Editor's note: Portions of this article are taken from the Eyres' forthcoming book "Life in Full," which will be published this fall.
If you are a member of the baby boomer generation (those born between 1945 and 1965), there are seven decisions you can make that no previous generation had access to at our age.
(If you are a member of the millennial generation or generation X, send this article to your parents.)
Because of our longer life spans, baby boomers have more opportunity than any previous generation to make these seven personal, destiny-determining decisions. We can leave all seven to chance and circumstance. But as boomers, we can also get proactive about it.
Here are some ways how:
1. Decide how long you want to live (because the number of years you want will likely be a factor in how many you have).
2. Decide who you want to spend those years with (because the people who matter most should get the most time).
3. Decide how you want to look and how you want to feel (because you have more control over both than you think you do).
4. Decide how much money you will need (because though it is not an end, it is a means).
5. Decide what you want to keep and what you want to start (because that will determine what you discard and what you stop).
6. Decide which God you believe in and which self you will be (because both will influence each of the other six decisions).
7. Decide what and, more importantly, who your legacy will be (because with that choice will come purpose and joy).
You may say that it is impossible to make these decisions and that even if you could, it is a waste of time since we have no real control over any of them.
We beg to differ.
Of course unexpected things happen, but thoughtfully and deliberately making these seven decisions increases the chances that you will get the outcomes you want. You have more control of your life now than ever before, and you can use what you have learned to make this part turn out like you want.
Think of your life as a mountain, steep and rocky and hard to climb on the side where you started, but which is now, from the summit, gently sloping and gradual on the downward side. View the horizontal as the measure of how far your life will take you. You covered some distance on your way up that rugged front side during the first two-thirds of your life, but the horizontal distance was nothing like the vast stretch now ahead of you on the long, gently sloping plateau that is your future. The way forward is smoother and easier and as fast as you want it to be. And the wind is at your back.
There are still obstacles ahead, and some will surprise us — a spouse with Alzheimer’s or a child who makes a bad choice on a major life decision. But we are better equipped now to deal with difficulty. And for most of us, there is still time.
Thinking this way is wonderful and optimistic, but it is also hard work. It is proactive, mental work that involves planning and thinking ahead. But now is the time to do it.
Earlier in life, many of our decisions were made out of necessity. Choices were made for us by circumstances and limited opportunity.
We have all said, “If only I knew then what I know now.” But now you do know, and if you are like most boomers, you still have a lot of time left. We have the rare and remarkable opportunity to freely make our own decisions and to determine how we want to live the rest of our lives.
But we need to remember that deciding is hard work — hard and creative work.
And as we do this kind of thinking, it is more important than ever to put family first.
People on their deathbed don't wish they'd spent more time with their business or golf game. It is family where most feel they should have spent more effort, more time, more thought.
During this golden time of life, we can work on our relationships, on our empty-nest parenting, on our grandparenting. And that is where we will find the most joy.
Richard and Linda Eyre are New York Times No. 1 best-selling authors and founders of JoySchools.com who speak worldwide on marriage and parenting. Their new books are "The Turning" and "Life in Full." Visit them at valuesparenting.com or TheEyres.com