On a recent road trip, my husband and I listened to a 70’s radio channel for three whole days. As we sang along to all the ‘oldies’, I couldn’t believe how many of the songs we remembered the lyrics to, (and quite frankly, how stoned the writers must have been to write such nonsensical tunes).
Music has that ability to transport us back to where we were when we first heard it. As each song played, a flood of memories emerged and I was reliving my childhood, complete with the avocado green appliances, shag rug and foil wallpaper. Listening to 45 rpm’s playing on the red and white portable stereo, dancing in the kitchen with my sisters as we did the dishes, or lying on my bed with the transistor radio held up to my ear (no ear buds back then!) It felt like I was right back there experiencing the same feelings as when the DJ played my favourite songs for the first time.
Savouring a trip down memory lane from time to time is good for our overall wellbeing; however, continuing to feel nostalgic for the past is not. We can start to flounder when we stop focusing on the future.
There’s a Peter Drucker quote that I include in my email signature that speaks to this:
The best way to predict your future is to create it.
I like it because it challenges us to take control and ownership over our future to remove the ambiguity. While you certainly can’t control everything that is likely to happen, you can influence it by your own responses and actions.
Drucker, often referred to as the father of modern management, had many sage insights about the future. A recent article in Next Avenue outlined five that are particularly important for older adults who wish to remain future focused:
- Embrace uncertainty rather than avoid it
Uncertainty can be unsettling. Arming yourself with knowledge about what the future might look like can help to alleviate some of the anxiety that comes with it.
Tip: Form a book club or discussion group dedicated to learning about the future. Explore advances and trends in business, technology, education, culture and work. You could also look to role models — people you know or ones in the public eye who seem adept at navigating uncertainty.
- Seek opportunities in changing conditions
If we think of change as bad, difficult, unnecessary, or tiring, we are naturally going to see it as a threat. Shifting your mindset to see change as an opportunity can work wonders.
Tip: Rather than just reacting to change, go out and actively search for new possibilities inside and outside your field. Interact with people in diverse groups and start reading unfamiliar newspapers, magazines, blogs and websites.
- Stop and reflect on your second act
Drucker recommended carving out time to engage in deep, focused introspection each year. Reflect on how the past year has gone compared with your expectations and then think about what adjustments you need to make going forward.
- Remove and improve
It’s not only what you do, but what you stop doing that counts. Drucker recommended systematic abandonment — intentionally dropping activities and relationships that are no longer productive or useful and combining this with kaizen: steady and incremental improvement of what remains.
Tip: Make a list of what and who are no longer serving your interests, energizing you, or bringing you joy and gradually shed them from your life. Then, use your newfound time to identify and create a life that is more satisfying and meaningful to you.
- Make friends with risk
As the previous quote indicates, Drucker believed that it was risky to sit back and let the future just happen to you. Accept the idea that almost everything carries some element of risk, and create space for risk in your life.
Tip: Weigh the risks of taking actions that will help you remain future focused: e.g. going back to (and paying for) school, learning new technologies or creating an entrepreneurial venture.
Savouring our pasts can certainly warm the heart, but focusing on our futures will help keep us vital and happy as we enter this second act of life. What are you doing to remain future focused?