I feel alive gazing at a full moon, listening to crickets on a late summer evening, watching hummingbirds, tasting my first cup of coffee in the morning. I like the challenge of nurturing a plant until it flowers, of talking to a newborn child, of taking my ever-enthusiastic dogs for a hike, of the romantic allure of traveling to faraway places.
Those are some of the experiences that represent feeling alive and vital to me. They represent what the French call “joie de vivre,” appreciation for the sheer joy of being alive. And the older I get, the more important this joie de vivre seems to be.
Partly, growing older requires us to deal with loss in one form or another. The flip side is that we gain a growing awareness about what we have acquired and earned from our experiences: Perseverance. Self-understanding. Resilience. Perspective. That we’re better able to separate out what is important from what isn’t. That we are better able to take things in stride without getting knocked off-balance so easily.
As we get older, we know things we didn’t know in earlier years. We know that bad times are going to pass (we’ve had a lot of experience with this, haven’t we?). We know that we are able to regulate our emotions better than we used to be able to do. We know that our relationships are vitally important for our well-being and sense of contentment. We know that luck plays an important and unexpected role in our lives—the fact that we met this person instead of that one, that we heard about this job opening rather than another one, took this path rather than the other one.
Our attitudes and perspective have shifted, partly because we have a sense of gratitude about what we have, what we have experienced, what we have accomplished and what we have had to overcome. Also, having something to look forward to counts a great deal in giving us an positive outlook for the future.
So permit me to ask. What is it that you look forward to? What are you still hungry for? What are your goals from here on out—things you still aspire to, places you want to visit, goals you’re interested in pursuing, relationships you want to enhance, skills you want to master? Whatever they are, don’t let them wither away or die. Go after attaining (or achieving) these goals. Perhaps more than anything else you can do, focusing on what you have to still look forward to will help you feel hopeful and optimistic about the future.
In addition, be more an active participant in your life and less an observer. (That means do more and watch less.) Also, put extra effort in maintaining healthy relationships with as many people as you can, including your spouse, children, grandchildren, family members, friends and coworkers—and don’t leave out your dog who has so richly earned your loyalty and affection.
Finally, pay attention on a daily basis for what gives you joie de vivre—the appreciation for being alive.
“Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!” ―Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.