A columnist in the New York Times (David Brooks) asked people aged over 70 to send in “Life Reports – essays about their own lives and what they’d done poorly and well”. He summarised what he got out of reading them and you can read their stories too.
The key messages for him were:
- Divide your life into chapters
- Beware ruminations (that is don’t over do self examination)
- You can’t control other people
- Lean towards risk
- Measure people by their growth rate, not by their talents
- Be aware of the generational bias
- Work within institutions or crafts, not outside them
- People get better at the art of living
I suspect the key messages Brooks identified reveal as much about himself as of the people who wrote their stories, but that’s OK.
To me the two most important messages from the stories I read were:
- The importance of relationships
- Focusing on what is important on in life.
I hope that when I look back from the other side of 70 that I will have maintained good relationships with family and friends, and that I will have contributed to making the world a better place.