What gift would you give a soon-to-be-retiree?

MARC FREEDMAN:I’ll start by recommending a new book, Jane Pauley’sYour Life Calling: Reimagining the Rest of Your Life. The volume, drawing on her Today Show interviews with individuals navigating the second half of life,will be published in January. It’s filled with much wisdom and compelling stories of women and men who are making a monument out of what used to be the leftover years, role models like 61-year-old Lauren Walters, who teamed up with a 23-year-old, Will Hauser, to create Two Degrees Food. The company’s name refers to the degrees of separation between the customer of a Two Degrees bar, and an impoverished and hungry child. For every bar purchased, the company donates a nutritious meal to a child in need–already 2.1 million meals have been delivered in Malawi and Haiti alone.

For those who want to take the next step, how about a disruptive experience? That’s the product line forThe Big Stretch, a company that organizes travel holidays in Spain and New Zealand, in natural settings, combined with life coaching and a focus on the big questions. It’s designed to help lift individuals out of established patterns of thinking and constrained notions about what’s possible–as a prelude to personal and career renewal.

And for those interested in using their life experience to help change the world, consider the organization’s Be the Change Journey, an eight-day sojourn to India comprised of meetings with social entrepreneurs and other innovators tackling major global problems like poverty. The purpose of it all is to help individuals find more meaningful work, a calling that also means something beyond themselves.

I’ll close with a ringing endorsement for the present I most want myself (in hopes that my family is reading this post): the chance to take The School of Life’s New Year Intensive Course, held Jan. 2-6, in London. The School of Life, co-founded by writer and philosopher Alain de Botton (author of “The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work”), operates out of a modest storefront in Bloomsbury. Enter the shop, and one encounters a bookstore with a carefully-culled collection offering volumes new and old, covering, in their words, “all the essential books on all the great topics crucial to leading a good life.” There are no more than six titles on each topic.

Beyond the books is a set of offerings that may hint at the future of adult education–among the classes offered: “How to Balance Work with Life,” “How to be a Good Friend,” How to Have Better Conversations,” and “How to Make Love Last.” They offer psychotherapy, and, bibliotherapy–yes, some learned Londoner helps you figure out what to read next, and even provides a reading prescription! There are secular Sunday Sermons at Town Halls where attendees are warned to anticipate “hellfire preaching, an alternative parish newsletter, hymns, sticky buns, [and] conversations with fellow ‘parishioners.’ ”

The School of Life’s New Year Intensive Course is designed to make the most of resolution season, with a set of sessions, each addressing a fundamental topic such as: How to make our lives more fulfilling? How to find a job you love? How to enjoy better relationships? How to stay balanced and calm? And, how to make a difference? Not ready to cross the pond for a little New Year’s renewal? There’s always the Schools’ Toolkit for Life, a six-volume boxed set of books by de Botton and others. My favorite volume, much-needed amid the chaos of the holiday season, is How to Stay Sane.

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