Most people don’t plan for their own futures. They may think about things they have to do tomorrow. They may worry about the future of the environment or the world. But most of them don’t imagine where or who they want to be in the next five or 10 years. In Eric J. Weigel’s words, they haven’t imagined their future self.

Weigel is the managing partner at Boston-based Global Focus Capital and founder of a retirement coaching service called Retire With Possibilities. Yesterday, he talked about the future problem in a presentation called “Closing the Gap with Your Future Self” at the Retirement Coaches Association’s sixth annual conference.

He said it’s not just the young who don’t want to think about who they will be tomorrow. “Research shows that the older you are, the less you think about your future,” he said.

The Future: Where Retirement Planning Starts
This creates a challenge and an opportunity for retirement planners.

Weigel insisted that the more you think about your future, the better off you will likely be. Better off means you have “improved financial security, better relationships, and improved well-being all around,” he said.

Imagine getting all that good stuff, he added, by simply shifting your mindset and refocusing your attention from the immediate to the long term.

That’s the key to retirement success, he said. But it’s only a first step.

The Past Is Not The Future
Looking at the past won’t help, he said, since assuming that the next 10 years will play out like the last 10 is illogical—and frankly defeatist. The idea leads to passive thinking.

In fact, he said, there were many paths that we could have taken in the past that got us to where we are today. “The same holds for the future.” And he acknowledged that luck plays a part in everyone’s fate—good and bad. Even if the past 10 years were good, you don’t have to follow the same map. There are many paths that you can follow going forward.

“A lot of life is where you choose to be,” he said.

No Guarantees
Of course, making a plan doesn’t guarantee you will end up exactly where you intended either. But if you imagine it and plan for it, he stressed, odds are you will get closer to that goal than if you hadn’t tried at all.

The plan starts with a vision, an idea about desired goals. To reinforce the point, Weigel noted that if you don’t expect much, you won’t do much. If you just live day by day without a thought for the future, you won’t bother to exercise or try to stay healthy. You may not work at fostering good relationships with colleagues, friends or family. And you certainly won’t plan well for your financial needs.

That’s a recipe for disaster.

Three Key Elements
Weigel described the three pillars for reaching one’s desired future self.

The first is knowing what you want your future to look like. “I always start by asking my clients, ‘What kind of life do you want?’” he said. “It’s actually a question that a lot of people have trouble answering.”

As a prompt, he often asks clients how they want people to describe them at their 80th birthday or even at their funeral. This, he said, makes the concept of who they want to be more concrete. “The more detailed the vision [for the future], the easier it is to realize,” he said.

First « 1 2 » Next