Is a Better Life Waiting for You in the Future?
Is a Better Life Waiting for You in the Future? If you believe that, you’re taking a huge risk with the present.
Episode 43 - Is a Better Life Waiting for You in the Future?
I received an interesting question from a listener……..His name is Wayne, from Denver, Colorado. He writes:
“I’m a middle-aged man who has the option of taking early retirement. I had no plans to stop working, but the company I work for is doing cutbacks, and I have been offered a separation package that will give me some financial stability for the future. At the same time, I’ve never thought of myself as some old retired guy who dotters around the house and spends his afternoons on the front porch sitting in a rocking chair. My concern is how I should spend my time after I put in my last day at work. I have some interests I’ll like to pursue, and some travel I’ll like to do, but I’d always thought of these things as something that was waiting for me ten or fifteen years in the future. Do you have any thoughts or suggestions for someone in my situation? Thanks.”
Hey, welcome back. This is Roger Reid with another episode of SuccessPoint360.
I’m going to answer Wayne’s question in a somewhat circuitous manner, because it’s not an easy, black or white situation – and I also have a personal interest in exploring this subject, because of the increased number of people who are finding themselves in the same situation. Sometimes it’s due to the economic fallout from the pandemic, and other times, it the result of general downsizing, a company takeover, or a reorganization.
And if there is a single commonality that runs true for this entire group, it’s a generalized sense of concern about getting older, about where they’re going to be in the future, and making the best use of their time to create some economic security in that future.
In many cases, these folks are also fighting the frustration that comes from comparing the old adage that says, “age is just a number, to the cultural reality of how older workers, and older people in general, are treated.
If we set all the political, financial, and cultural influences aside, what we’re really talking about is time. Time to get it all done, to see, hear, and do everything that’s important to us. And while those things we want to accomplish can be as varied and different as those who reveal them, the fact that our personal life clock continues to tick off the remaining months, days, hours is a constant reminder that the future remaining for each of us is limited.
And that’s true regardless of how old you are. And yes, I know, someone in their twenties or thirties can’t imagine the day when they realize that the number of years that remain in their life is much fewer than the number of years already behind them. I’ve described this before with the hourglass metaphor – that’s when we see the level of sand in the top of the hourglass is only a small fraction of what resides in the bottom.
And there’s plenty of well-meaning advice out there about productivity and about using the time as effectively as possible. Psychologists and therapists continue to offer all sorts of ways to rationalize how we feel about aging and living a limited life span – but it still comes down to this: While we’re chasing success, and acquiring more recognition, striving for more professional status, and essentially trying to achieve all that we can, we’re also rushing toward the end of our lives.
And so what do most of these philosophy gurus and self-help authors tell us? Find something to do that makes us feel productive, something that gives us a sense of satisfaction. In short, they’re telling us to get up off the couch and take action.
Their recommendations all boil down to this: It’s about feeling productive. It’s about being focused, and getting out and doing something physical.
I know a lot of people who approach their lives with this idea. They continue working right through their sixties and even seventies, and it’s not unusual for them to put in more hours and take on more demanding roles than they ever did in their forties.
Many of these folks start their day with a question: How can I derive the most from each remaining day, and some become downright obsessive about it, breaking the day down into segments, asking themselves, “How should I spend the next hour? Or the next fifteen minutes? Because I don’t have a single second to waste.”
And that prompts a huge question: Does that kind of attitude produce happiness?
The answer – or the lack of one –can be the very reason so many people are experiencing a so-called midlife crisis. They don’t know if what they’re doing with their lives is making a difference –if it’s ever going to make a difference.
And it can be especially difficult for those approaching a shift or a crossover into the next major age group. These are typically what we call life’s benchmarks – for example, age forty is one of them, the next is sixty, then sixty-five, then seventy, eighty, and so on. And as we experience these transitions, the overwhelming majority discover that the reality of their lives is completely contrary to what they’d imagined it would be. Twenty years earlier, they’d expected the future to be a time of contented reflection, when they would experience the peace and satisfaction of having lived an accomplished life.
But what many of them find, is now that they’ve arrived, there’s no party, there’s no special accolades or reward waiting for them.
And that realization can trigger depression, anxiety, or any number of negative attitudes. Unfortunately, the one that’s most common is also the most destructive. And it usually comes in two parts……….
First, In the end, the world will continue on without them.
After they’re gone, life for the rest of the planet will go on. People will wake up in the morning, go to their jobs, come home to families that wait for them, continuing to participate in the struggle, joy, and celebration that is life on this planet.
And the second part? They’re going to miss it.
And I know, at first glance, it sounds a bit defeatist is not outright morbid. And that’s why I want to give you an alternative way of thinking about the future. One that has the potential to refocus your attention and perspective on the here and now.
Most of our assumptions about the life we live are based on the continuance of the world we know. The one in which we feel safe in our homes. The one that gives us a sense of assurance that electricity will continue to flow on the grid, and that the local grocery store will continue to carry our favorite brand of corn chips and the particular brand of wine we enjoy on the weekends.
And sure, the occasional shortage of toilet paper might raise our anxiety level, but there’s always that sense of confidence that the supply chain will be back to normal in a few weeks, and the shelves will be overflowing with new inventory.
Overall, the world in which most of us live – especially in this county – is a world of convenience and comfort, and we’ve come to count on it.
Yes, we also experience the occasional aggravation and disappointment. But for the most part, our lives are centered in a place where we can walk the streets in relative safety, and go to bed at night in a place where we can wake up in the morning and think about our day as being full of choices that give us some control over how we spend our time.
But what if the life that we currently enjoy — and admittedly, often take for granted — is balanced on a razor’s edge? And what if the circumstances that have kept it relatively stable is about to change — for the worse?
In other words, what if life in the future isn’t going to be the life we’re used to? The kind that we’ve counted on and assumed will continue through the balance of our lives?
For example, we could be on the brink of massive economic, political, and environmental change. That’s the opinion of a friend of mine, and he has all sorts of stats and research to back it up. He’s convinced the direction of our society doesn’t bode well for a safe, organized, and productive future.
And while I don’t necessarily agree with him, I’ve thought long and hard about my friend’s predictions.
What if we really are experiencing life in its final phase, enjoying the very best of what this world has to offer — before some deranged militant crackpot gets his hands on the launch codes? Or some cosmic event changes a critical factor in the planet’s ecosystem and our food supply disappears in a couple of years?
The possibility certainly dwarfs any complaints about leaving this world in relative obscurity or having to deal with ageist discrimination as we get older.
If I give my friend’s predictions of a global disaster even a whisper of credibility, it makes the here-and-now seem like a magical moment in our timeline — a period of human existence which some alien historian will recognize as a precursor to humanity’s irreversible plunge into extinction.
I know some of you might think that being forced to consider the prospect of a catastrophic future would push an already disheartened spirit into a deeper state of depression.
But it doesn’t have to. In fact, it can be the source of a profoundly positive influence on our perspective, and specifically, how we view the balance of our lives. The biggest realization is often the fact that there’s no need to be depressed over a life-clock that continues to tick toward midnight. Instead, we can replace that sense of despondency with a new sense of appreciation for the present – and how we’re living our lives, right now.
Hopefully, we will never have to worry about finding enough food to get through another day or be forced to defend ourselves from those who would take that food away from us. But the possibility that it might happen — no matter how obscure and improbable — can create a new sense of gratitude for the life we currently enjoy.
Even the most simple life can include freedom, security, and comfort. Personally, for me, that means having eggs and bacon in the refrigerator. If I need to warm the house, I turn up the thermostat. And when I want a change in scenery, I go for a walk.
For me, it’s tangible evidence that my life needs to be appreciated before I prematurely mourn its impermanence.
I know there will always be those who are going to spend their time lamenting the passing years, regretting a misguided past, or wishing they could magically extend the relatively few years that remain.
And if you find yourself slipping into that downward, negative spiral, think about this:
The next time you drive to the store or take a walk in a park, imagine how it would look if it were turned into a blackened landscape, a place that no longer offers comfort or safety.
No matter how you look at it — logically, analytically, rationally — it’s easy to come to a single overwhelming conclusion . . .
Now is definitely preferable to the future.
To think otherwise is to base the future on conjecture.
Our natural assumption that the coming years will continue to offer a stable and safe environment is certainly preferable to the alternative. But there’s no guarantee. And we should never sacrifice the opportunity of living in the present for the promise of some elusive and grandiose future — if we’re lucky enough to live that long.
Instead of being depressed over watching the years pass, try consciously appreciating your circumstances — reminding yourself that change is constant, and none of us know how much longer we’ll enjoy our current state of relative safety and comfort.
I’ll leave you with this: Regardless of how future historians describe this period of human existence — as the last glory days of earth or a prelude to unprecedented prosperity — the fact that we can still fully participate is an invitation to create a meaningful legacy.
We may not have been able to choose the time of our birth and the period in which I live, but we can certainly decide how we choose to experience it.
So, Wayne, thank you for the question. My advice is to put your attention and focus on the present. You have over fifty years of experience, training, and education to bring to the next phase of your life; and most important, what you decide to do today is far more important than being disappointed over a future that is always subject to change.
Before we conclude this episode, I want to disclose that what you just listened to is an example of Neurolinguistic Programming, specifically, using two-level logic, with a series of embedded loops, all of which I hope I brought to a satisfactory close at the end of the presentation. And don’t be surprised, if, in an hour from now, tonight, or even tomorrow, you remember some aspect of this story, and experience one of those moments of personal reflection, as all the pieces continue to come together for you. If you have questions or comments about this type of presentation format or about any part of this or any episode, there’s a voice mail tab on the main header of the website, www.successpoint360.com, or you can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks for listening, and I’ll see you next time.
© 2021, Roger A. Reid, All Rights Reserved
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