Give It Up For
People of Fort Bragg, CA and the Field of Dreams
People of Fort Bragg, CA and Tsunami Relief efforts.
10 Lessons for Living from the Wisest Americans
A. Pillemer, Ph.D.
of Human Development, Cornell University
- Choose a career for the
intrinsic rewards, not the financial ones.
Although many grew up in poverty, the elders believe
that 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.
- 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. The elders have seen the
devastation that a bad lifestyle causes in the last
decades of life -- act now to prevent it.
- Say "Yes" to
opportunities: When offered a new opportunity or
challenge, you are much less likely to regret saying
yes and more likely to regret turning it down. They
suggest you take a risk and a leap of faith when
- 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 with
them. Said one respondent: "Don't rush in
without knowing each other deeply. That's very
dangerous, but people do it all the time."
- 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. As one elder told
me, "If you have to make a decision whether you
want to remodel your kitchen or take a trip -- well,
I say, choose the trip!"
- Say it now: People wind up
saying the sad words "it might have been"
by failing to express themselves before it's too
late. The only time you can share your deepest
feelings is while people are still alive. According
to an elder we spoke with: "If you have a
grudge against someone, why not make it right, now?
Make it right because there may not be another
opportunity, who knows? So do what you can do
- 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. The
older the respondent, the more likely they were to
say that life goes by astonishingly quickly. Said
one elder: "I wish I'd learned that in my
thirties instead of in my sixties!"
- Happiness is a choice, not a
condition: Happiness isn't a condition that
occurs when circumstances are perfect or nearly so.
Sooner or later you need to make a deliberate choice
to be happy in spite of challenges and difficulties.
One elder echoed almost all the others when she
said: "My single best piece of advice is to
take responsibility for your own happiness
throughout your life."
- Time spent worrying is time
wasted: Stop worrying. Or at least cut down.
It's a colossal waste of your precious lifetime.
Indeed, one of the major regrets expressed by the
elders was time wasted worrying about things that
- 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.