We’ve learned a lot about what
improves both the quality of our lives in our senior years as well as our
longevity. Healthy eating habits, exercise, and an optimistic attitude are
among the front-runners according to science.
Recently, I was fascinated to
discover yet another significant contributor to our current happiness and
future longevity: being conscientious.
Who would have thought? Research shows that being conscientious, as
in doing what’s right, along with a preference for order and being
achievement-oriented, can literally add years to our lives – not to mention being a great
foundation for success, which in turn fuels our happiness.
Doing What’s Right
Doing what’s right isn’t just about
following the law. It’s more about having discernment about what you know is
right for you.
I know I can’t eat sweets without
spiking my blood sugar, which in turn has all sorts of ill effects on my
health. So, indulging in that tempting big slice of chocolate ganache cake
isn’t right for me, but a small bite is.
Someone else may have no issue at all
with the cake but find that caffeinated drinks and beverages trigger anxiety.
Double expresso shots aren’t right for that person, even with all the added
mocha-soy-latte ingredients. A decaf works just fine.
“Know thyself” isn’t a worn-out
truism; it’s a life-saving reminder. Take the time and have the patience to
sort out what’s right for you and what isn’t, then adjust your habits and
behaviors to get the most out of your life.
It’s different for everyone: some of
us are morning songbirds, others are night owls. Some of us are homebodies;
others thrive on crowds. There’s no right or wrong. Determine what contributes
to your health, happiness, and longevity and what doesn’t.
Respect what works for you, and don’t
allow yourself to be swayed by others’ opinions. Just because your sister
swears by early mornings doesn’t mean you need to get with her program. If it
works for you, fine, if not, don’t.
Preference for Order
You wouldn’t think that a preference
for order has anything to do with longevity, but if you think about it, it’s
common sense. If you keep your home, your paperwork/inbox, and your belongings
in order, it’s easier to find things when you need them. Thus, less stress.
Anything that diminishes stress in
our lives promotes better health and longevity. For example, keeping a calendar
of scheduled events isn’t just for business-people; it’s a smart tool for all
When you don’t have to expend time or
effort racking your brains for “when is that appointment?” you incur less
stress. Much of the recent emphasis on de-cluttering has to do with
re-establishing order in our lives.
It’s easier to enjoy and appreciate (much
less clean) 10 essential items in your kitchen cupboard than 50, most of which
you haven’t used in years and some of which you’ve shoved so far to the back,
you hardly remember what they’re good for.
Being achievement oriented, well,
that’s obvious. If you have something you’re working towards, you keep your
brain active, which in turn does all sorts of good things for your body.
It doesn’t matter if it’s growing
tomatoes or researching a cure for cancer. Having goals, big or small, keeps
you looking forward, motivated, and life affirming.
Imagine if Doris Jones had retired from her career as an
editor – which no doubt required her to be conscientious – and left it at that.
Instead, at 90, Doris joined a host
of “citizen archeologists” who examine pictures of Earth sent from satellites
ringing the globe to find possible archeological sites for scientists to
The project, GlobalXplorer, has already helped locate 17 potential pyramids, 3,100 settlements, and 1,000 lost tombs in Egypt alone. Doris’ virtual archeological adventure keeps her productive, her mind sharp, and has that extra edge of excitement that comes when she succeeds in finding a useful site.
Her conscientiousness – doing the right
thing for her, preferring order (she couldn’t examine those thousands of
satellite tiles otherwise), and being geared toward achievement – works to give
her joy in the present and potentially adds yet more years to an already
satisfyingly long life.
You don’t have to be born
conscientious. Make an effort to figure out what’s right for you, establish
order in your home and affairs, and find something that wakes in you a desire
to achieve. You’ll soon be enjoying greater happiness, and in all likelihood,
What are some of your achievement goals and what are you doing to
reaching those goals? As you’ve gotten older, have you become more
conscientious about doing what’s right for yourself? Are you more (or less)
organized now than you were when you were younger? Please share with our
community and let’s have a conversation!