Midlife is the most crucial time to concentrate your efforts in creating your best future life. Your behavior in midlife is directly related to how you will age. I’m developing a personal strategy map to help increase my healthspan – the time when I will be healthy and independent. The ultimate goal is to have a nearly equal healthspan to lifespan.
After age 50, “someday” is here.
When you’re busy raising kids and building a career, you don’t notice how quickly time is passing. You look up, and suddenly you’re in your sixth decade. All of your “gonna do’s” become more urgent. It’s time to get serious about your aging body.
What if I work hard and it’s all for naught? What if I have an accident and break my hip or discover I have cancer or Alzheimer’s? Research shows that people who were healthier before a health crisis generally have better outcomes than those who weren’t. Good practices in all key life areas will also contribute to your current well-being and happiness.
A Kaizen approach
The Japanese word “kaizen” describes continuous small improvements, change for the better, and is a daily process in the business world. A plan-do-check-act cycle can be applied to your personal life. You can:
- Measure performance in key life areas
- Understand how habits control your life
- Make consistent incremental improvements
As James Clear writes in Atomic Habits, “Without reflection, we can make excuses, create rationalizations, and lie to ourselves. We have no process for determining whether we are performing better or worse compared to yesterday.” Using these five perspectives, I’m creating systems and procedures to meet these goals in my own life and assess how I’m doing.
The Behavior Perspective encompasses many things, including stress-reducing activities like prayer and meditation. One of my friends told me her family was trying to eliminate negative comments to each other, which is quite a task for some people. The tricky part is getting your family to buy into the change you want to make. You need self-discipline to prevent others from sabotaging your efforts.
The Movement Perspective should include any activity or exercise that you like. I always hear that the best exercise is the one that you will actually do. Swimming is beneficial but I don’t like it so that’s not going to work for me. We can get by without much effort until midlife. After 50, you have to fight against natural declines in muscle mass, lung function, cardiovascular health, and every other body function. You must use muscles to get out of your chair.
- Meal planning
- Frequent grocery shopping for produce
- Using fresh food before it goes bad
- Nutrient-dense meals
The Food Perspective is the one most deserving of our attention. It’s almost impossible to eat well without meal planning. Not only do you have to meal plan, you then have to produce the meals. My least favorite question is “What’s for dinner?” These tasks should be at the top of your list for optimization.
- Nurturing relationships
- Lifelong learning
Research shows that loneliness is as bad as smoking in terms of its effect on health and well-being. Friends have a tendency to fade away if the relationships aren’t nurtured. Your friends and confidants should be people who are like-minded in their behavior. They don’t have to necessarily agree with your politics but you should agree to disagree and not argue. Travel and lifelong learning are good for the brain and the soul.
- Creating automated systems to free up time and energy
- Efficient spending
- Frugal shopping tactics
- Fine-tuning personal infrastructure
I am obsessed with automating tasks that I don’t want to take up all of my time. I have a finite amount of time and energy that I want to use on enhancing my life. I do not want to spend hours looking for lost items. If I’m spending discretionary income on travel and social activities, I want to save money on the necessities. My smart living systems definitely help.
Two clichés I keep in mind: Life is a work in progress, and nobody’s perfect. I can use my strategy map to reflect and review. My daily activities should conform to the plan, but there are going to be days when it doesn’t work. As long as I get back on track as soon as possible, I’m still on the right path to successful aging.