I am always a little disoriented between the seasons when I travel to Argentina or Brazil. When it is autumn in Canada, it is spring in Buenos Aires. It is a beautiful and refreshing time of year. I am thinking about the clichéd parallel between the seasons and the phases of our lives—this being the autumn of my life. Yet as I travel, I can see how fluid and changeable the seasons can be depending upon where you are standing. This is an apt metaphor for living every moment creatively—consciously choosing a frame of mind that says each day can be the first day of spring (if we look at that way). I wonder…perhaps this means I could actually experience being in the springtime of my life now. If I grew older south of the equator half the year and north of the equator the other half, would I remain perpetually young (obviously not in biological terms, but in terms of attitude, outlook and experience)?
Musing aside, a long-standing principle in my work has been the idea that as human beings all of us are always acting and behaving consistently with how we observe our circumstances. In particular, our actions and behaviors are consistent with how the future occurs for us. In other words, if the future occurs as a limited, small space of possibilities, we will generally have a negative mood, organize ourselves to hold on to what we have, and more or less become resigned that life is whatever we think it is. On the other hand, if we relate to a future that is open and full of possibilities, we will generally have a good mood, try new things, take more risks and live our lives in the presence of whatever we imagine or intend. Either way, the future becomes a more or less self-fulfilling phenomenon—a manifestation of where we are ‘coming from’.
We are always used by the future. The only question is “What future will use us?” Will it be one of our own design and creation, a product of our commitments and actions, or will it be a our past projected forward, a prediction of things to come that can only be more, better and different variations of the past?
The implications of this principle are profound. It means that the way we relate to the end of our life has more to do with our day-to-day experience than anything in our past. It means that, as we grow older, we have a choice. We can project our past experiences, our life history, into the future and grow older pretty much as we expect to, as an extension of how we’ve lived our lives—for better or worse. Alternatively, we can create a vision of our future and, by committing to it, we will be called upon to continue growing, creating and expanding until the last moment of our lives.
I read an interview with Ted Turner recently in which he shared that he wanted his tombstone read, “I have nothing more to say.” This isn’t a bad message for all of us to aspire to for the end of our lives. If we can accept the notion that life is pretty much whatever we say it is, then it’s vitally important to design our future so that when we reach the end, we will have fully lived the life we created—and not simply resigned ourselves to replay our ‘history’.
Here is my vision of the future:
- I want a future that is better than the past.
- I want to create a life I love, and love the life I create.
- I want to be a player (not a spectator)—a person who stands FOR something, pays their own way, and generates opportunities to share and contribute what I’ve learned.
- I want a world in which who I am is more important than how old I am—where everyone is treated with decency and dignity, where a person’s value is judged based on what they’re committed to and care about, where communities are safe spaces for raising children and growing old.
- I want to be a skeptical idealist who can let go of narrow, obsolete or bankrupt points of view.
- I want to surrender to the possibility of life and stay open, fresh and inspired.
- I want to know myself and be free to be me: to laugh spontaneously and be surprised, to experience awe and curiosity and be genuinely interested in others, to feel the ‘rush’ of aliveness and enthusiasm for today.
- I want to surround myself with people I respect and admire.
- I want to conquer fear. I want to learn compassion and humility. I want to experience love, passion and challenge—without settling for less than what I know is possible.
- I want to die with the certainty that I did my best, that I kept growing until the end and that I left the world a bit better for my journey.
What’s your vision?