During the last eight weeks, there has been a single topic on our minds: when will the sheltering in place and disruption of the COVID-19 virus be over?
Well, since no one has the answer to this question right now, I want to share a different perspective.
No matter what is going on in your mind or in your life, you should ask yourself this question: Are my best years behind me or are my best years ahead of me?
The reality is … we all get to choose! Frankly, I believe strongly that it is all a mindset (consider this great book: Mindset, The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D.).
Sure, you could lament about the “good old days” and “the way it used to be,” or you could change your perspective. If you buy into the idea that the best days in your life are truly ahead of you—and you believe in that—it can actually make it exciting to get up each day!
First of all, you would say to yourself: How can I make that happen? How can I ensure that the best days of my life are ahead of me? What would cause that to happen? And what stands in the way? Well, really nothing stands in the way.
It’s all about how do you want to live your life. How do you guarantee that your life is full of joy and excitement? What things would have to happen to make your future the best part of your life?
Start by making a list. Make a list of all the things that you want to do, or you want to happen. Places you want to go, people to see, hobbies to learn, and so on. List things that would make your future years the best ones.
Some might refer to this as a “bucket list.” It doesn’t have to be outrageous, unless there are some outrageous things you want to do. For example, bungee jumping is not on my list, but visiting the Grand Canyon is. Taking a vacation several times a year is on my list and so is having family dinners with my daughters at least once a month.
Think about it, to have a sense of accomplishment and self-satisfaction, it’s good to create that road map with stops along the way. If this sounds too organized and goal-oriented for you, you might find it interesting to learn that more people spend time planning their annual one-week vacation than they do planning their life. Why not think bigger than only planning an annual vacation?
It’s long term thinking vs. short term thinking.
Back to the COVID-19 sheltering-in-place time we are in, it is easy to feel like the sky is falling. But let’s put this into perspective based on our own history.
It was over 30 years ago that HIV and AIDS were discovered and famed basketball player Magic Johnson was diagnosed with HIV in 1991. He immediately retired from professional sports. When diagnosed, he could easily have thought his best days were behind him. Today, in 2020, Magic Johnson is better known for his incredible success as a Los Angeles-based entrepreneur and civic business leader than as a basketball player. Clearly, his best days were in front of him, even when he was faced with what seemed like a life-or-death situation.
During the financial crisis of 2008, bankers and investors saw their fortunes disappear in the economic downturn. People could easily have told themselves that their lives as they knew it were over and that their fortunes would never be restored. The smart folks, with a growth mindset, didn’t give up and some of them are significantly wealthier today than they were pre-2008. They leveraged their experience and saw an opportunity for a different kind of success. Certainly, their best days were in front of them.
What about when the dot.com bubble burst in 2000? Sure, in the short term, many companies almost completely lost their value. But now, tech companies like Facebook, Alphabet (Google) and Amazon are all booming and their owners and investors are successful beyond belief. But in 2000–2002, it sure seemed to appear as if the world was ending. I bet Jeff Bezos would have said his best years were ahead of him.
Back to the question: Are your best days behind you, or are the best years of your life in front of you? Ultimately, you get to decide.
Perhaps you can think about the base of experiences you have built pre-COVID. The experiences, the contacts, the habits. Can you now leverage all that experience to make your future years even better?
For me, the easiest choice I make every day is to only worry about those things I have control over. Everything else is not worth a worry.
For example, my personal health and fitness are within my control. Some people would see it as a hurdle or excuse that all gyms are closed. For me, my trainer is now 60 miles away since I moved. But my health is within my control, and so instead I have taken up vigorous walking and hiking every afternoon. Five-mile walks with plenty of hills are my new routine. I dusted off all those free weights gathering dust in my garage and have now converted a spare bedroom into a mock gym.
So, as you are pondering how you can guarantee that your best days are ahead of you, consider these three perspectives:
- Stay Focused – don’t be distracted by all the negativity in the news and only focus on those things within your control
- Stay Healthy – taking care of your body and mind will help you better deal with stress
- Be Grateful – studies have shown that those who focus on the “glass half full” have a better attitude, deal with stress better and have happier lives. I’m sure there are things you are grateful for. Perhaps it’s saving time and gas if you are working from home and not having to drive to work every day. Or maybe it’s the extra time you’ve had to cook at home or the eight hours of sleep you now get. Being grateful gives you the positive energy to deal with anything and everything.
For me, I know the best days of my life ARE in front of me and no pandemic or sheltering-in-place guidelines can stop me from enjoying life! How about you?