I wrote recently about imagining the future you. If we want to get motivated to do something, like exercise, it helps to ask what we want in the future. To want functional ability on staircases in our older years or to romp with grandchildren, we probably have to exercise now to keep the machinery in good working order.
(Yesterday, a friend told me the harrowing story of the psoas, a major muscle that runs from our lower spinal vertebrae to the backs of our legs where our femurs meet our backsides. The psoas basically joins the upper and lower parts of our body together. And if you sit too much — like me for the past 40 years — your psoas can gradually tighten. You don’t want that. Here’s what Wikipedia says: “Tightness of the psoas can result in spasms or lower back pain by compressing the lumbar discs. A hypertonic and inflamed psoas can lead to irritation and entrapment of the ilioinguinal and the iliohypogastric nerves, resulting in a sensation of heat or water running down the front of the thigh.” Huge note to self: KEEP MOVING, ESPECIALLY THE PSOAS.)
So it’s about ends. The endpoint is you in the future. It’s something you want, something you value, something that gets you closer to who you intend to be in the world.
For example, I want that calm, clear, physically functional, meditative blogger, golfer, amateur photographer, and well-married, community-building citizen who reads novels and charms strangers with insightful conversation while aging optimistically, eating well, and prudently resisting the siren call of beer and French fries so he can one day look back on a full life with wise 90-year-old eyes.
Is that too much to ask?
Endpoints are a useful filter for almost anything that requires an investment of time, especially when time is at a premium, which, after the age of about 60, it is. As I say perhaps too often, we all have endpoints. We don’t get out alive. That stark fact has a way, for me, of sharpening decisions about how I spend time these days.
It’s either endpoints or willy nilly. Endpoints are reflective. Willy nilly is reactive. There’s a choice.
Whatever it might be — a meeting to arrange, a book to read, a friend to make, a holiday to take, a piece of paying work to commit to — I’m asking myself with a little more frequency, “To what end?”
There’s usually a pretty good answer. When there’s not, I want to pay closer attention to what comes next.
Below, by the way, is an illustration (courtesy of Wikipedia) of the psoas. Picture yours long, not short.