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Keep on Peaking!

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by Denis Wuestman

What does reaching your “peak” in life mean? A recent article in Business Insider (March 16, 2017) [i]shared some interesting information relating to this topic that got me thinking. In short, the article said that human beings continue to peak well into their middle and older ages. Whew – that’s good!

There are many examples of this in our world today from the guy in my local super market who at the age of 75 is working to push carts around the parking lot to some notable celebrities such as the Rolling Stones and Tony Bennett.  They don’t just peak – they peak and re-peak!

According to the article, while humans certainly peak physically when they are younger, older people tend to be more psychologically stable. It goes on to highlight some of the “peaks” we can look forward to as we age.

  • Arithmetic (age 50)
  • Understanding other people’s emotions (age 51)
  • Life Satisfaction (age 23 AND age 69) – more on that below
  • Vocabulary (age 71)
  • Happiness with our bodies (age 74)
  • Psychological well being (age 82)

(Ok – here is the test on the math and vocabulary abilities– re-take the SATs and see how you do!)

Life Satisfaction

When it comes to Life Satisfaction – the article points out that we peak at age 23 and again at age 69 and there are links in the article highlighting studies on this.   Life satisfaction at age 23 made sense to me as that is generally a time when adult life is really just starting to kick in for many. College completed or career well underway, relationships becoming more meaningful and pretty much feeling that you can do anything.

So what’s this “peak again” about 46 year later? Why not? In fact, I was a little surprised that it took 46 years. The article also points out that: “. …people over 60 had better life satisfaction than people 55 and up predicted they would feel five years down the line.” So, many who reach age 55 are not thinking they would feel so satisfied – but once over 60 that feeling improves. Interesting…

And the Answer Is….

Why does our Life Satisfaction peak again in as we approach 70? Perhaps it’s as simple as – “because we find fulfillment and satisfaction in our present”.   The guy working in the local super market was physically able to do the work and enjoyed being with younger people. He got personal fulfillment from his time there. The Stones – well they wrote “Satisfaction” and Tony Bennett has blended his music with art to hit yet another peak. Medical advances have us living longer. Opportunities to continue to learn and grow are available to us. Surrounding ourselves with good friends certainly help.

But most likely, it is what is inside our hearts and minds that help us peak in life satisfaction as we age. In the book “The New Retirement” [ii] Dr. Richard Johnson PhD talks about life satisfaction as living life in the present and finding our current life fulfilling.  Our outlook on life is important as we age and the qualities of optimism, flexibility and curiosity support our personal drive and can lead to a more fulfilling life. Sure – there are things beyond our control that affect our lives and may cause us to experience some ‘valleys’. Climbing up to the next peak, fueled by our outlook, is part of the excitement we get when we reach that new destination.

I am personally reminded of the ability to continue to peak when I meet people that embrace the present and continue to pursue meaningful activities in their lives.   Central to all their success is their outlook on life.   Their optimism is contagious in many ways and they do not accept the notion of “past their prime”. Sure – there can be limitations, but their outlook takes those limitations for what they are and then creates ways to get to the next peak   We can keep peaking – it’s up to us. If you get stuck – get a partner to think through the obstacle. Enjoy the journey!

 

[i] “Here are the ages you peak at everything throughout life” (March 16, 2017, Weller & Gould, Business Insider)

[ii] Johnson, Richard, J PhD (2001), The New Retirement – Discovering Your Dream, Career Partners International

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