How does your life project?
Mental Edge Monday
Topic #25: How does your life project?
As an avid sports fan, I often hear experts debating about which young sports prodigies “project” (pronounced pra’-ject, not prahj-ect). This is the code word for“who will become the next LeBron or Tiger.”
Recently, it’s gotten a little out of hand. USC Football offered a full athletic scholarship to a 13-year old quarterback (only 4 years ahead of schedule). Real Madrid recently laid claim to a 7-yr old soccer star. How far will this go? - optioning Derek Jeter’s first-born son while he’s still in the womb?
In such cases, a youngster “projects” well if he/she has talent or potential talent far beyond his/her peers. One such prospect may be 6’9” in 6th grade with size 18 shoes and Edward Scissorhands-like hands. Or, a 200 lbs. southpaw with a 99 mph fastball in Junior High School. These kids are not perfect – but the bet is that they will be.
As the theory goes, with proper (and early) guidance, training, and experience (aka investment), these prospects are “projected” to be All-Time Greats. It may take 5 or 10 years for these investments to pay off, but the odds are heavily in their favor.
How do you think your life “projects”? Have you thought about it much? Are you destined to live out your life at full strength? Will a certain mix of working, planning, and experience help you get where you want to go? Not if you have no idea where you’re headed.
I bet you’ve spent more time trying to project where your children will end up down the road than you have about yourself. I know I’ve been guilty of that at times.
What does living a full life even mean to you? Probably not a bid to the Baseball Hall of Fame. How far out have you projected the unfolding of your life? 2 years? 5 years? 10 years? Do I hear 50 years?
I recently put together a 50-year timeline. Yup, 50 years. Crazy, huh! Well, last week we already established that I’m weird, so this is just par for the course.
What’s your plan? What investments are you making in your education, children, health, retirement, spouse, and future? I know, I know, you’re just trying to make it through the summer and get those stinkin’ kids back to school. Me, too.
Once the summer comes to a close, take out a piece of paper and draw a timeline out for 50 years. Where do you project yourself? Your family? Your retirement years? Your legacy?
“Projecting” your future is not the same as goal setting. Goal setting often represents a series of one-time future milestones that you either reach or don’t reach. I’m an avid goal setter, but it’s not the same process. Projecting what your life will be like in the future is a much more rich, nuanced, and layered experience. It's also very scary.
One way to help you frame your “projected-self” is by sketching out a timeline. It doesn’t have to be fancy or formal - just a long horizontal line with a few guideposts along the way.
Consider making these notations on your timeline if they are relevant for you:
- Break the timeline into 5 distinct decades (e.g. 30s, 40s, 50s, etc.)
- Choose a word to describe each decade (e.g. provide, build, earn, nurture, survive, travel, relax, give back)
- Put a star next to your projected retirement year
- Highlight the years your kids will be in college
- Asterisk the years your kids begin to have kids of their own
- Note where will you be living for the next 50 years
- If you plan on “traveling” when you retire, when will that start and where are you going?
- If you plan to buy a second house on a lake or beach as a rallying point for your children and your children’s children – when does that plan start to take form?
- Will you downsize out of your current house when your kids move out? Put a red mark on the year that happens
- Mark the significant financial events that will occur in order to make this plan happen?
Feel free to add/subtract as many additional notes as you want. The suggestions above are just to get the juices flowing.
This exercise is not meant to freak you out or prompt you to make drastic changes to your current lifestyle. It’s simply meant for you to take some time out of your busy life to forward-think or project what life will be like down the road.
If you like what you see in the notional film of your life – congratulations! If you see some big blind spots or voids on the horizon, maybe now’s the time to come up with a plan.
I don't know about you, but I wouldn't want to start this exercise when I'm 65. The 50-year timeline all of a sudden becomes a 20-year timeline.
Have you experimented with other ways that have helped you think about your future in an organized and systematic way?
If your knife has been dulled by the constant barrage of daily chores, child pick-ups, meetings, and deadlines – take some time out to sharpen that blade. Small changes now can lead to big results down the road.
Until next week, Keep the Edge,
Phil (FitDeck Founder)