Living a happier life is good, a more resilient life better, a longer life best of all. So when science lends a hand on the latter, and within that gives useful tips for better living/doing to entrepreneurs, it's worth paying attention to.

First, the basics. Research shows that genes account for only 20 percent of a person's lifespan while lifestyle and environment make up the other 80 percent. Then, author Dan Buettner, National Geographic, and the world's leading longevity researchers took a closer look.

They discovered five regions of the world really stood out as having the highest proportions of people who live to be 100 or older:

  • The Barbagia region of Sardinia
  • Ikaria, Greece
  • Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica
  • Loma Linda, California
  • Okinawa, Japan

Of course, this fascinating research begs the questions: Why? What's their secret? 

That's when the researchers teamed up with medical researchers, anthropologists, demographers, and epidemiologists to see if they could discern common denominators of life-longevity.

They found nine of them.

Their findings are especially applicable to entrepreneurs and anyone trying to manage an overloaded life (in addition to trying to live a longer one).

1. Keep it movin'.

The world's longest-lived people live in environments that keep them constantly moving (not just depending on bench presses and ab blasting during an hour of exercise).

As the study authors said, "They grow gardens and don't have mechanical conveniences for house and yard work." I think about myself and it makes sense. When I'm not on the road speaking, conducting workshops, or teaching, I'm stationary for many hours at a time, writing. I've learned to build reasons to get up and get moving into my daily routine.

2. Purpose.

You likely know what you want to sell or what need your idea/startup meets. But do you know why you're bringing it to the world?

Reframing your work (and life) through the lens of purpose brings meaning and fulfillment, and more. Buettner and his team estimate that knowing your purpose, your higher-order reason for getting up and working so hard, can add up to seven years of extra life expectancy.

3. Routines to shed stress.

You don't need scientific proof that lots of stress ain't good for your health, your capacity to run your business, or for anything. It turns out that the 100+ club mindfully diffuses stress by taking time each day to remember ancestors, to take a nap, reflect, or even to have a happy hour.

We all know we should take time to downshift. Don't think of doing so as getting in the way of all the things you need to get done. It will, literally, allow you to do more things, for longer.

4. Follow the 80 percent rule.

People in the longest-lived regions tend to be mindful of when they feel 80 percent full from eating--then they stop. They facilitate this by eating their smallest meal in the early evening, then avoid snacking after that.

It's easy as an entrepreneur to violate this because you're scarfing down your meal so you can get back to accomplishing (without pausing to see if you're even hungry anymore).

5. Beans.

Yup. Fava, black, soy, and lentils were the staple of most centenarian diets.

6. Wine.

At last, news you've been waiting for. Centenarians drank wine moderately and regularly (one to two glasses per day). Take the time to step away from your business and have a glass with family and friends. Which brings us to the next principle.

7. Put loved ones first.

I know, easier than it sounds, especially when that keynote or investor pitch won't write itself. But people in the five "magic-regions" all showed clear habits and prioritization for caring for their aged (parents and grandparents) and young ones alike.

Mom, I'll call you the second I'm done with this article.

8. Belong.

A sense of belongingness was apparent among all the inhabitants, forged by a tight sense of community and bolstered in most cases by membership to a faith-based group. Being an entrepreneur can be lonely, and while much of your work you may have to do alone, you don't have to be alone.

9. Nurture friendships.

Gallup research shows that a surprising question strongly correlates with whether or not someone finds themselves happy at/in their work: "Do you have a best friend at work?"

For entrepreneurs, if your business happens to afford this, great. If not, supplement your workaday life with periodic spurts with friends. The people in the five highlighted regions all built a supportive social network that further helped to reinforce the other healthy behaviors listed above.

So learn from geography and anthropology as you build your monopoly--and stick around to enjoy it.

Published on: Feb 6, 2019
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