement your ideals.

Whatever method we choose, there is no question that being positive and proactive about the next 20 years can have a profound impact on how it all turns out!