Today is my 50th birthday. 50! Wow! It feels like a major milestone. You might be thinking, that’s really old… but I still might outlive you. Have I got a magic formula? A secret concoction of drugs? A patent pending on some new technology? Am I a religious zealot? No. But I will share the secret with you, right now, for nothing.
So, how long should we be expecting to live in the first place? It is predicted by the NHS, by 2030, UK life expectancy will have reached the late 80s. It’s also been predicted that today's children are likely to live to 120 and work until they're 100. Even if they do, I could still outlive them.
How come? Going by the NHS’s calculation, it would seem I have 30 years left. You might calculate that you have many more. Especially if you are younger, healthier and fitter than me. But I could still outlive you. It’s not about how busy, active, careful, rich, successful or well connected you are.
We need to look at things rather differently.
Most people exist on some form of auto-pilot - just going through the motions of getting up, going to work, coming home and sleeping - waiting for the weekend to have fun. In other words, people are driven by daily routines. Indeed, it has been calculated that most people are only truly conscious and engaged in their lives for two hours a day. The book ‘Mindfulness, Finding Peace in a Frantic World’ includes this calculation: ‘If you are thirty years old, then with a life expectancy of around eighty, you have fifty years left. But if you are only truly conscious and aware of every moment for perhaps two out of sixteen hours a day (which is not unreasonable), your life expectancy is only another six years and three months.’ On that basis, you’ll spend an awful lot longer staring at your TV, PC or smartphone than truly living.
So here’s how you massively increase your life expectancy.
You switch off the auto-pilot.
Here’s a few ideas I’ll be putting into practice in my 50th year:
- Practice meditation every day to train the brain to notice what’s actually happening in the present moment.
- Change my routine around on a regular basis: walk a different route with my dogs, use the other hand to drink and try something different for breakfast.
- Have a digital detox for a day every week.
- Talk to a stranger.
- Do a random act of kindness every month.
- Take up a new hobby: in my case fly fishing.
- Set myself a challenge: a diploma in cartooning
If you take actions like these, you’ll massively increase your life expectancy.
So then the question is: what are we going to do with our long lives?
Once more engaged with the world around you, many more possibilities will open up to you. You will be more curious, more alert, more able to seize the day. It will add dimensions to your life. This will not only give you a long life, but a deep one too.
Have a great 2016