Several years ago, as part of a class I taught on the Psychology of Aging, I asked students to “see their future selves” on a number of dimensions to stat a conversation. For instance: how long do you expect to live? When do you to expect to retire? What do you expect to achieving those goals?
One person told us that he expected to retire at 62 – because that’s what most of his friends were doing so (i.e., “early retirement”) and he expected to take lots of trips with the goal of about one international trip per year. (We were all jealous!) When asked what obstacles he anticipated, he said money: He had barely saved anything for retirement! When a student asked him why he was retiring early if he knew he didn’t have the money to afford all the vacation trips, he looked like a deer-in-headlights – no idea of that he could continue to work to save money. When asked how he feels about it, it was clear that he was afraid that he’d have a very disappointing retirement life!
Clearly, had he been saving these many years for a retirement life filled with travel, he possibly could have avoided this situation. As Dan Heath noted in Upstream, we can solve problems before they happen if we take the proper steps. Sometimes, it’s easier – such as starting your retirement planning as early as possible, maximizing the contributions, making growth investment and letting compounding do its magic. But sometimes it’s more complicated.
For example, Dan tells this public health parable to launch the book. “You and a friend are having a picnic by the river. Suddenly, you hear a shout and see a child is drowning. Without thinking, you both dive in, grab the child, and swim to shore. Before you can recover, you hear another child cry for help, again you both jump in. Soon after another child drifts into sight.. and then another.. and then another.
You can barely keep up. Suddenly your friends wades out of the water. “Where are you going? “ you demand. Your friend answers, “I’m going upstream to tackle the guy who’s throwing all these kids in the water.” While this is a parable, the book is full of true life situations by individuals, companies, etc. Where an earlier, upstream intervention could eliminate the downstream crisis.
A key Age Brilliantly principle is to invest time and energy into the “ounce of prevention” to avoid the need for a “pound of cure” or even worse, a crisis that can’t be cured.
Want to travel a lot later on? You may need to safeguard your health and make financial decisions to grant you that independence. Want to pursue certain careers? You may need to gain the expertise and experience through education and job-related experiences. Want to be top-notch in your field? You may have to invest 10,000 hours in your exercising your passion. In other words, to have a fulfilling and rewarding lifestyle, envision your future self both early and often as you navigate your life path, and invest in the supports needed to realize your dreams.
The earlier you begin to Invest in your health, financial independence, strong supportive relationships, passion, purpose, and time management, the easier it will be create habits supportive of the lifestyle you want. The goal is to lead a fulfilling elongated life to 100+.