Should I Be Youthful or Useful?

December 7, 2021

Should I Be Youthful or Useful?

May 29, 2023

My friend Ken Dychtwald has been one of the leading thinkers on aging and retirement. His company AgeWave has published all kinds of insightful studies that are well worth your time.

Ken often makes the point that many Baby Boomers get so caught up in trying to feel youthful that they lose sight of the fact that feeling "useful" may be more important in living a well-lived life.

Not long ago, I was talking with a business colleague who was telling me how irrelevant he felt in the workplace and life. He was contemplating what he could do to make himself look younger as if the bodily fountain of youth would solve his problems. After listening patiently to his lamenting, I asked him, "How could you be more useful in the world? Who could use a little bit of your wisdom?" He was a bit flummoxed by this since our wisdom is more intangible than our wrinkles.

Ultimately, one of the most important questions we can ask ourselves is, "How can I serve?" It’s a question that takes on even greater meaning in midlife and beyond. It is a question that immediately creates a sense of generativity, defined as "the propensity and willingness to engage in acts that promote the wellbeing of younger generations as a way of ensuring the long-term survival of the species."

Unfortunately, the average American retiree watches 47+ hours of television a week, while less than a quarter has volunteered at all. In essence, many retirees replaced being employed with being a couch potato. So, if you have friends grousing about how they don’t feel youthful anymore, you might ask them a few questions like this to help redirect their attention and sense of impact in the world.

Go deeper with a workshop, in person or online.

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