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10 things to do before you turn 50 -- Page 2

5. Treat a stranger to dinner
Let's say you've done pretty well in life, climbed the corporate ladder, made it to the top, love the view. Congratulations. Now what? Compassion for those who didn't catch the same breaks is a pretty good place to start the cool-down from your career marathon.

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Try this: The next time you dine out, look for someone who is alone, perhaps sad or troubled or less fortunate than yourself, and surreptitiously pay their waiter for their meal, anonymously. It might make a difference in their life and it will certainly make a difference, for the better, in yours.

6. Upgrade your vices
In the spin-cycle of youth, you wallowed in the shallow end when it came to pursuits of pleasure. You saw Rocky Horror 36 times, traveled with the Dead for a summer (you think), drank anything with an alcohol content and played Trivial Pursuit until your mind turned to cottage cheese. It was easy to waste time when you had so much of it.

Now you need to be a little more selective. Upgrade your vices. Read great books. See great movies. Drink better wines. Catch a live concert, philharmonic this time, now and then and spring for good seats. And spend more time with people who make you laugh. You've had the rest, now go only for the best.

7. Meet the folks
No one can give you a clearer forecast of what's in store for the second half of your life than your parents. If you haven't done so already, make a point to meet the folks on an adult level. As 50 approaches, chances are you are noticing lots in common with them that you can use to open the door to new mature relationships.

It will do wonders for all of you. Ask them about anything and everything they've experienced. You'll need all the gory details, especially the health-related ones, they sheltered you from in your younger days so you'll be able to age like a fine wine instead of a sour grape.

8. Scare yourself
One of the advantages of launching your second childhood now is that you've still got the muscle tone and mobility to truly push the envelope, get the adrenalin roaring and flash-test the old circuitry without winding up in the ER.

What's the scariest thing you always wanted to try? Glacier skiing? Skydiving? Spelunking? Karaoke? Don't just dream about it, get out there and give it a go. Great cocktail stories often involve overcoming fear. Let this be your best one.

9. Get spontaneous
Remember those habits we earlier said are buzz killers? Well, those small, comfortably predictable action sequences actually do serve a purpose. They help guide us subconsciously through our daily existence. Without them, we would spend most of every morning just getting out of the house.

That said, after 50, most of our habits start to turn against us, for good reason: We are no longer the same person who formed them all those years ago. How to kick the ones we no longer need? Get spontaneous, right now. Seek new experiences, new technologies, new points of view, new possibilities. Pursue your bliss and let it guide you to new habits that will serve you better down the stretch.

10. Laugh more
Native American folklore says that the first question we ask upon dying is, "Why was I so serious?"

Life today is full of reasons to scowl, frown, sputter and fume, but you know what? That's just plain defeatism and it only makes you look and feel old. Find things that make you laugh and surround yourself with them.

Set laughter goals: laughing to tears daily; falling-down, rolling, pants-wetting hilarity once a week perhaps. Laughter is your tether to youth, an instant facelift, and the purest appreciation for what a cool ride this really is.

Jay MacDonald is a contributing editor based in Mississippi.


-- Posted: Feb. 19, 2004




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