Can you imagine your life in 10 years’ time?
It’s hard, isn’t it? There are so many variables, so many unknowns, it’s nearly impossible to predict what’s in store. Chance events happen, and you end up in situations that no one could foresee.
But then you look at people ahead of you for reference. They’re a decade or two older than you. You notice how their lives have panned out.
A few of them operate their own businesses, some more successful than others. Some people have families, while others are living on their own. Some travel to remote places, and still some others are firmly rooted in the same place.
You wonder to yourself: Are they happy? Did things turn out how they wanted? Or beneath that calm, composed veneer, are there cracks of turbulence seeping through?
Early on, our desires start off small. Like soft whispers, they’re barely noticeable. Yet despite our best efforts to brush them off, they grow gradually. If left unchecked, they eventually fester into regrets as time comes and passes.
On the other hand, there are things that might matter now, but given enough time, die down and lie forgotten.
So what’s the difference? What matters more as time goes on, and what stops mattering?
Previously, I wrote a post on 10 Things That Will Matter a Lot Less in 10 Years. Here are 10 things that will matter a lot more in 10 years:
1. Your dreams.
Your aspirations matter. And they will matter more as time goes on…but not necessarily in the way you think. After all, there are two types of dreams.
The first type is the “pie in the sky” type of dreams. These are the ones where you picture yourself achieving something out of reach, such as becoming an A-list actor, a professional athlete, or creating the next big social media site.
While these are fun to daydream about, they’re not going to happen to the vast majority of people. There are too many factors involved that are outside your control, including a lot of luck. Most people accept that these things won’t become reality, and they’re okay with that.
But then you have the second type of dreams, the dreams that you know are perfectly attainable. You might have always dreamed of visiting a specific country, mastering a skill, or getting involved with a charity. Even though they’re attainable, getting there has its share of obstacles too.
You might tell yourself that you’re busy. You might not think it’s the right time. You might not find the courage. When you look back and realize you could have pursued those attainable dreams, regret forms. Your reasons for not pursuing your dreams may turn out to be veiled excuses.
2. Your time.
When you’re younger, you have all the time in the world – at least, that’s how it feels. Money is your main constraint because you have little to no earning power. You don’t mind taking more time to get something done, as long as it costs less.
But as you get older, your earning power tends to grow and your wealth accumulates. Conversely, you have less time overall and your increase in responsibilities leaves you with less free time. These factors force you to start discerning how to spend your waking hours.
Since time becomes more valuable with age, your earlier years should be spent exploring and trying new things, since it’s easier to change directions if needed. You have a greater margin of error because your time is less valuable when you’re younger. It gets harder as you progress in life.
3. Your health.
Nearly everyone is healthy when they’re young. At an early age, you’re strong, fast, and seemingly immortal. Nothing can hurt you.
But there comes a point when people’s health begins deteriorating. It’s gradual at first, but then it accelerates at a rapid speed for some. People suffer from illnesses, old injuries resurfacing, or an accumulation of unhealthy choices.
Those unhealthy choices stem from decades ago, when someone chooses to eat unhealthy foods or leads a lifestyle that is conducive to developing certain diseases. Health problems may not become visibly noticeable or impair someone until later in life. Yet, many are preventable if you decide to make healthy choices today.
Still, our bodies naturally deteriorate as we age, no matter what we do. With this in mind, it’s worth pursuing activities that require good health sooner than later, such as playing a sport or traveling. Sometimes, you never know when your health takes a turn.
4. Your loved ones.
Relationships with your loved ones matters more with time. You think more about what you can do for them and how to spend more time with them. Your thoughts are less about “me, me, me”, and more about children, parents, and those closest to you.
Your attitude towards work also changes. While work used to be about how you could improve your own standing, it later becomes about how work can be used to help other people in your life. Your time outside work becomes more valuable because that’s the time you spend with loved ones.
Of course, just because you need to consider the well-being of others doesn’t mean you shouldn’t think about yourself. Taking time out for yourself is perfectly fine. In fact, it’s a good way to increase your sense of satisfaction and feel more energized, which in turn helps you to interact more positively with others.
5. Your legacy.
Once again, time helps you realize that the world is less about you and more about everyone else. You think more about how your life and work affect others. You think about your legacy.
How has the world improved from your presence? What do you want others to say about you after you’ve left? These are the types of thoughts that enter the forefront of your mind.
While helping others is something you can always do at any stage in life, it becomes more prominent later on and in a way, easier. You’ve spent your earlier years working hard to gain resources and doing what you could to help yourself. Eventually, you accumulate enough resources that you evaluate how you can use it to help others.
You can see this “help yourself first, then help others” strategy with the world’s biggest philanthropists. They focused their earlier years on learning, growing, and accumulating wealth, before thinking about how they could use what they had to tackle wider, global issues.
6. Missed opportunities.
Have you ever had an opportunity present itself that you ended up turning down? If you’ve been alive long enough, then the answer is “yes”. At the time, you had what you believed to be a valid reason for declining and then you moved on.
But an interesting thing happens as time creeps by. There are slow periods, lulls at certain points in your life, where you look back and wonder whether you made the right choice.
You reflect back on that critical crossroad and think: How would things have turned out? Could life have been better? Did I commit a grave mistake? That last question pops up most evidently at distressing moments.
Of course, it’s impossible to know the answer to these questions. The only thing you can do is to make peace, knowing that you made what you believed to be the best choice based on your situation. And who knows? Things could have turned out worse.
7. Risks that paid off.
Think back to the last time you did something scary. Those big aspirations seemed daunting, even insurmountable at the time. But once you conquered those fears and succeeded, you looked back and thought, “Wow. I did it. It wasn’t so bad after all.”
I’ve met more than a few people who can remember that one thing they did that seemed terrifying at the time, such as living abroad and immersing themselves in a different culture. They recall those times fondly as a high point of their lives, even decades later. Everything else blurs in comparison.
As for the risks that didn’t pay off, the vast majority of them are recoverable. There might be some embarrassment, stress, and uncertainty involved at the time, but someday they become just a footnote in the great book of life.
8. Your habits.
Your habits – exercising, flossing your teeth, working on a personal project – may not seem like a big deal on a daily basis, but they accumulate over time. Eventually, they become the ten years that you look back on one day.
Now, imagine if someone told you that starting today, you had to do something…and you had to keep doing it for the rest of your life. “What?!” people would say. They would cry and complain about how it was too much work, too much commitment, and so on.
And it does sound daunting when you put it that way. The funny thing is, habits become less of a conscious effort over time and more something you do simply because you’ve always done it. It’s automatic.
What you do today matters. One day might not seem like much, but simply making one positive choice today can cause ripples of change down the road.
9. Your values.
When you’re younger, you’re used to getting told by others how to think and behave. Your parents. Your teachers. Your boss. Because if you don’t, there are consequences.
Yet as time goes by, you see more of the world and gain life experiences. Your personality and values develop. More and more, you live according to your own mantra.
You tend to care less about what others think as you get older. There comes a point when it gets tiresome living according to somebody else’s rules. You feel suffocated. You yearn to do and be something that others may not approve of.
One of the biggest, if not the biggest, regret people have is not living in a way that is true to themselves. People regret the unrealized possibilities they believe could have happened, had they chosen to live the way they wanted to.
Psychologists have found an interesting phenomenon where there is a shift from promotion motivation to prevention motivation as we age. We gradually shift our thinking from how to gain more to how to prevent loss. This applies in all areas of life: home, relationships, and work.
Instead of chasing after new and exciting things, there’s a greater focus on maintaining the status quo. For instance, a younger person at work is more likely to think about promotions and learning opportunities, while an older co-worker is thinking about keeping a balanced work schedule and earning enough to pay off the mortgage.
So if you want to pursue something exciting, it’s better to do it at an earlier age rather than wait until later. At a later stage, you might either not feel like doing it or feel you have too much to lose. And since your obligations increase with time, you wouldn’t be wrong to think this way.
Nobody Can Read the Future, But We Can Read Patterns
It’s true that no one can predict what the future will bring. A single action can bring out any of a number of results, some of which were unpredicted. Your future is uncertain.
Despite what we believe when we’re younger, we’re not completely unique. We’re not different from everybody else. What ends up happening is we fall into similar patterns. If we’ve celebrated a triumph or suffered a tragedy, somebody somewhere has experienced and felt the same thing.
This isn’t bad. In fact, it’s good. It helps us see what lies ahead. While we probably make the same mistakes as someone before us, we learn and act with a better knowledge of what our future selves are like.