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Diana Nyad’s retirement lessons

By Jennie L. Phipps ·
Monday, September 9, 2013
Posted: 3 pm ET

I've been watching swimmer Diana Nyad and her amazing feat. At age 64, she swam 103 miles nonstop from Cuba to Florida without using a shark cage.

At an age when many of us are slowing down, Nyad achieved a goal she's been striving to accomplish for 35 years. In a video before her swim, she talked about growing older. Despite having set swimming records in her 20s that have never been broken, she said she struggled with fear of failure.

"I don't like being 60," she said. "I started grappling with this existential angst of what little I had done with my life. ... Who had I become? How had I spent my valuable time? How could this have gone by like lightening? ... Why didn't I do it better?"

And in another video about her reluctance to grow old, she said, "It's true that the clock seems to be ticking faster. Time seems to be running out. I want this swim not to just be an athletic record. I wanted it to be a lesson to my life that says, 'Be fully engaged, so awake and alert and alive every minute of every waking day.'"

It's a lesson that all of us on the cusp of retirement should think about.

As Nyad climbed out of the water, almost too exhausted to stand and leaned on a friend for support, she offered these three further insights that also could be applied to retirement planning.

"Never, ever give up." Our focus on life in our last decades should include not only making a commitment to creating financial stability, but also creating a plan that will keep our lives rich.

"You are never too old to chase your dreams." The odds are that most people who are nearing retirement age today will live well into their eighth decade. That gives us nearly 20 years to do something more meaningful than rocking on the porch.

"It looks like a solitary sport, but it's a team." Spouses, partners, friends, family and community are what make retirement worth living. Nurture your network and include them in your planning.

Not many of us can master long-distance swimming, but all of us can figure out how to live a life in our later years that has pleasure and meaning.

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