Why it’s never too late to start investing in your well-being.

Fulfilling encores, the 100-year life and healthy longevity! 

The short film clip homes in on Richard Branson as he starts sharing his experience of ageing; in a nutshell, he states that he doesn’t think about age as he doesn’t feel any different within himself than he did when he was younger. As viewers, we’re then treated to inspiring clips of many of the things Richard has done in his life up to and including his fulfilling encore stage (incl his recent space flight). Then right at the end of the clip, the film suddenly switches tempo. The camera slows down and focuses in on him. If you blink you’ll likely miss it. He goes on to share the most important and truthful words (in my opinion) of the whole film – that you need to look after yourself physically and mentally if you want to fulfil your ambitions and make the most of ageing into your fulfilling encore and that means putting in time, effort and prioritising yourself.*

As many of you may know, I’ve been focusing much of my time over the past couple of years working in and on midlife transitions (including my book). So much of the emphasis around living longer is on work and managing your money better – figuring out what you need materially for a comfortable (or not so comfortable) later life. The second big area of focus is around figuring out your purpose and passions followed by making sure your relationships are being nurtured. These elements are undoubtedly important to fulfilling encores but while living longer is an aspiration I believe we should absolutely have, living our best life while living longer is not going to happen if we don’t invest right now, and going forward, in our physical and mental health and not rely exclusively on the medical establishment to keep us going with the latest interventions, therapies, drugs etc on the market. And this area is rarely focused on and prioritised.

Avivah Wittenburg-Cox writes about life as four stages (rather than the traditional beginning, middle and end stages) with stages three and four representing the mid and final stages of life. Whereas much emphasis has been put on the first two stages over the past few decades, what is becoming clear is that the transitions in the third and forth stages are of equal importance! In order to truly flourish in these latter stages – our fulfilling encore phase – we need to engage actively in addressing our physical, mental and spiritual well-being.

This is not necessarily easy as our lives at this point can be incredibly busy with work and caring responsibilities (including younger and eldercare) taking up large amounts of our time not to mention the financial pressures many of us are under. And this stage is also often where we start increasingly facing many of life’s more difficult experiences like divorce, bereavement, and life-changing illness so looking after our physical and mental health can seem like an impossible task with all these competing requirements on us.

Much of my coaching work takes place in this space. Working with professionals in midlife to identify what they want from their lives as they work through a range of these transitions. But if we are to achieve the objective of healthy longevity there is an element of the long game. Burning ourselves out with massively demanding work and home commitments at the expense of our health and well-being will not set us up for a healthy and productive fulfilling encore.

So what can we do about bringing our focus and commitment to moving our well-being up the list of ever-pressing daily priorities? Start small. What one small thing can you commit to? It could be committing to a form of exercise and/or eating more healthily. Or if that feels too big a step, it could be as simple as a walk a few times a week and adding some offline/digital detox time in the diary along with potentially some well-targeted supplements.

From my own perspective, as I shifted into my fulfilling encore, I was very burned out leaving organisational life and literally started with walking and the occasional swim. Five years later, I have stuck with the walking but have added other forms of exercise depending on the time of year as well as a regular sports massage and of course (see last month’s blog) my mindful self-compassion practice which helps from both a mental and spiritual well-being perspective. As well as giving our diet an overhaul (not easy with a fussy eater teenager in the house) and boosting our well-being with some targeted supplements as well as factoring in regular breaks (not necessarily holidays but breaks where we can switch off and reboot). And finally ensuring we do make all my regular health checkups and screenings.

I still feel that I don’t have time pretty much on a daily basis as the demands of running several businesses, a youngish family and eldercare weigh on me. As these thoughts push through, I remind myself that not only do I feel the benefits now of the actions I take but I will feel them down the line well into what I plan to be a long-lasting fulfilling encore!

If we are to make the most of our 100-year lives, we really need to ensure we invest in our physical and mental well-being now in order to make the most of the extra time we may be given. This means moving ourselves up the list of priorities. 

*55/Redefined – the event where this film was shown.

NB Note of caution, I know walking meetings are very fashionable as are listening to podcasts while exercising. I would strongly encourage creating some space to just be. It’s amazing how that can impact you. And if you don’t manage to carry out your commitment don’t give up, go back to it and pick it up again with a clean slate.

To learn more about my work with organisations and individuals, you can email me at rebecca@wisesherpa.co.uk. or fill in the contact form on this site. 

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