Secrets to a successful life

What do America’s elder citizens say about living a happy, healthy, and successful life? A Cornell University professor, Karl Pillemer, asked hundreds of seniors and gives their advice in his book 30 Lessons for Living: Tried and True Advice from the Wisest Americans.

•  Take risks to avoid regret. People in their 70s, 80s, 90s, and beyond endorse taking risks when you’re young, contrary to a stereotype that elders are conservative. They say that you are much more likely to regret what you didn’t do than what you did. Say yes to opportunities.

•  Make the most of a bad job. Pillemer said, “Remember that many of these folks who grew up in the Great Depression had bad jobs early on—in fact, their bad jobs make our bad jobs look like good jobs! They found, however, that they learned invaluable lessons from these less-than-ideal work situations. You can learn how the industry works, about communicating with other employees, and about customer service.

•  Choose excitement over money. Choose a career for its basic value rather than how much money you will make. Our elders are keenly aware of how short life is, and they think it’s a mistake to waste precious time in work you don’t like. According to our elders, you need to be able to get up in the morning excited about work, so choose your career with that in mind.

•  Regrets? Embrace travel, especially when you are young.

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