If you are going to follow what the title says you need to look forward and decide what it is you want out of your life now and then work out how to get there. Sometimes that is easier said than done. I wonder how many of you reading this article have thought like me that life hasn’t turned out as you’d expected when you’d played at being ‘grown-ups’ as children. We know rationally that we’d never become the prince or princess we dreamed of but I for one thought my life would follow a similar path to that of my parents. The reality is it hasn’t and in many ways that is no bad thing!
The world we live in now isn’t the world of our childhood. I was born in the 50s into a traditional family. My father was the main earner and my mother did all the household chores. Many girls left school at 16 and went to work in offices or shops and those that stayed at school often chose careers in nursing or teaching or took secretarial jobs. Divorce was rare and everyone expected to retire on a reasonable pension, women at 60 and men at 65.
Is your life as you expected?
My sense is that my mother and her contemporaries didn’t spend time thinking about how life should have been and about how they would like life to be, they accepted it as it was. I know we rightly don’t feel like that and want to be in control of our lives rather than the other way round. However focusing on your old day dreams doesn’t get you anywhere except for feeling a bit down and moany! If your life is not as you expected, you probably have a picture or DVD you run through your head about the life you were meant to have.The first step in the process of creating the life you want is working out where you are now. It’s like finding directions to a new venue unless you know where you are starting from you’ll never get to your destination. To start this process ask yourself the following questions ?
Write or draw that life – make it as detailed as you can.
- Who would be there? ?
- What would you be doing? ?
- What would be important to you in your life? ?
- What would others be doing that they’re not? ?
- Where would you be living? ?
- Would you be working and, if so, at what and full- or part-time? ?
- What would you be doing for leisure? ?
- What would be your dreams and aspirations? ?
- Why is it so disappointing that it is not like that? ?
- What things are you missing out on?
Creating dreams and setting goals
Most of us will have times as adults when we find ourselves daydreaming. This is a very useful process as it allows us to create a dream or goal, which is essential if we are going to achieve what we want. Talk to any very successful person and they will tell you that they created a dream or goal and that they kept it in mind whatever they were doing. They would check each activity against their goal and only pursue it if it was useful. They would all say this is what got them to where they are today. Sometimes it isn’t that easy to dream so the exercise below will help you to create your future. You need to find a bit of space and peace and quiet, somewhere you’ll be free to think. Take a notepad and pen with you.
Imagine your life-line in front of you
- Imagine your life-line in front of you – in other words, a line that goes from when you were born till you’re 90 or 100.
- We’ll work in 10-year stretches and walk along remembering the things that happened to you. Don’t worry if you can’t remember everything. You will remember the significant bits – going to school, the arrival of a new sibling, moving house and so on. Write it all down. Walk along your line slowly remembering all the things that happened. When you get to 10, fold up that bit of the paper and start again with 11 – 20. Continue doing this until you get to today.
- Now stand at today’s age and walk slowly to the far end of your line say 90. Put in all the things you want to do as you walk along.
- When you get to the end turn round and check it is all there, add anything else you have missed. Put in all the things you have ever wanted to do. Is your list full of chores or full of fun? What are the things you’ve always wanted to do but not had the time? Make sure all of these are included, too
- Walk along the line again and check if any particular timing comes to you – for example, I must travel to India by the time I’m 75.
You’ll now have a broad overview of what you want to do. Put your piece of paper away and just let your head start the planning process. If any other ideas come to mind, then jot them down. About a week later take out your list and have a look. Check in with yourself by asking, ‘If those things were all in place would I have the life I want?’ If you still think there are things missing add them in. With this list you are now ready to make this a reality
Create a tangible plan
Your next step is to create a tangible plan to put all these things in place. The best way to do this is to take each element and write down where you are and where you want to be and then create a five/ seven step plan to get you there. Each step needs a date on it, as this will help you meet your target. Once you’ve achieved this there will be no need to look back at what might have been.
My new book ‘Live the Life you Love at 50+ – A Handbook for Career and Life Success’ is written for you and people like you who want to make sure their life is the one they want and that they have no regrets. They want to be in control of their life rather than life controlling them. We all know by this age that life has it ups and downs. Knowing how to manage the knocks is also important. The book offers lots of information and exercises in all areas of life, work and home to help you to do exactly that. It will teach you how to be your own coach and as the title days live the life you want.
Live the Life You Love at 50+: A Handbook for Career and Life Success published by McGraw-Hill at £11.99 on April 30. Keren Smedley runs Experience Matters offering advice on relationship issues. Call 0207 700 6623 or visit www.experiencematters.org.uk