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The Three Keys to Longevity

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Living longer through purpose, optimism, and resiliency

Robert and I treated ourselves to the luxury of seven days at Canyon Ranch in Tucson, Arizona. As their brochures say, “Canyon Ranch is dedicated to ‘revitalizing your spirit and leading a healthier, more fulfilled life.’” We can all use a little of that.

Canyon Ranch offers spa services, yoga and exercise classes, lectures, and delicious, healthy food. There was a lecture I read about that I especially wanted to attend called “Living Younger Longer,” something else we women could all use.

At 7:30 in the morning, I walked into the lecture room with my coffee and healthy bran-and-oat muffin and met the speaker, Michael Hewitt, a PhD and expert in health-and-exercise physiology. In his talk, Michael explained that in a study done of people who are 100 years old or older, there were three traits that they attributed to a long life.

Those traits are:

1. Purpose

They have the sense of being of value—to themselves and others.

A sense of purpose is the core reason why you want to reach your financial dream. It is something bigger than you and bigger than the money. Your purpose drives you to keep going, no matter what.

2. Optimism

They have a bright and positive outlook on life.

Optimistic people tend to have a strong sense of well-being and confidence. It’s been said that pessimistic people tend to be more accurate, but optimistic people live longer. That certainly was true in this centenarian study.

That is why my sister, Wendy, will probably live to be 150. She came home after a week-long trip and walked into her house to see a sheet of water cascading down the wall in her living room. Where most people would become frantic—yelling and running around—she calmly assessed the situation and said, “I guess we need to call a plumber.” And then added, “That wall needed to be painted anyway.”

Another time, Wendy was visiting her daughter who works in Hanoi, Vietnam. Her first day there, she had a surprising medical emergency and was told that the Hanoi hospital was not equipped for what she needed and that she must fly to Bangkok. She and her daughter flew to Thailand and received the treatment there. It was an incredible ordeal. When she told me about it over the phone, it was clear that she never panicked or was ever distressed. She simply did what she needed to do.

After she got out of the hospital, I asked her how she had managed it. She replied, “Well, I figured I had never been to Bangkok before so we checked into the Four Seasons Hotel, had a martini, and the next day we toured the city. It was wonderful!”

Yes, Wendy will live a long life.

3. Resiliency

They possess the ability to recover from a setback.

Resiliency is how quickly you can deal with, and bounce back from, adversity. Of the three traits, this is the one that I believe determines which people will see success instead of failure.

Donald Trump told me that the determinant to whether a person will succeed in business depends upon how she responds in tough times. Does she curl up in the fetal position, resolved to a life of failure? Or does she dust herself off, smile wisely, and get back to work, smarter from the experience?

Maya Angelou, a civil-rights activist, writer, and dancer, said it quite succinctly: “I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life’s a bitch. You’ve got to go out there and kick ass.”

These three traits would benefit all of us in all areas of our life, including the journey to our financial dreams.

Original publish date: November 27, 2013

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