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  • Writer's pictureGoran Yerkovich

Sheep Herding, Talking to Cows, and 6pm Red Wines: The Secrets to a Long Life Revealed

Updated: May 3, 2020

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A team of Italian psychologists led by Professor Fausto Massimini once interviewed the inhabitants of a small Alpine village in the high mountain valleys of Europe to unravel the secrets to living a long and healthy, happy life.

Spared by the trappings of the Industrial Revolution, Blue Zone communities relish the simple things of everyday life, including daily productive chores which to them were indistinguishable from work and free time.

This article covers todays divide between work and free time, told through the simple story of an old sheep herder in the Italian Alps.

But before we dive in, let's take a quick look at what Blue Zones comprise of and the trap they seem to avoid, one the rest of us seem stuck in, even now, during our global pandemic.

BLUE ZONES, And the Money Trap

The Secret Sauce, or Power of 9 identified in Blue Zones include:

1. Moving Naturally

2. Purpose

3. Down Shift

4. 80% Rule

5. Plant Slants

6. Wine at 6

7. Right Tribe

8. Loved Ones First

9. Belong

Most of the list above seems self explanatory, some ideas may not.

We won't get into the full concept behind Blue Zones today, because our focus here is on the idea of work, what work has become, and what we've forgotten along the way.

Work today, for most of us, is a chore. A thing we must do, at the direction of someone else, regardless of if we find any enjoyment from it.

Work, the very word, is most often a difficult task you are compensated for with money. Sometimes a little. And sometimes a lot.

Money then becomes the thing we can enjoy, if we have enough left over, taking care of essentials like food, and shelter, and family.

But what if we'd forgotten to include something else in our days, that didn't require money?

What if we could find a way to do something we loved each day, which you or I could no longer distinguish between work and play?

And what is now, in the middle of a global pandemic, was actually the perfect time to make this happen?

The Story of Serafina

Today's story begins with a women named Serafina Vinon, a seventy-six-year-old from the tiny hamlet of Pont Trentaz of the Italian Alps.

Serafina rises at 5am each day to milk her cows, then cooks a huge breakfast, cleans up, and depending on the season, takes her flock of sheep to graze below a receding glacier. She cuts and bales hay in the huge pastures to store for her animals in the winter, and whenever needed, chops wood and tends to her orchard.

Serafina spends evenings with her children and grandchildren drinking a 6pm red wine, eating home cooked meals, and telling stories as she plays the accordion on the nights her neighbours come to visit, two or three times a week.

She knows every feature of her landscape, the trees, boulders, and sloping mountains and she speaks to them when passing, as if they were alive.

Serafina speaks to the animals, the sheep, the goats, the cows, and all the village pets as if they understand every word.

When asked what she enjoyed most in life, Serafina replies "milking the cows, taking them to the pasture, pruning the orchard, carding wood."

Strikingly, what Serafina enjoys most in life is what she's always been doing, all her life.

"It gives me great satisfaction. To be outdoors, to talk with people, to be with my animals. I talk to everybody - plants, birds, flowers, and animals. Everything in nature keeps you company; you see nature progress every day. You feel clean and happy: too bad that you get tired and have to go home..."

Serafina has never been on a vacation to a 5-star resort, or travelled the world to some of the places you and I might be missing now, during this pandemic, but when asked what she would do if she had all the time and money in the world, Serafina laughs, because her answer is always the same:

"I'd milk the cows, take them to pasture, tend the orchard, and card wool."

Serafina is not ignorant to the world. She knows there are great luxuries abound.

She has family in big cities with fancy cars, nice homes, and the latest appliances. But she'd never trade away what she has today, because Serafina knows she'd never get to do the things she loves daily, which are right here, in front of her.

Now Is Your Time: Set Your Goals, Find Your Flow

This is the concept of loving what you do. This is the concept of Flow. And this story from a Blue Zone community in the Italian Alps, taken from the national bestseller "Flow" by Mihaly Csikszentimihalyi, highlights one important lesson, a reminder for us all:

Spend some time today doing something you love. Or try something new. Spend time today working on something that doesn't feel like work. Get your hands dirty if needed. Break a sweat. Give it a try. And if afterwards you realize that time flies by, that the activity gave you peace in your day, then make a mental note that you'll do this again tomorrow, and the day after.

Doing things we love each day, finding our flow, discovering optimized experience, and building this into our daily routines is something Serafina has mastered, and it's something each of us can develop and master too.

Remember, Goal Setting is not about reaching the final outcome, it's not about fame or fortune or financial success. Real, inspired goal setting is about taking more time in our days to do more of what we love.

It's the steps we take to get there, purely for our own enjoyment, for our personal growth and for our well-being.

Life was meant to be about the little things we do each day. The things that bring us joy, and move us forward on our way.

Now, during this global pandemic, this could be your chance, if you're stuck at home, to spend more time discovering and focusing on the things you previously never had a chance to do.

Now is your time to set your goals and move into action.

But - I'm not saying you should start talking to cows.

Actually, what the hell, go for it. We get to decide what's included in our new normal.

Thanks for reading. Until next time, stay healthy, stay strong, and thrive.

-Goran Yerkovich

p.s. For more stories on Flow or Goal Setting see our category pages and checkout our related links below.

Get your Free eBook The Inspired Guide to Self-Evaluation when you"Subscribe" and join the thousands who read for FREE each week. Featured on Quora, Facebook, Medium and LinkedIn.

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5. Flow Will Change Your Life: Creating Goals Begins with Understanding Your Flow. Personal Growth meets the real authentic you. How understanding your passions will fuel your progress, happiness & personal growth.

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