‘The unexamined life is not worth living’ Socrates
You may already be familiar with a technique, used in a number of branches of counseling, where clients are offered an opportunity to consider what they might do differently with their life – if – they had an opportunity to relive the past. Example: If you were writing a letter to your 16 year old self, what advice would you give? Of course, none of us can ‘put the toothpaste back in the tube’ and you might well ask what’s the point of this? The technique is sometimes used to help clients get a better perspective on achievements, to show how much of the mountain they have already climbed. It drives home the point that wisdom might be slowly creeping up on you (bring it on!). Reflecting on past events can also be helpful in allowing you to forgive yourself for misdemeanours. Where the issues are more serious, some people decide to make amends, to put something ‘to rights’.
Future Focus: I’ve conducted versions of this exercise with many executives. Overall, I think that the most important benefit is to help clients think through how they want to use the remaining time on the clock. There are lots of published examples of this but the following piece by Nadine Stair who was 85 years old at the time of writing, is as good as it gets. Soak this up and enjoy!
I’d dare to make more mistakes next time. I’d relax. I would limber up. I would be sillier than I have been this trip. I would take fewer things seriously. I would take more chances. I would take more trips. I would climb more mountains and swim more rivers. I would eat more ice cream and less beans. I would perhaps have more actual troubles, but I’d have fewer imaginary ones.
You see, I’m one of those people who lives sensibly and sanely hour after hour, day after day. Oh, I’ve had my moments and if I had it to do over again, I’d have more of them. In fact, I’d try to have nothing else. Just moments, one after another, instead of living so many years ahead of each day. I’ve been one of those persons who never goes anywhere without a thermometer, a hot water bottle, a raincoat, and a parachute. If I had to do it again, I would travel lighter than I have.
If I had my life to live over, I would start barefoot earlier in the spring and stay that way later in the fall. I would go to more dances. I would ride more merry-go-rounds. I would pick more daisies.
Taking Control: We all have the ability to reflect on past events and to use this information to plot the next leg of the journey. It’s zero cost, can be done on your own time, and you don’t have to show the results to anyone. Because, when you take control of the past, you control the future. A future that you might decide will be different from what you are doing today or from where you are currently headed. Neil Simon, the American playwright reminded us that: “If no-one ever took risks, Michelangelo would have painted the Sistine floor.” What risks are you planning to take during the 2nd half of the game?
PS A balding, white haired man from California, walked into a jewelry store in a local mall this past Friday evening with a beautiful much younger gal at his side. He told the jeweler he was looking for a special ring for his girlfriend. The jeweler looked through his stock and brought out a $5,000 ring.The man said, ‘No, I’d like to see something more special.’
At that statement, the jeweler went to his special stock and brought another ring over. ‘Here’s a stunning ring at only $40,000’ the jeweler said. The lady’s eyes sparkled and her whole body trembled with excitement. The old man seeing this said, ‘We’ll take it.’
The jeweler asked how payment would be made and the man stated, ‘by check. I know you need to make sure my check is good, so I’ll write it now and you can call the bank Monday to verify the funds and I’ll pick up the ring Monday afternoon.’
On Monday morning, the jeweler angrily phoned the old man and said ‘There’s only $25 in that account.’ ‘I know, said the old man, ‘But let me tell you about MY GREAT WEEKEND!’
See… Not All Seniors Are Senile.
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