Life planning: it’s an age thing
We all come into this world looking to our parents to explain the facts of life — how we grow, how we should live and how to get ahead in life.
But in this age of rapid advances in science, medicine, technology and ease of access to information, not only are many of these initial expectations of life that were imprinted upon us already outdated, they may well be sabotaging our efforts to make the most of new opportunities in life.
This is not a new phenomenon.
Adapting to ever-changing shifts in lifestyle as we age has been the subject of generations of authors and social observers but realising when it is time to let go of long-held beliefs to make way for new thinking remains a challenge.
To begin, you must first consciously decide to stop drifting from one day to the next and adopt the view that life is a journey that can be planned for, and that the areas requiring the most amount of planning and attention will differ depending on your age and stage of life.
Secondly, you need to create and intentionally revise your own personal plan on a regular basis.
To illustrate this point, consider the differing needs, challenges and opportunities confronting millennials, mid-career workers and those preparing to transition from the work world to retirement.
Every phase of adult life hinges upon a myriad of financial, health and personal development considerations, but the degree of focus that is required in each of these areas varies depending on your stage of life and personal development.
For example, the typical millennial is highly engaged in the acquisition phase of life.
They focus on getting all the trappings of adulthood including jobs, cars, homes and families of their own, all of which require money.
They do not differentiate between their accumulation of items and the advancement of their own personal development.
In consequence, retirement seems such a distant objective that it is hardly worth considering at all. But what happens in the mid-career stage of life?
Pressured by career advancement or the responsibilities of a growing family, these same people are generally caught up in a seemingly endless daily routine.
Mid-life issues of money and health permeate their thoughts but planning for later life is all but non-existent beyond the acknowledgement that they now should be saving for retirement.
In short, mid-career workers typically cease looking forward in many areas of their life as they are absorbed in planning for and meeting the daily demands of others around them both at work and at home.
By the time these same people reach the age of 60, they are usually either so burnt out from work and responsibilities that the idea of “doing nothing” when they retire seems like heaven or, they are so terrified of having “nothing to do” that they will make any excuse to avoid thinking about — let alone planning for — a life beyond work.
Their retirement date gets closer every day, but they miss the opportunity to come at life planning with a clean piece of paper and the forward-looking enthusiasm that they once possessed.
As difficult as some these habits might seem to change, the remedy is surprisingly simple.
Regardless of your age, start each year with three blank pieces of paper.
Title the first “This Year”, title the second “Five Years From Now” and title the third “When I Retire”.
Then take some time to write down up to ten things that you want to accomplish in each given time frame.
Your list can include anything from eating more vegetables, to going back to school, to buying a house.
There are no wrong goals here, the only mistake you can make is to not take the task seriously (but give yourself a pat on the back if any of the items on the near-term lists are steps that would make the longer-term goals more achievable).
Once you have gone as far as you can, put the one-year list in your wallet and look at it every month or so to encourage yourself and mark off any items that you manage to complete.
Put the five-year and the long-range lists in a drawer and mark your calendar to look at them in a year's time, prior to repeating this process.
Life transition planning may mean different things to different people, but most would agree that it is easier to achieve your goals once you have a destination in mind.
• Robin Trimingham is an author and thought leader in the field of retirement who specialises in helping corporate groups and individuals understand and prepare for a new life beyond work. Contact her at The Olderhood Group, 538-8937 or email@example.com