Creative Eldering: Build Your Niche
~ By Susan L. Levy, D.C. ~
Have you ever considered your importance in the ways of the world? Perhaps it’s time to think about how your life thus far has contributed to the spectrum of human experience.
In the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” we were moved by seeing how the presence and genuinely undertaken efforts of George Bailey (played by Jimmie Stewart) affected the lives of many others. He had a potential alternate reality of not being born, and not accomplishing his goals and not meaningfully touching the lives of others. After a brief look at a world in which he didn’t exist, the character, George Bailey, quickly realized that the world was better off with him. You may remember the especially moving scene where George was able to save his younger brother Harry from drowning as a child. Harry went on to be a Navy pilot and military hero, saving a number of men, and ultimately being awarded the Medal of Honor. In scenes throughout the movie, Clarence, George’s guardian angel, showed George several other “miracles” of his Wonderful Life that came into fruition from George’s presence and his decisive actions.
I encourage you to take a few moments to reminisce and to analyze the positive impact that your life has had on others. Undoubtedly, your direct effect on other people in your community and your culture has been much more rich and full than you have imagined. For many of us, “leaving a mark” on humanity is enticing. This may be as simple as guiding a young child through a garden or a meadow, showing them butterflies and encouraging them to smell the fragrances of various flowers.
As we live out our senior years, we can reflect on the many experiences throughout our lifetime and ponder our most enjoyable moments. For most of us, acknowledging, remembering and savoring our attributes, our successes and kind acts may be enough. Doing this simple and pleasurable exercise will help us to define our current life’s purpose, or ikigai [pronounced EEK-EE-GUY], as it is called by the Okinawans of Japan. If you find yourself feeling like you might be a little “late to the game” when it comes to leaving your mark on the world or defining your legacy, remember that “Grandma Moses began her artistic career at the age of seventy-eight, Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote and published her popular Little House books in her sixties, and the world famous chef Julia Child didn’t launch her popular television show until she was fifty” (Your Aging Body Can Talk, page 13-14). You may also choose to gain more information and inspiration by reading pages 7-10, 12, 24, and 179 in my book, Your Aging Body Can Talk.
In order to build and manifest your own niche as a respected elder you can follow a few simple steps:
- Mindfully engage yourself in everything you do.
- Enrich your life by pursuing worthy goals that you may not have had time for in the past. Now is the time to declare your life’s passions and wholeheartedly pursue them.
- Determine how you can create a better world for future generations, and take action.
- Create depth in your relationships, new and old alike. This includes mending misunderstandings or hurtful episodes.
- Right your wrongs and be right with the world. (Ask for and gracefully receive forgiveness for mistakes, errors, and hurtful episodes that have occurred during your life.)
- Find more ways to contribute to the “greater good.”
- Actively move forward on your chosen spiritual path.
- Live in gratitude daily.
- Give and receive unconditional love unabashedly.
- Seek help from others whose wisdom you respect to become truly effective in actualizing these steps. (Your Aging Body Can Talk, 17)
I hope that this article inspires you to continue to live your best life possible and enjoy each new moment you encounter as a wise elder and important member of our community. May we each be the best person we can be and feel warmly content.