Stuck Making a Decision? Life is too Short so Here’s a Boost
As we’ve aged, the two of us have found ourselves getting more stuck at times in making decisions, including very important ones. To improve our ability to do so, we look for answers and signs. And recently, we discovered an exercise that we think will give everyone who participates a boost to prioritize. Consider trying it, if you find yourself in a similar situation.
We’ve borrowed it from George Kinder, an author, thought leader, and life-planning pioneer who has been at the forefront of the financial services industry (www.georgekinder.com) through his Kinder Institute of Life Planning. He’s also trained thousands of professionals in financial planning. These days with prices rising and stocks plummeting, many of us can never have enough good financial due diligence.
Here’s what he suggests by posing three questions. We know it’s not only about money but the joy factor, which is usually described as priceless. Try asking yourselves these questions and see if it causes you to make some changes. Take your time, mull over them for a few days and consider living life in one or a combination of these ways:
- Imagine you are financially secure, that you have enough money to take care of your needs, now and in the future. How would you live your life? Would you change anything? Let yourself go. Don't hold back on your dreams. Describe a life that is complete and richly yours, Kinder suggests.
We think. We dream. Oh, what fun the two of us would have as we settle into our dream homes, stock our refrigerators with the best of the best we love—not caviar but that lobster for lobster rolls, the finest chocolate for nibbling at night, the freshest fruit, dozens of French pastries and so on.
We’d also take our kids and any grands—and each other--on interesting trips more and contribute more to our favorite charities. Margaret, a tutor for young children, would start a school where her beliefs are shared about the importance of literacy from an early age. And if we had a best seller or won the lottery, Margaret would donate the lions share to non-profits that help feed, clothe and educate underserved children.
Barbara would fund a department at her college to develop solutions about increasing attractive, energy-efficient, affordable housing to fill that critical housing void. And we’d both write blogs galore about what we discovered in doing this, so you can read the results and be inspired.
- But we might not be so lucky and instead of having that complete, exciting life, we might find ourselves each trudging off to visit our doctors, who tell us that we have only five to 10 years to live, Kinder says.
At almost 77 and 74 respectively, that still gets us way into our 80s, not bad, even if we wanted longer. We won't ever feel sick, but we will have no notice of the moment of our death, Kinder says. Phew…that part is good.
What will we do in the time we have remaining? Will we change our life and how will we do it? (This question does not assume unlimited funds.)
Barbara would take five of her bucket list trips instead of her hoped-for 10-12, clean out her attic finally so her daughters don’t have to, including all those American Girl dolls and their paraphernalia and family photos and diaries, downsize at once eliminating a lot of maintenance, expense and time, take on only work she loves, paint more, spend more time in art museums, order that $10.50 croissant and $7.50 cappuccino in New York City she pooh-poohed earlier this year and write another book with Margaret.
Margaret would take her children on a trip to Israel and Europe, spend time visiting her two children more who don’t live in New York City, go to as many classical music concerts and operas as possible; take classes that relate to politics or ways to change the world and how to get involved in making a difference; volunteer to work part or full-time with kids in an elementary school helping with reading and writing; possibly become again a Court Appointed Special Advocate for abused and neglected kids; finally perfect how to make a pie crust; get her voice in shape and then sing with a baroque group. Pretty ambitious, huh? But this would be her last shot, she knows.
- But we still have one more question to ponder, Kinder says. And this may be the toughest. We must imagine that our doctor shocks us with the news that we only have 24 hours to live. We’re told to notice what feelings arise as we confront this very real mortality, he says. We ask ourselves: What will we miss? Who did we not get to be with? What did we not get to do?
After we endure our heartaches and buckets of tears instead of trips, we make our list for dearest family and friends for posterity. We may even write down our plans for a eulogy and funeral. And we’d call up our literary agent and say, “Sorry, we won’t be doing that other book but will be finishing one very fast and furiously.”
Barbara would gather together her daughters, grands and beau and go to some chic resort with great views, open a top bottle of Margaret’s daughter’s wine—probably several bottles, order the best cheeseburger—cholesterol and animal rights groups be damned, a pile of crispy French fries and eat an entire pint of peppermint stick ice cream from Jeni’s…$12.50 or so, and not share one spoonful.
The others could make their own dessert choices. She’d tell them all how much she loves them, apologize for those parental and girlfriend mistakes, bemoan all that TV she binged on during COVID-19 and the literary books she didn’t have time to read, insist they plan a fabulous celebration in her memory and try inviting some of her favorite luminaries she always wanted to interview such as artist David Hockney, chefs Jacques Pepin and Marcus Samuelson and architect Taddeo Ando. She’d announce some significant philanthropic contributions. But the focus would be on making it the best, most fun 24 hours she and everyone else could possibly have, given that she was about to depart to an afterlife, or so she hoped.
Margaret would gather together her kids and three siblings for a final reunion and “goodbye.” She’d then squeeze in time to listen to her one son perform all the music he’s composed, and she’d ask her other son to treat her to a Gustavo Dudamel concert at the New York Philharmonic. She’d also like to meet him in person. After, Margaret and her three children would all fly to San Francisco. On the plane, she’d listen to the most famous arias sung by Maria Callas including “Norma,” “Casta diva,”; “Tosca,” “Vissi d’arte,” and Traviata,” “Se una pudica vergine,”-- when the dying Violetta no longer feels pain.
In San Francisco, she’d go to Scoma’s on the water (where she and her late husband ate on their honeymoon) and eat all the fresh lobster and crab she could and have a final look at the ocean. Then, she’d head north to Napa and visit Duckhorn Winery, the company her daughter works for, and have a VIP tasting of their best bottles of merlot and other reds.
After dinner, she’d sit on a bench, people watch and finish reading her three favorite magazines in print –Opera News, Smithsonian and The New Yorker. With laptop in hand, she’d write her final blog about what it’s like to know you’re dying the next day. It would be filled with confidences, regrets and confessions. Purging. Before going to sleep that night, she’d watch her favorite old movie on Turner Classic Movies (TCM), “The Valley of Decision.” She’d fall asleep content.
What have we learned from doing this exercise and what might you? Kinder says that answering the first question is easy. There are lots of things we'd do if money were no object. But as the questions progress, the replies become more challenging as there are fewer possible answers.
Smart life planning is all about answering the third question for it zeros in on living each day to its fullest. It also signals the importance of doing what we want to do in the here and now rather than ruminating. Otherwise, it might be too late.
We think our answers to all three questions signal to each of us to kick up our heels more, be grateful for each day, have a lot more fun and adventures at this later stage as the clock ticks down, be ready for meaningful experiences and remember that we’re all going to get older--and, yes, sadly die.
We look around and think, we only have so many years left, are we content where we are? If not, what would we like to change and what is feasible?
But we like to end on a cheerful note, so we’re grateful for all we’ve had, especially family, closest friends, each other and yes, you dear readers, too!
So glad to know that Barbara also loves peppermint stick ice cream – my absolute favorite!!
Vicki Rashbaum Horowitz
This is excellent advice for me right now. Recent move to Maryland from NY has me totally disorganized..and unable to look forward, backward or sideways. Will re read this wonderful article..and value your examples…and maybe get some help moving forward one day at a time..right now in Canada visiting bro in law who turned 90..bringing back memories of my sister, whom I miss very much..wish i cd share your words with her..