1. Sometimes even our close friends and family members may not give us the support we may be looking for, or even an enthusiastic response when you first share a new goal that you have – especially if it may seem ambitious or take some time. I know of situations when someone has noted they want to return to college for an advanced degree and well intentioned pals say, “You’ll be 60 by the time you graduate.” To which I suggest they reply “I’ll be 60 regardless, so I think it will be even better with my new knowledge and the opportunities it will provide.” (Bonus Psych note – they may envy your moxie.)
2. While many of us have regrets for things we have done in our past, there can be future-forward regrets that we can purposely avoid. In many of my talks on this topic, I refer to what I call the “Pox of the Untils.” That is an ailment in which those afflicted postpone doing the things they really, really want to do, until something first has occurred, like until getting into college, or until graduating, or until getting a job, or until getting a raise, or until getting married, or divorced, or having children, or until they grow up, or until, until, until… Then, seemingly all of a sudden, they have come to the end of their life’s journey without having really done what they had dreamed of. The key symptom of this malady is avoidable regret.
3. Oh my gosh, I am such a fan of the work of Steward Brand (creator of the Whole Earth Catalog and the Long Now Foundation, former Marine and hippie, current activist and bon vivant). The inimitable Mr. Brand arranges his life in blocks of 5 years. Five years is what he says any project worth doing will take. “From the moment of inception to the last good-riddance, a book, a campaign, a new job, a startup – will take 5 years to play through.” So, he asks himself, how many 5 years do I have left? He can count them on one hand, if he is lucky. Such a process provides super-clarity as to what he chooses to do and spend his time on. My friend Derek Sivers’ spin on this is, when you are asked to do something, unless it’s a full throated “hell yes!” then it’s a no.
4. Create your private psychic pantheon of mentors. I have personally taken to heart what Jerry Saltz wrote in How to be an Artist. “I have my own sort of School of Athens in my head. A team of rivals, friends, famous people, influencers, dead and alive. They’re all looking over my shoulder as I work. They all make observations, recommendations, suggestions. None of them are mean. I use music a lot. I think, OK, let’s begin this piece with a real pow! Like Beethoven. Or I listen to Barbara Krueger in my head, who says Make this short, punchy, declarative, aggressive. Once in a while, Led Zeppelin chimes in: Try a hairy experiment here. Let it all show, let it be weird, messy, overblown, absurd. All the Sienese paintings I’ve ever seen beg me, Make it beautiful, indulge the products of looking. D. H. Lawrence pounds on the table, demanding voice; Alexander Pope tells me to get a grip; Whitman pushes me on to merge my work with anything; Melville gets grandiose; Proust drives me to extend my sentences till they almost break and my editor step in to cut them down.” Such can be your virtual “private psychic pantheon.” Tell them Chris says “hey.”
5. In working with my mentees, I been sharing Jonathan Fields’ three Good Life Buckets, so I’ll end with doing so here as well
- Vitality: Appreciate the small things to live a more meaningful life.
- Connection: Invest in quality friendships and improve your health.
- Contribution: Set inspiring and meaningful goals. Maybe now is a good time to examine your goal-setting strategy.
Think about #2 as you do this and add a dash of #3. And, as always, enjoy the journey as well as the destination.
Dr. Stout is a clinical psychologist, bestselling author, adventurer, startup whisperer, (accidental) humanitarian, and| éminence grise. He’s the Founding Director of the Center for Global Initiatives and works as the Executive Producer and Host of the popular “Living a Life in Full” podcast. He a Full Professor in the College of Medicine at the University of Illinois, Chicago and prior to he was at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. He worked at the UN, served as Chief Psychologist for the State of Illinois, and was an Invited Faculty at the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos.
Dr. Stout is a world-wide speaker and organizational consultant having worked or traveled in all 50 states, over 100 countries and 6 continents. He was noted as being “one of the most frequently cited psychologists in the scientific literature.” He is a Fellow in the APA, past-President of the IPA, and is a Distinguished Practitioner in the National Academies of Practice. The APA named him psychology’s “International Rockstar.” He is the recipient of four Humanitarian Awards and four additional honorary doctorates. He is a popular LinkedIn Influencer with almost a half-million followers. His archive of professional work is part of the Smithsonian’s Museum for the History of Psychology. He balances all his academic and humanitarian efforts with time with his family and ultra-running, motorcycle builds, adventure sports, and climbing (having summited 3 of the world’s 7 Summits). To learn more or connect: https://linktr.ee/drchrisstout