As we age and head toward or are in retirement from our day-to-day jobs, do we dwell on the past too much? It's a question I've asked myself, in part because it can be a drag on our lives and on our grown kids and grandkids. It can be charming to refer back, to say, "When I was your age...." but it's only charming if it's a once-in-a-while thing.
Yes, it's important as I've written in previous posts, to leave a legacy--to let our grown kids and grandkids know who we are, what we've done with our lives, what our values are. We don't have to wait till we're no longer around to let our Wills or "last thoughts" memos let them know what we've found meaningful in life and how we found it.
But it's also important to be moving forward--whatever age we are. As financial writer Carl Richards noted in a recent column, he could feel the energy change in the room when he got together with two friends from his high school days. After they reminisced for a bit, the conversation shifted from the past to the future.
Here's how he described the moment:
It started simply enough, with one of us asking, “If we were having tea three years from now in this exact same place, sitting in these exact same chairs, what would need to happen for each of us to be happy with those three years?”
Talking about high school was great, but this was so much better. You could immediately feel energy and confidence enter the room as we started scheming.
Turns out, we are not the first people to entertain this question. Dan Sullivan wrote an entire book about it. In “The Dan Sullivan Question,” he talks about designing a question to help people make their future seem bigger than their past. “The moment your past becomes bigger than your future, you die,” he said, when I eventually heard him speaking on a podcast.
I read that and asked myself, does that apply to me and my relationship with my grown children? Am I able to bring something new and energizing to my conversations with them? Do I have something interesting to say about what I'm doing in the here and now or am planning to do? How much more vital I feel when the conversation is not just about what they're up to (what a burden on them) or what I thought or did 20 years ago.
In her search for a formula for happiness, happiness guru Gretchen Rubin found Aha! moment in a line from William Yeats:
“Happiness is neither virtue nor pleasure nor this thing nor that, but simply growth. We are happy when we are growing.”
Here's what Gretchen had to say about that moment of discovery:
That word, "growing," snapped everything into place. Of course. Growth. Growth helps explain the happiness brought by children, by gardens, by pay raises, by stamp collections, by training for a marathon, or learning to use PhotoShop, or cooking your way through a Julia Childs cookbook.
All of which is a long way of saying, it made me realize that we who are of a certain age and at a certain stage in life need to keep on truckin'--be it a project to work on, a class to go to, a trip to take. Whatever it is, I find the forward movement not only makes me happy but helps me bring energy to my conversations with my grown- and grandkids. It helps me makes sure I'm maintaining a life independent of theirs.
That is what we want, right?