If you are to live a long and fruitful life you need a focus. A little structure and planning can help you reach your goal. Discover the 12 keys - action steps that focus on 3 areas of your life: your body, your mind, and your time.
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[00:04] Debra Jones: Welcome to OWN THE GREY, a podcast to dispel the notion that aging is undesirable and setting new positive attitudes. I'm Debra Jones, and I believe you can be vibrant and healthy throughout the best years of your life. Robert Fisher and Christina Scheffer like to call them themselves life veterans. Combined, they've survived life experience from cancer to divorce, military service, addiction recovery and more. Upon reflection of these challenges, they discovered that if we are to live a long and fruitful life, we need a focus. They realized that some structure and planning can help us reach our goal. So they created Living Better in the later years as a platform to share their combined wisdom and resources. They went on to develop a list of twelve keys action steps that focus on three areas of your life your body, your mind and your time. And they created their ultimate contingency plan for the inevitable, which they'll share with us later. I invited them both on to OWN THE GREY to share their twelve keys to Living Better. Robert and Christina welcome to OWN THE GREY, and happy New Year.
[01:31] Christine: Thank you. Happy New Year to you.
[01:33] Robert: It's great to be here.
[01:34] Debra Jones: You know, January would be the perfect time to start following the twelve keys, you know, once a month until next year. But you can start in whichever month you're listening to this, can't you? Is there an order to how you share these twelve keys with people?
[01:49] Robert: Yes, we did develop the twelve keys and provide them in a systematic format, each of which builds on the other. We start first of every year. In fact, today as we talk, we release key number one, which is planned for a great year, using Steven Covey's theories, if you will. I'll start with the end in mind. And then as you progress through these keys, throughout the twelve months of the year, the first of every month, we provide that next key which builds upon the latter and we kind of build on a strong body then a strong mind and making a contribution and then protecting yourself and then ending the year with an assessment to kind of build a continuous cycle, if you will. And then we progress through those things every year, over and over again over time, to slowly build this continuous improvement cycle.
[02:39] Christine: There's one key a month which is intended to create quite a bit of focus during that month on one thing. And in addition to the key, every Friday we release articles to the mailing list, articles that are linked to the key for that month. So there's quite a bit of reinforcement within every month.
[02:59] Debra Jones: So how did you come up with the twelve keys? Why twelve keys? And what's the importance of each key? What is the twelve keys about?
[03:09] Robert: Yeah, so maybe I'll pick up where this kind of evolved from. We created these throughout the COVID period. We, like many others, kind of isolated with opportunities to think a little differently, to look inward a little bit. And as we assessed during that COVID period, we were able to reflect on kind of something that was near and dear to both of us and that was sharing what is essential to a long and fruitful life. And we started to assemble that during those conversations, we evolved the framework and we actually several months into the pandemic, we grew very tired, very quickly of all of the woe is me that was occurring. Now, there's lots of reasons for people to be upset or challenged or emotionally stressed, but there was so much that was reinforcing the negativity and we looked at each other and said, how can we make a difference? How can we make change this to a positive? So we started something every month we called Robert's Roundup and it was just really pumping a little sunshine, apolitical, non religious, no world this and nothing negative. It was only find the positive in life and there's talk about building on those and send a very positive message. And from that articles, no monthly publication, we evolved these twelve keys and started to develop them.
[04:35] Debra Jones: So maybe we should get into what these twelve keys are.
[04:40] Robert: Sounds good.
[04:40] Christine: All right.
[04:41] Robert: Yeah. So the twelve keys are effectively twelve areas of a person's life that are essential to long and fruitful. If you think if you think about some person's life, if you do very little just status quo, your life is father Time fights against you. Every year, your life slowly goes down and capability and capacity and until at some point it ends. These twelve keys - twelve areas are designed to really kind of move that curve out, live a longer life and improve the quality of your life and every, every given year. So it's kind of, for those engineers that are listening, it's kind of the area under the curve, it grows, if you will, both the length and the quality. We built these in kind of a comprehensive collection and provide them in a systematic format. And what I mean by comprehensive is we've taken these twelve keys and each key in a particular topical area talks about some critical information that is essential for people to know. And then it shares best practices, some 20 to 35 things in each area that somebody can look down through and say, you know what, you could try this or try this or maybe that to make some change in your life that provides improvement. And then as those keys evolve from topic to topic to topic, each and every month, you build on that systematically throughout the year to build kind of a continuous improvement cycle.
[06:14] Christine: And I think the basic description and we'll go into them one by one, but the basic description is you begin the year by laying a plan. You end the year by assessing how well you did. We have tools for each of those. And then in the middle, you progress. First of all, it's kind of all about body. Get your body in what people call its best state so that you can be most productive. Then there's some sections about the mind optimizing use of your mind, and then some contingency like avoid the bad stuff. It's sort of the last section before.
[06:53] Robert: Assess your year to some degree. And for those listeners familiar with Mazda's hierarchy, it does kind of start that way. The foundational level of your body and physical health. Once you have that you have your capability, then you can grow your ability to do more, learning more, being more productive, making a contribution to others. And then finally, how do you protect it all, given that you built this strength up over time?
[07:18] Debra Jones: Really interesting. Yeah. So then the first one, and this is January's task for everybody. If you're listening to it in January, what would be the first one?
[07:30] Robert: Number one is planning to have a great year. And again, we tip our hats to Stephen Covey, who talks about starting with the end in mind. You know, life can just happen to you if you allow it to. But we're big fans of, you know, taking action. So we provide kind of a template for putting together the year's plan. And we talk about what is your vision long term, what's your mission, what principles do you really want to live by and kind of force you to kind of think through what's important to you. Then we highlight the twelve keys, twelve behavioral areas, and opportunities for best practice. And we suggest so we kind of take you through what goals and behaviors do you want to tweak or adjust this coming year to build upon those twelve areas? And then we provide a background for goals and objectives in areas like family partner, family, friends and colleagues, and then even wealth strategy. Think about how do you build what actions do you want to take and what goals and things you're trying to achieve this year that you would step back then and say at the end of the year, how did I do against those objectives and goals?
[08:36] Debra Jones: So I have a question then. So the first key takes your twelve keys for the topics, I guess, the things to consider. And is there any guidance as to how you help somebody decide what they want to accomplish within the year? Or is that left up to each individual to maybe focus on the things that are important to them? How does that work?
[09:02] Robert: Yeah, so each key is designed to give people lots of options. Christine mentioned earlier, baby steps. Some people are extremely going to change if they're well, practitioned in it. Other people struggle to make even minor changes that stick. So what we do in these keys and we develop again, some background information is kind of critical to the conversation. We provide an objective and then most importantly, this collection of best practices. And this is just collection. Again, we don't consider ourselves experts. We consider ourselves people who have paid attention over eleven decades, taken all those lessons and those topical and then collected them. And most of which we've trialed an error over time. Things that work for us and then things that don't work for us, but then it allows you to kind of work through those best practices and say, you know what, I've never done that. That's a new idea for me. Maybe I try that on, here's something that would work. And like many people, you'd say, that's an interesting idea, but there's no way I could do that type of thing. But it gives you ideas, opportunities to kind of make changes that can enhance your life in that particular area for the month.
[10:15] Christine: I think your question might be how do you set goals before you know what the content of each of the keys is? You're supposed to set the goals in January and at that time you don't have the content for all the twelve keys. If that's your question, then I would say there's an example, sort of a generic goal sheet that Robert has done in the past that is intended to give people some easy ideas of simple actionable, things that you can put next.
[10:45] Debra Jones: To each of those keys.
[10:47] Robert: And further, if you go to www.livingbetterinthelateryears.com, it gives so many of those ideas because once you put your email and you free, you get these keys every month, but you also have access to the previous years. And we enhance and evolve those keys every year to make them bigger, better, add more ideas, new best practices. As we discover and share those, you.
[11:12] Christine: Can go get them on the website. And there are also the supporting articles which are more bite sized but linked to the keys.
[11:20] Debra Jones: Those are your blog posts as well, that can help sort of round out the topic that you're talking about.
[11:26] Robert: We like to think that one of these keys, let's say just in the area of improved productivity, you may not be one to go out and buy four, five, six different books on management practices and productivity, but if you were going to invest 15 to 20 minutes in a year thinking about productivity, you would get this key at the beginning of the month, spend that 20 minutes reading this and come away with all the best ideas that are out there ideally and decide, am I going to make a change or not? So we tried to make this efficient for the end user. Again, we're not experts in these things, but we found these, share them, give somebody the opportunity to say, here's something I can do something with as efficiently as possible.
[12:11] Debra Jones: Got you. So what's key number two then?
[12:15] Christine: Key number two is sleep well. This one is near and dear to my heart. I think I've read everything that I've been able to get my hands on, on how to improve sleep. So we cover that pretty comprehensively. And additionally, we're very experienced with dealing with jet lag and that's slightly a nuanced skill set within the sleep well topic. So we cover that to some degree as well. The third one is enjoy healthy eating, which has lots of information and tips on how to do that, but how to make it really enjoyable. The key word here is enjoy healthy eating. So nothing about us is extreme or creates any variety of hardship, but we think this is critically important.
[13:04] Debra Jones: For sure, for sure. What's number four?
[13:07] Christine: Number four is stay fit and grow stronger. Also really important as we age, father Time takes its toll and if you don't push back then you'll lose everything you work to attain in life. It covers things that the current wisdom suggest are most important as you age. For example, strength training.
[13:30] Robert: Maybe I pick up number five, two through four, which Pristine just outlined, really focuses on the body kind of the physical foundation, right? So it provides you the ability to then make a contribution. And as I think about the next four keys, number five is learn more. In other words, grow your capability by learning new skills, new knowledge, new capabilities. And then six goes right into improved productivity that you have a healthy foundation. Now that you've expanded your capabilities, let's talk about your capacity to make a difference in this world and preferably a positive contribution. And then we expand upon that in the next step by growing emotional resilience. Now that you have the capability and the capacity to give, do you have enough emotional bandwidth to go in the day in, day out, hard work involved and making the world a little better place? Having built on that foundation, we kind of grow into making a contribution. And from learn more to building productivity to growing emotional bandwidth, ie. Resilience and then engaging positively with others again constructively. How do you go through relationships with individuals, with others, with teams and with society where constructive benefit and a win occurs from everybody involved?
[15:01] Debra Jones: Got you.
[15:02] Christine: And then the next three are a little bit about avoidance of the negatives. So you've built your body, you've built your mind, you're investing in relationships. Now you want to avoid some of the bad stuff. Number nine is prevent disease and illness, which I think we've all learned a lot about in the last couple of years. Number ten is avoid addiction. And this one's kind of interesting because it covers a variety of forms of addiction, including technology, which is probably top of mind for many of us nowadays. Eleven is Create peace of mind. It's the concept that risk is threats times vulnerabilities. So you can size up the threats that you might face in life, and it's good to identify them. You can't always eliminate them, but what you can do is reduce your vulnerability to threats so that one covers the different concepts. And also, of course, some tips and best practices for being ready for a variety of things that might occur.
[16:13] Debra Jones: And so then the last one, step twelve, which kind of rounds out the year or the twelve months? What would that be?
[16:21] Robert: Yes, Debra, as you recall, we started with a plan. So naturally, in any good continuous improvement approach, at the end, you have to assess how did it all go? And to be willing to take a look in the mirror and say, okay, I thought about doing this. Did I do it? I tempted to do this. Did I do it? How did it all go? We provide kind of a simple grade school approach to assessing those things and be able to take stock of how you did. I take a look at my own goals and assure my scores with folks online to say, here's how many A's I got, here's how many BS, how many CS, the occasional F, and then what the heck am I going to do about it? And it kind of sets the stage for the next twelve months. Right? Because you go right through the assessment today, January 1, a plan for the New year. Take those lessons learned from the assessment and then build upon those again, using all the information and the guidance and the opportunities articulated throughout each of the keys.
[17:26] Debra Jones: Yeah, it sounds really doable. And I imagine that just focusing on one key for the month can help us make the most progress. Do you have any tips that would make it even easier for us to achieve our monthly goals?
[17:40] Christine: One of the things we think is critical is we articulate baby steps.
[17:45] Robert: Yeah, baby steps. We like that concept because, again, change is daunting for many people, and there's volumes and volumes and volumes of books to talk about change and how to go do it. And the key message is, it's hard. A lot of people struggle to make those changes. So we like this baby steps concept because it doesn't have to be hard and it doesn't have to be something that you don't pick the most challenging thing necessary. Sometimes you just think, if I can make a change, however simple and however easy and however pleasant. And some of the baby steps we'll give you some examples of are things that actually say, hey, that was good, that was fun. It actually evolved in some way.
[18:28] Debra Jones: Yeah. Sometimes it feels like a mountain that we're climbing. And so if we can just take something and just make a tiny little step in the right direction and then maybe even another step if we're inspired or it worked really well, and cut yourself some slack for some of those things that you're maybe not accomplishing the way you imagined you might. So maybe take us through some real quick baby steps for each of those twelve keys.
[18:59] Robert: Key number one use the template and go through the questions that are provided on our website. What are the key principles you want to live by and or focus in this next year for sleep?
[19:11] Christine: Well, the first baby step is to actually prioritize sleep to keep your room temperature lower than you do during the day. Your core temperature needs to drop in order to sleep effectively, and one linked with that is sleep in comfortable socks. It's counterintuitive, but actually it helps draw down your core temperature. Enjoy healthy eating. Count how many different plant products you eat in a week and try to make that number as high as possible. Wheat products count as a plant food. Olive oil is a plant product, or every herb that you use is a different plant product. And why this matters is because diversity gives you a broader spectrum of nutrients and it also diversifies the toxins that you're taking in for stay fit and grow stronger. My suggested baby Step would be strength training work on strengthening those key muscle groups.
[20:14] Robert: And one of my favorites here is there's this notion that's always out there, that's kind of a victim notion of you can't teach an old dog new tricks.
[20:23] Debra Jones: Yeah, that's the point, isn't it?
[20:24] Robert: It's just to learn something new, jumping into improved productivity. One of the ones I love here in the Baby Steps is to be able to master your phone configuring. It such that it's easy to use, it focuses you on those things that actually add value to your life and keep you away from those things which are just natural distractors. It is just too easy to get washed based on where your phone takes you versus having that phone work for you and keep you away from the disruptions.
[20:58] Debra Jones: Good point.
[20:59] Christine: Grow emotional resistance, take a moment of gratitude. And certainly we would recommend a meditation practice.
[21:07] Debra Jones: For our listeners, you might already know that I have a few meditations in some of the podcast episodes, so I'll put some links to the show notes about those. But yeah, the grow emotional resilience is something that with the pandemic and how we have all struggled, that is something that I'm seeing. We're all trying to build that back and also to make it better. So growing emotional resilience is very close to my heart with the work that I'm doing with people too. But that gratitude piece that you mentioned at the beginning, I think that is a big key. It is a simple thing, but it changes so much. So the key number eight, the engage positively with others. What are your baby steps for that?
[21:58] Robert: Laying out what are your objectives with family members? Focus on the relationships that actually really mean something that are important to you, where there's a give and take, a win win that can be created and that includes I'll call it the suppression or elimination of those that are not constructive, in fact, sometimes destructive. And for us, this past year, one of us was to have some very educational and independent opportunities with our niece and nephew. We wanted to take them away from their parents, obviously with their blessing, and do a bit of traveling so they could demonstrate evolution and some additional maturity away from mom and dad. They got a chance to show some adult behaviors.
[22:37] Debra Jones: That is one point that we haven't really touched on, is that, yes, we're setting ourselves up for having a better life. But the other thing to notice here is that it's not just for you, is it? It actually spreads out to everybody that you're in contact with, be it your family, be it work associates, be it the person in the grocery store. When you're feeling better, you kind of emanate that feeling that affects those that are around you. So even though this is something that we're focused on what we want, the ripple effect that happens when we're actually enjoying our life and having some fun at the same time really does make a big difference, doesn't it?
[23:24] Robert: Yeah, so much. This is self investment, but it is not selfish. If you are a strong individual, you can continue to give to those you care about in the world and contributions in many, many ways.
[23:37] Debra Jones: Awesome. Well, let's wrap up the last four. So starting from key nine to prevent disease and illness, what's your baby step for?
[23:44] Robert: That there's so much science these days in the microbiome or that environment that exists within your physical gut and that which you can do eating wise to improve your digestive capability. Greek yogurt, once a day, if you will, to feed that microbiome in your gut that helps digestion, which helps all these nutrients actually get to your body and fortify your strength. So much of us, especially in the US, have gotten so used to every time we sneeze, you get a course of antibiotics. And one of the ah-ha moments that occurred in the last couple of years from me is the antibiotics is the exact opposite of probiotics and the probiotics is what they suggest. You're using yogurts and some of the other things that help your gut that when you're using these antibiotics you're destroying so much of your gut. So we've become very sensitive to if you would take antibiotics, you better make sure it's a darn good reason.
[24:43] Debra Jones: So step ten, avoid addiction. What's your hack for that?
[24:48] Christine: Try giving up sweets for a week of any kind. Read the box labels or read all ingredient labels.
[24:56] Debra Jones: So the last two, then eleven, create peace of mind. That's what we talked about at the beginning, about your ultimate contingency plan. Let's just finally get to the 12th point and then we're going to jump back to that.
[25:10] Robert: Most of your listeners will be familiar with the grades they got in elementary school. We like to use that very basic grading system to take a look back at the plan you put together at the beginning of the year. All your goals, your objectives, your behavior changes and what you attempted to do using that grading system. Grade each one of those. Did you do what you said you were going to do?
[25:32] Debra Jones: Going back to that, creating peace of mind and the ultimate contingency plan for the inevitable? Maybe we'll touch on that right now.
[25:41] Robert: The objectives of the Keys are really a long and fruitful life. We'd like to think every one of your listeners has as many years as possible and each of those years is glorious in their own way. But we all recognize that ever since the dawn of man, it ends for everybody. The journey does come to a close. When that journey closes, there's no more worries, there's no more constraints. But those you leave behind, you leave them in a point of they've had a significant loss, significant emotional challenge, all kinds of decisions per unit time increase and that can be extremely stressful and anxiety filled and can take people off the track of their life. Yet with a little investment in planning and some contingency planning, you can set in place for them a plan that makes their emotions, their decision making, their logistics and their future life a little better by virtue of some effort you put in on their behalf.
[26:44] Debra Jones: So you're talking about the Survivor Guide that you guys created and it's sort of taking the concept of what you've been sharing with all our listeners today about all these different areas of life and putting them in a guide that's going to help the survivors of you when you're not here. Is that right?
[27:05] Christine: That's correct. It's basically a binder. It helps you organize the information that the people you leave behind are going to need.
[27:14] Robert: That Survivor Guide, it’s really broken into two sections. One is the preparation ahead of time and then the second part is when you pass. How do you guide through that 1st 24 hours? How do you guide through the first couple of days, the first week, the first month, the first six months, in the first year? How do you take care of the pets? What are the key phone numbers? What are the passwords for online material?
[27:40] Christine: Where's your money?
[27:42] Robert: Where's your money? How do you access that? Who's important to contact from a priority standpoint? So again, there are hundreds of questions that with some initial thinking through and then some refreshing annually, keeps that plan live, vibrant and in the event it's your time, your loved ones can navigate that as gracefully as possible in a very emotional time.
[28:07] Debra Jones: So for our listeners they can go to your website, Living Better in the Later Years.com. I'll put a link in the show notes to check that out and I know it's not a topic that we even want to consider. But I do see the validity of the planning ahead so that the ones that you care about have an easier time rather than a difficult time. Because it's bad enough losing you, let alone not knowing what to do or what your wishes were. And so I think it was a really thoughtful thing for you guys to put together something of that nature, because really, there isn't anything out there that I know of that would be that comprehensive. So well done, you guys, for being the forerunners, for putting something like that together. You can now find my podcast, my book, and soon my classes on www.babyboomer.org. The ultimate most trusted source for news, information, and community. They've curated all the resources on the that interest you. Check it out today at www.babyboomer.org.