She’s fifty-something, successful, confident and skilled in her craft. A leader in her profession. And like so many of the people I work with, Jennifer is restless and longing to do something different and even more significant with the next couple of decades of her life.
I stop laughing and invite her to look towards the future: “OK Jenn, imagine we’re sitting here two years from now and you’re grinning at me because you’ve created a great new chapter. What are some of the things you see? What’s going on out there?”
Though many of the people I work with light up with that question, Jenn looks puzzled. My question hasn’t inspired her. We look in the other direction, “Jenn, tell me about a time when you were at the top of your game—great professionally, knowing you were making a difference and having a blast.” Jenn’s eyes sparkled and she leaned forward in the way people do when they’ve got a great story to tell. I take notes on what I hear in the next few minutes.
Whether you are a Millennial (born between 1980 and 2000) or, like Jennifer, an “emerging elder”, you can probably identify with her restlessness. Sometimes we’re ready for a major shift, sometimes a tune-up will do. You can probably also identify with having a preference for consulting either the future or the past.
What usually happens when you get quiet and think about the course of your life? Maybe especially this time of year. Do you get energized by visioning the future or by reflecting on your history?
- Some of us love to dream, envision, brainstorm and imagine—your focus goes to the future.
- Some of us (like Jenn) are more energized as they reflect and remember and look back—your focus goes to what you’ve experienced.
Both of my questions are poignant, both are powerful. You may want to eventually answer both. Both help people to make choices about what to keep and accelerate, and what to diminish and leave behind. But probably, like Jenn, one of those questions inspires you more. Here’s my challenge for you at the end of 2012/the beginning of 2013. Trust your gut to pick the question that most gets your attention:
Door #1 “Imagine we’re sitting here two years from now and you’re grinning at me because you’ve created a great new chapter. What are some of the things you see? What’s going on out there?”
Door #2 “Tell me about a time when you were at the top of your game—great professionally, knowing you were making a difference and having a blast. What was going on?”
Whether your way is to envision the future, or to reflect on your track record, life is too precious not to give yourself a little extra time this Holiday Season to evaluate where things stand for you. Enjoy!