There’s a whole range of attitudes regarding human existence.
There’s the cynic, like 17th century English philosopher Thomas Hobbes, who unhappily wrote, “Life is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”
At the other end of the spectrum are the scientist Sir Francis Bacon (“Friends double joy and cut grief in half”), the poet Lord Byron (“Those who would possess joy must share it — happiness is born a twin”), and even the practical Abraham Lincoln (“Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be”).
But, here’s the question, kind of a thought-experiment that assumes that maybe youth does not need to be wasted on the young if you have proper perspective:
Imagine that you’re 110 years old. You meet an inventor/scientist from NASA who tells you that you can be transported back in time to whatever age during your life that you would like.
With all the wisdom accumulated and having lived an experienced life, you have 15 minutes to spend with your younger and less experienced self. What do you say when you meet? What advice do you give?
An author named Nathaniel Branden writes, “In order to seek value, a person must consider himself/herself worthy of enjoying it. In order to strive for happiness, he must consider himself worthy of happiness.”
Although I don’t subscribe to the belief that things always happen for the best, I do know people who are able to make the best of what happens.
It is true in our personal lives and our professional responsibilities that people who set goals are more likely to succeed than those who don’t. Having explicit objectives that are challenging and specific — with clear timelines and performance criteria — leads to better performance, according to psychology experts Edwin A. Locke and Gary Latham.
It’s also my experience across three generations and six decades that people working toward explicit goals are more content in life, happier, and much more fun to be around!
Remember that it’s not goal-attainment that provides happiness, but rather goal-pursuit toward worthwhile objectives. Temporary satisfaction comes from goal attainment, but a deeper happiness comes from the purposeful process of pursuing worthwhile goals.
So, the best way to predict the future is to create it. The best way to determine what our place in life will be like is to think about and make it as we wish.
As Goethe said, “Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it … boldness has genius, magic and power in it!”
I hope that four or five readers will write back at email@example.com and tell me what their time-travel advice to their “younger selves” would be. Thanks for your generous friendship, and be sure to list your contact information.
Kane County Board chairman