Who wouldn't want wise counsel on:
- Finding the right mate and staying happily married for your whole life
- Raising children who turn-out well and enjoy your company
- Discovering work you love
- Growing older gracefully and without anxiety
- Avoiding major regrets
- Reaching the end of life with a sense of completeion and fulfillment
Isn't this the definition of a Happy, Healthy, Long Life?
If you received this post via email, click here to get to the web version for the links, the 30 Lessons video, & to please share your comments.
After I wrote my post about "Dirty Laundry, Toys, Books, Shoes, & Baby Equipment Everywhere! That's What Makes Me Happy - Lessons from the Grant Study & David Brooks' "The Life Reports II"', I heard from many readers, including Karl Pillemer, Ph.D., the head of the Legacy Project at Cornell University.
"Interestingly, a project has been going on for the past 6 years that systematically collects and shares the life wisdom of older people. The Cornell Legacy Project has collected and shared the lessons of over 1200 elders. There's a web site with archived lessons, and a book just published called "30 Lessons for Living." We can't have too many people working on this important issue! Here's the Legacy Project site: http://legacyproject.human.cornell.edu (The Healthy Librarian's advice to you): visit this site for a treasure trove of wisdom)
That was two weeks ago.
Late on Saturday afternoon, I literally ran into my public library before it closed to pick up some Mo Willems picture books to read over the internet to my grandson.
Before leaving the library, I took a quick look at the New Non-Fiction shelf. And there it was. 30 Lessons for Living. Tried and True Advice from the Wisest Americans, by Karl Pillemer.
"Was this the same book I received a comment about two week ago? " I wondered. I wasn't quite sure. I get a lot of email.
I grabbed it off the shelf--and I still can't put it down.
This book is a gem. A road map for living. A guidebook written by seasoned travelers.
I showed it to one of my wisest friends--the one I'd go to for advice. She couldn't put it down either--and she immediately ordered a copy from the library.
I'm sending copies to my 20- & 30-something kids--but please don't spoil the surprise!
It's exactly the book I wish I had in my twenties.
When David Brooks of the New York Times recently asked the over-70 set to send him their own "Life Reports" , many of them told him:
It's too bad we have to make our most important decisions in our 20's, at the age when we're least qualified to do so. (Healthy Librarian's comment: No way around this one. In our 20's we often choose our career paths and our mates--decide where we'll live & whether or not to have children. Crazy! If only we knew then, what we know now--hindsight is 20-20. It's the luck of the draw at age twenty--my advice is to seek counsel from people who are wise, happy, honest, self-aware, & successful--and I mean "successful" in the broadest sense of the word.)
What is the Cornell University Legacy Project?
The Legacy Project has systematically collected practical advice from over 1500 older Americans who have lived through extraordinary experiences and historical events. They offer tips on surviving and thriving despite the challenges we all encounter.
The project, which began in 2004, interviewed senior Americans across the U.S--folks of widely different educational, vocational, religious, economic, & religious backgrounds. But yet, looking back on their lives--many of them offer similar advice.
In seeking out elders to interview, Karl Pillemer asked individuals & organizations to recommend people over 65 who they considered to be particularly wise. His idea was to collect the wisdom of our elders before they were gone--and systematically harvest the advice they collectively share.
Think of it as the most useful & fascinating research project you'll read. A travel guide to a land called, "Life".
The project sought the wisdom of the Greatest Generation, those who have survived the most difficult of times--the Depression, job pressures, the Holocaust, challenging childhoods, World War II, prejudices of all kinds, illnesses, life's toughest challenges--and yet, went on to live rewarding & fulfilling lives.
Who is Karl Pillemer, Ph.D.?
The Legacy Project is the brain child of Karl Pillemer, who started it six years ago, when he turned fifty. And who could be more qualified to run this project? He's a professor of human development in the College of Human Ecology at Cornell University, and Professor of Gerontology in Medicine at the Weill Cornell Medical College. He's also a self-described, "self-help junkie"--who says that what he's learned from these interviews has changed his life.
Thirty Lessons for Living video Click here if you don't see the video on the screen)
I'll say it again.
This book is a gem--it feels just like having an intimate conversation with your closest friends or siblings--when you share your deepest concerns, worries, and secrets--and listen to their trusted advice.
Don't think for a moment that these refrigerator lists I've posted will teach you everything you can learn from these wise elders. Not by a long shot!
Borrow or buy the book and snuggle up in a comfy chair & just enjoy every morsel.
Side Note: I hardly slept last night, because this book made me think about my own journey, the choices I have made, and how my parents' lives have shaped many of those choices.
I was thirty years old with an infant, when at age 69, my wise & gentle dad had a massive global stroke--that he survived for 16 years. His illness impacted my entire family--especially my wise, kind, uncomplaining mom. Click here to learn more. My parents' lives taught me to:
- Act now like you will need your body for a hundred years
- Time is of the essence
- Say yes to opportunities
- Travel more
- Stay connected
- Happiness is a choice, not a condition
- Think small
- Say it now
Refrigerator Advice from the Wisest Americans
Lessons for a Happy Marriage - Great Together
(My wise friend's favorites--and my own, are in red)
1. Marry someone a lot like you. Similarity in core values & background is the key to a happy marriage. And forget about changing someone after marriage.
2. Friendship is as important as romantic love. Heart-thumping passion has to undergo a metamorphosis in lifelong relationships. Marry some for whom you feel deep friendship as well as love.
3. Don't keep score. Don't take the attitude that marriage must always be a fifty-fifty propostition; you can't get out exactly what you put in. The key to success is having both partners try to give more than they get out of the relationship. (Read the Generous Marriage in the NYT's December 8, 2011--and take the quick quiz to find out how generous you are. My husband & I both took the quiz--not surprised that the results were similar--although I think he's a lot more generous than I am.)
4. Talk to each other. Marriage to the strong, silent type can be deadly to a relationship. Long-term married partners are talkers (at least to one another, and about things that count.)
5. Don't just commit to your partner--commit to marriage itself. Make a commitment to the idea of marriage and take it seriously. There are enormous benefits to seeing the marriage as bigger than the immediate needs of each partner.
Lessons for a Successful & Fulfilling Career - Glad to Get Up in the Morning
1. Choose a career for the intrinsic rewards, not the financial ones. The biggest career mistake people make is selecting a profession based only on potential earnings. A sense of purpose and passion for one's work beats a bigger paycheck any day.
2. Don't give up on looking for a job that makes you happy. According to the experts, persistence is the key to finding a job you love. Don't give up easily.
3. Make the most of a bad job. If you find yourself in a less-than-ideal work situation, don't waste the experience; many experts learned invaluable lessons from a bad job.
4. Emotional intelligence trumps every other kind. Develop your interpersonal skills if you want to succeed in the workplace. Even people in the most technical professions have their careers torpedoed if they lack emotional intelligence.
5. Everyone needs autonomy. Career satisfaction is often dependent on how much autonomy your have on the job. Look for the freedom to make decisions and move in directions that interest you, without too much control from the top.
Lessons for a Lifetime of Parenting - Nobody's Perfect
1. It's all about time. Sacrifice if necessary to spend the maximum amount of time possible with your children. You and your children need to be together in the flow of daily household life and not just during planned "quality time". (Read the story of my own family's shorter work week and how we had more time for the kids)
2. It's normal to have favorites, but never show it. Accept that you may have favorites among your children, but do not ever let them know.
3. Don't hit your kids. Discipline your children in a loving, respecful way that excludes physical punishment (no matter how tempting it may be in the short term.)
4. Avoid a rift at all costs. Do everything necessary to avoid a permanent rift with a child--even if it requires compromise on a parent's part.
5. Take a lifelong view of relationships with children. Parenthood goes on long after kids leave home, so make decisions when they are young that will lead to positive relationships in the second half of life.
Lessons for Aging Fearlessly and Well - Find the Magic
1. Being old is much better than you think. Don't waste your time worrying about getting old. It can be a time of opportunity, adventure, and growth. See it as a quest, not an end.
2. Act now like you will need your body for a hundred years. Stop using "I don't care how long I live" as an excuse for bad health habits. Behaviors like smoking, poor eating habits, and inactivity are less likely to kill you than to sentence you to years or decades of chronic disease. Think walkers, wheelchairs, nursing homes, incontinence, dementia, oxygen, social isolation, and years of dependence.
3. Don't worry about dying--the experts don't. Don't spend a lot of time fretting about your own mortality. What the experts recommend is careful planning and organization for the end of life.
4. Stay connected. Take seriously the threat of social isolation in middle age and beyond, and make conscious efforts beginning in middle age to stay connected through new learning opportunities and relationships.
5. Plan ahead about where you will live (and your parents too). Don't let fears and prejudices deter you or your older relatives from considering a move to a senior living community. Such a move often opens up opportunities for better living, rather than limiting them.
Lessons for Living a Life without Regrets - I Can Look Everyone in the Eye
1. Always be honest. Avoid acts of dishonesty, both big and small. Most people suffer from serious regret later in life if they have been less than "fair and square".
2. Say yes to opportunies. When offered a new opportunity or challenge, you are much less likely to regret saying yes and more likely to regret turning it down. (from David Brooks' Life Reports II: Lean toward risk. "Many more seniors regret the risks they didn’t take than regret the ones they did.")
3. Travel more. Travel while you can, sacrificing other things if necessary to do so. Most people look back on their travel adventures (big and small) as highlights of their lives and regret not having traveled more.
4. Choose a mate with extreme care. The key is not to rush the decision, taking all the time needed to get to know the prospective partner and to determine your compatibility over the long term.
5. Say it now. People wind up saying the sad words "it might have been" by failing to express themselves before it's too late. Don't believe the "ghost whispererer"--the only time you can share your deepest feelings is while people are still alive.
Sharing a secret: Go easy on yourself regarding the mistakes and bad choices you have made. A person with no second thoughts about anything he or she has done is probably someone who hasn't taken many chances in life--which is something worth regretting. Forgive youself. Be gentle with yourself.
Lessons for Living Like an Expert - Choose Happiness
1. Time is of the essence. Live as though life is short--because it is. The point is not to be depressed by this knowledge but to act on it, making sure to do important things now.
2. Happiness is a choice, not a condition. Happiness isn't a condition that occurs when circumstances are perfect or nearly so. Sooner of later you need to make a deliberate choice to be happy in spite of challenges and difficulties.
3. Time spent worrying is time wasted. Stop worrying. Or at least cut down. It's a colossal waste of your precious lifetime.
4. Think small. When it comes to making the most of your life, think small. Attune yourself to simple daily pleasures and learn to savor them now.
5. Have faith. A faith life promotes well-being, and being part of a religious community offers unique support during life crises. But how and what you worship s up to you.
Please share your own hard-won wisdom of hindsight & life experience.
I'd love to hear what the 20-somethings & the 80-somethings think of these 30 Lessons for Living. And everyone in-between.
And a big thank you to Karl Pillemer for dreaming up this project & sharing it with all of us!