Your peeps will help you live a longer, healthier life
You’ve probably heard that Okinawa is one of the “Blue Zones”, right? (If not, pop over here and learn how these populations live longer and happier lives than any others on the planet. www.bluezones.com.) They have one of the highest populations of centenarians in the world. Cool! What’s their secret? They have a few, but the one that may be the underpinning is something called a maoi. It’s pronounced “mow-eye” and it roughly translates to “meeting for a common purpose.” The adults in the villages assign 5 young girls to each maoi. These maois stick together through all of life’s ups and downs, giving social, emotional and even financial support to one another throughout their entire lives. They share the bounty of the good times, and the struggle of the not so good times, but most importantly, each feels accountability for the others and each feels they can ask help of others in the group. Great idea, right? A built in support structure that ensures you have people to rely on, and a feeling of being there for others, just what researchers say we need as we age.
“Yeah, but… I don’t live in Okinawa and I wasn’t assigned a group of friends in my childhood, so how does this help me?” Well, there’s this amazing group of ladies in China that built a gorgeous home together so they and their families could retire together and support one another as they aged. They don’t live in Okinawa, but they have a moai.
“Yeah, but… I don’t have money to build a house in the country and my spouse would NEVER go for that! What can I do?” How about investing in exercise instead of real estate? Get some friends together and walk and talk every week and make a pact to support each other in whatever you need, whether you feel like walking that week or not. If walking’s not your thing, how about workout buddies, or poker friends or even dinner companions? Do anything that allows you to share life’s journey.
So, get your “yeah, buts” in gear, grab a few besties and commit to each other and create your own moai!
How to create your own maoi.
1) Identify your tribe: You’re in it for better or worse and you can call on them whenever life demands something of you that you can’t shoulder on your own. They can do the same. So, think about which people in your life are truly willing to give and receive in this way. Ideally, there will be at least three people in your little maoi. It can be very daunting for one person to shoulder all of the burdens of another. Having a couple of people to balance the load can be very helpful.
2) Define your reason: Hang out together a lot as you begin this journey toward aging. You might want to define a goal to keep the get togethers going - like building a house, or reading a genre of books, or getting fit. It’s not essential. The essential thing is that you find a way to connect consistently, and without judgement. A raison d’etre can be a good way to accomplish that.
3) Agree on your commitment: It’s not going to be easy to drop everything for the fifth time for the one most in need, while you have other commitments in your life that demand your time, energy and resources, so draw up some boundaries and guidelines. These things are cultural in Okinawa, but you’ll have to create that structure. Agree on them together and stick to them as a team.
4) COMMIT! Don’t keep score on who helped whom the most; just commit. Every one of you has to know that if one of you gets sick or your spouse dies, someone will step in to help. Really commit to these friends and show your commitment consistently, and ask the same of them. Isn’t it worth it for a shot at living past 100?
Think about your tribe as you get ready for retirement. Are they all friends from work or friends that you have because of your children? If so, GREAT! but they may grow apart from you as you move on to the Third Act of your life. Bring them along with you with this type of connection! It will be much easier to do that than it will be to make all new friends in your next act. If you’ve already transitioned to the Third Act, reach back, or reach out through friends of friends or groups that you belong to. Your tribe is out there. You just have to be willing to ask.
Try it for awhile. Learn to trust your maoi! Listen to your friends. Be flexible and treat this as a learning experience that can pay HUGE dividends. And, who knows? Maybe your spouse would actually love a home in the country with a view for miles and a built-in cricket team!