10/06/2011 06:39 pm ET | Updated Dec 06, 2011

50+: Recommitting to the Rest of Your Life

You've made it past 50. You may have peaked in your career and are enjoying the fruits of those labors. Your kids have established their own lives, and your parents are still living their lives without your necessary support.

You can statistically expect about 30-plus more years to live. The time has come for you to reassess your options and decide where to put your energy. It's time to either just enjoy what you have already achieved, or think about using these last precious years to commit to a new journey.

If you're not planning to do the former, I'd like you to reconsider. Given the new research on aging, the happiest and healthiest older people choose the later. They treat the last third of their lives as a brand new challenge to remap their brains, open their hearts and embrace challenges they've never encountered before.

It may mean leaving unsolvable problems behind, letting go of situations that have no current rewards, and changing the way you live your life. It may also mean letting go of any barriers that could get in the way of your new purpose. Once your new dream unfolds, you will find countless ways to challenge those obstacles, and push beyond them.

Of course, as with any radical change, you will need to consider new resources as you choose your transformation. Though the following considerations are not meant to be a complete list, they offer a good beginning.

Socio-economic comfort:

You may be one of those people who still love what you do and continue to expand your knowledge and competencies with joy and commitment. If you no longer have to depend on predictable income, this may be the time to re-create what you do to give purpose and meaning to your life. You can do that by getting yourself retrained, and pursue innovations you might have not considered before. Or, you might want to pursue the many groups of people like yourself who are banding together with other talented colleagues who also want to do combine their resources to do something new together.

Physical health:

Young people can take a lot of physical abuse and regenerate relatively quickly. As you have probably painfully noticed, you don't get back to feeling great that readily anymore when you treat your body badly. Aging can make genetic abnormalities, congenital defects, and unpredictable health problems rob people of options, but people still have voluntary control over what they can do to preserve and embellish what they can.

As you get older, you can no longer afford to hurt your body and have it stay so forgiving. Whether you want to or not, you have to keep moving, eat well, and keep the toxicity ingestion at bay. If, in addition, you're pursuing those physical enjoyments that keep you passionate, your body will believe that you are sincere and help you to regenerate and rejuvenate. If you can believe in new possibilities, you can leave the demons of addiction, exhaustion, and hopelessness behind and use the power they demand in service of your new dreams.

Emotional serenity:

Unresolved conflicts, prejudices, anxiety, depression, vendettas, bitterness, martyrdom, outrage, and feelings of powerlessness are the enemies of joy. They are energy drains that will kill your hope and sap your desires. Without realizing it, you may have fallen prey to those dysfunctional and damaging emotional states. Please remember that aging lessens your ability to rebound emotionally. These negative feelings can eat your life up at a furious rate. If you want to thrive in your later years, you must reach for emotions that regenerate and rejuvenate.

Mental Alertness:

Regardless of age-related cognitive depletions, professionals agree that keeping your mind active and challenged will help. It is not enough to just keep doing things as you always have. Research now shows that the brain becomes more efficient when new challenges force it to re-map itself. If you hold onto rigid patterns, no matter how comfortable they may be, your brain will become lazy and resist more productive neuronal pathways.


You may remember when you realized that your life would end someday. For most of us, it happens around age four. With parental nurturing and comfort, you did not dwell on your concerns because there was so much of life to look forward to. Now, entering the last third of your life, those early fears re-emerge. When you were younger, you might have thought, "I can't wait for next Christmas." As the end of life comes closer, you may instead wonder how many more Christmases you have left. Illnesses, once tossed aside as temporary setbacks, can now feel like harbingers of more severe limitations.

To live life fully in the later years, you must dedicate yourself to feeling reborn each day. Whatever spiritual beliefs comfort and rejuvenate you, you must embrace them in a more meaningful way. Don't despair at the inevitable ending, but live each day as the amazing gift it has always been. Make every loss a greater reason to love what is still here, rather than to feel lessened by its occurrence. Spiritual beliefs are not to protect you from those fears, but to let you love what is possible in a more profound way.


Breathe each incoming breath as if you were smelling a rose. Breathe out as if you just had an orgasm. Enough said.

Your New Purpose

Your energy has lessened, but committing wholly and passionately to a new purpose will increase your reserves and make them more effective. When you become enlivened with passion about something you've never done before, you overcome energy-draining and find that many of your old attachments are no longer important. You'll give up relationships that have become stale, and obligations that no longer bring real joy. You will begin to pay attention to what you can do instead of what you cannot. You'll be more able to focus on what keeps you passionate and more alive. As a result, you will become a model for others, shining a light they can follow. Most important, you will feel so much in love with your life, that you will not notice the passing of time.