Chatting up your 100-year-old self

One of the nice things about being a writer is that I have time. Unlike those who want to be the next American Idol, I have plenty of time to let my eyes crinkle and my hair turn white while my sweaters pill. Readers don’t require writers to be young. There is no rush to hit the big time.

But 100-year-old Gene has a different point of view. In Barbara Ann Kipfer’s book, "Field Guide to Happiness," Kipfer suggests holding a conversation with your 100-year-old self. She advises readers to close their eyes and visualize what they would look like sitting across the table during this conversation.

Assume your 100-year-old self will be in good health and happy. Now for the conversation...

"Ask what things you could do or experience that would have the most positive impact on your life," she writes.

Staring at me from across the table, future me warned present day me not to push off submitting my poetry to magazines for even one more day. (A little background here: I love reading and writing poetry. But when it comes to sending out queries to magazine editors, my eyes glaze over and a low-grade paralysis stops me from getting to the mailbox.)

So that is an immediate goal that future me helped set. But of course he wasn’t done there. He also suggested—and I thought rather smugly from behind his white beard—that an attitude adjustment would be worth a shot.

It’s true that I can be a little uptight adding unnecessary tension to my life. It’s a good thing that my wife wasn’t invited to sit in on this conversation with us. I would have been outnumbered here.

As silly as it seems, the visualization worked. You could also ask your future you about goals and priorities. Maybe you could get advice on pitfalls that you will encounter. Kipfer recommends writing a journal entry after the conversation. My conversation was cut short by 100-year-old me who was about to step on stage at the Dodge Poetry Festival.

It’s the biggest poetry festival in the country and here he was, cane in hand, strolling slowly to the podium to read my poems to the thousands who gathered. As I watched 100-year-old me take the poems out of his vest pocket, I thought about what else I took from our chat.

Even though progress was slow at times throughout his life, he never called it quits. Wear and tear made him look like a classy blues musician. He took setbacks in stride and said he was just earning his stripes.

"You can’t control how others see the world, or how they react to things," he said. "So, let yourself let things go."

What does it take to be happy? We often have the answers to the questions that plague us. Sometimes, a little trick like the exercise above brings this to light.

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