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How to Embrace Life's Changes

Handling life's "trigger events" with imagination

Emilio: Trigger events

Barry Austin/Getty Images

To make a successful life change, take steps toward it, suggests Life Reimagined's ambassador. "Sometimes you find out what the next step is only after taking the first one."

En españolA Life Reimagined trigger event is a conscious choice or an external circumstance that disrupts the comfortable status quo of our lives. June is full of them! Newlyweds are creating new households, leaving roommates or family behind to regroup. Graduates are full of hopes for shaping a new future, and their parents may be starting life as empty nesters. Life Reimagined ambassador Emilio Estefan reflects on what it takes to make a successful change.

Throughout my whole life I have always felt that we have to do what makes us happy. For me, that's always been music. In a time of great upheaval in my life — leaving Cuba, and my mother, at the age of 14 — music saved my life. My father and I were taking one step at a time toward an unknown future. Though we felt we had to say goodbye to our country, we didn't know where our new home would be. In fact, we spent more than a year in Spain before we were allowed to come to the United States. It took my mother even longer; we were all finally reunited after three years. Only the happiness I found in music kept me together.

As much as I need to do what I love, I want to inspire people and make them happy. Those dreams come together in my music, where from the beginning I created a Latin sound that was unique to my background. Luckily, other people loved our music as much as I did.

When I'm writing songs I often spend hours in the studio, my emotions in my hands, just trying to feel what people will enjoy, what will make them dance. We reinvent the basics for every new song, each one needing a different melody, different lyrics. Right now I'm working on an album with Andrea Bocelli, the great tenor; this new venture is an amazing opportunity and challenge for both of us.

Our ally in meeting this challenge, as for all life challenges, is creativity, the hard work of reimagining. Just the commitment to make a difference, to make a better world around you, make yourself a better person, make someone else smile, can trigger your change. I'm grateful every day for everything I have, but when I was starting out, that wasn't much! Because we had no money, creativity and imagination were our greatest assets.

One valuable thing I have now that I didn't have then is decades of experience. I feel much more capable in my 60s than in my 20s. I'm busier than I've ever been in my life, and I believe that no matter what age you are, you can still be inspired to achieve greater success.

My little grandson is a constant reminder to me that life can get better; he's living the childhood that I didn't have in Cuba. (And when he tells me, "Abuelo, I love you," I just melt.)

Take steps, the best you can, toward your imagined change. Sometimes you find out what the next step is only after taking the first one. Do what makes you happy, whatever that may be. Be courageous and use your creativity to make your best choices in the face of change.

Emilio Estefan is a music mogul, a restaurateur, a father, a husband and a philanthropist. As Life Reimagined ambassador for AARP, Emilio will share his expertise on a variety of subjects, including his passion for living, mentoring, entrepreneurship and philanthropy.

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