Can baby boomers still learn lessons this late in life?

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There is one thing all of us as baby boomers have in common: lessons learned late in life, or perhaps in our cases, lessons appreciated. But isn’t there a cliché along the lines of, Better late than never? That’s what Dr. Bill Courter of Coto de Caza, California, founder of the Boomer Health Institute, writes about for BoomerCafé in A Lesson Learned.

As you reach retirement years, before you scramble to assess your financial challenges, try pausing to first reflect on your life. When were you happiest? As a physician, when I finished my internship and residency, I did not rush into full-time employment. My parents were expecting me to set up a private practice. Instead, I took off a year and moved to Marbella, Spain. Accompanied by my fiancé (now my wife of three decades), we lived in a tiny villa, as I toiled to write my novel, The Cure.

Bill Courter contemplates his novel and life ... years ago in Spain.

Bill Courter contemplates his novel and life … years ago in Spain.

My parents were furious. My father considered my writing an affront to my medical education. He felt as if he had wasted all his money sending me to college and medical school. For my future wife, it was even worse. Her dad, when he discovered that she had been accepted into nursing school, offered two suggestions. First, don’t marry a doctor and second, don’t marry a bum. With our departure, he was convinced that she was about to do both. Worse, he was ready to disown her for living with someone before marriage.

Dr. Bill Courter’s book – The Boomer Survivor Kit: An Indispensable Guide For Yourself * Your Relationships * Your Life – is available at Amazon.com.

In Spain, I wrote seven hours a day, seven days a week, crafting my story. While I typed, my future wife read books, one classic after another. When we returned to California, ready to start my career, I re-evaluated my book. In truth, it was not quite good enough. I never submitted the novel for publication. Consequently, some people viewed us as wasting a whole year of our lives. No income. No success. No grand achievement. Yes, they said, we had crashed and burned.

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Courter the young writer.

Actually, we had crashed and learned. We did not fully appreciate our insight, but we had learned a lesson for life -– an early lesson for later retirement. We had learned that we did not need money to be happy. We did not need achievement to be satisfied. We just needed each other -– and time to be with one another. For that year we lived, we loved, and we made a difference to each other. Within that experience, there is a lesson too often forgotten.

Bill Courter's fiance (now wife) in front of the Spanish villa, years ago.

Bill Courter’s fiance (now wife) in front of the Spanish villa, years ago.

Do you think the wealthy own the market on happiness? They might have a fancier home, but it still might be a broken home. They can ingest more pills, but have reduced wellness. Of the rich and famous, many cycle through multiple spouses. Many have dysfunctional families. Many have alcohol or substance-abuse problems. For me, one thing is obvious: an improved financial portfolio is not the route to greater happiness.

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The house at Marabella, Spain.

Remember that money is not the only currency. As we age, time and freedom become more valuable. So, if you want to increase your level of happiness, try moving away from society’s preoccupation with success and wealth. Just focus on the things that truly matter -– your relationships, your time together, and your love for each other. Happiness is not an acquisition; it is a skill -– a skill you develop by following your passions and spending time together.

4 Comments

  1. “Happiness is not an acquisition, it is a skill”, I love that! Well said and thanks for sharing – obviously a great medic and a great writer…Or should I say a philosopher?

  2. “We had learned that we did not need money to be happy. We did not need achievement to be satisfied. We just needed each other -– and time to be with one another.” Spot on. Thank you!

  3. Hi Bill,
    I loved your article! As a lifestyle transition strategist I am always trying to help my clients understand the value of time and people over that of acquisition and working oneself to an early grave. None of us knows the number of days we have, so each one should be wisely spent. I have been seeing a surgeon for nearly two years. He doesn’t have to, but he works 10-15 hours a day. By the time the day is over he’s toast. He loves his work, but his personal relationship with me has suffered horribly. I wish he could see what he’s trading off for the privilege of making more than he needs to be happy.
    Thanks again. I’ll pick up your book! Maybe I’ll gift it to my doctor friend.
    Sheree

  4. Wow! How inspiring. I agree that these things don’t make you happy while having things doesn’t make you unhappy either. Maybe, its all about finding what works for you and where you want to be at the end of it all. Congratulations on a happy life!

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