A Better Question to Ask Yourself to Determine Your Long-Term Goals
Jeff Bezos, the former CEO of Amazon and visionary, is often asked “what’s going to change?” But instead of focusing Amazon on what is going to change, instead, he focuses on what will not change. As he says:
While investing in what’s changing is risky, investing in what stays the same is not. Bezos realizes investments in what doesn’t change will still be paying off in ten years. “When you have something you know is true, even over the long term,” he said, “you can afford to put a lot of energy into it.”
Look at Amazon as an example:
- Will customers want to pay higher prices? Absolutely not.
- Are customers ever going to want their goods slower? No way.
- Do customers want a smaller selection and variety of goods to buy? Hell no.
And if you look at Amazon over the years, that is what they focused on. Lower prices. Two-day shipping. A marketplace with a bigger selection and variety of goods (and for things they can’t procure themselves, they have FBA where other sellers can sell goods through Amazon).
But enough about Amazon. You don’t care about them. You care about what this means for you. And if you think about what will not change for you in the long term, you can, like Bezos, invest a lot of energy into these things because you know they will pay off in the long run. How did I determine these items? These are all traits that are common in the blue zones — areas in the world home to the world’s oldest people. These are the same traits that will help you live a longer life.
I have grouped these into one category. You could have a partner and kids. You could have great relationships with your Mom, Dad, siblings, cousins, etc. You could have close friends. Whatever the case, those relationships are important now, and will be important later. For me, I cannot imagine a world where I’m living alone and have no relationships.
How can you invest in your family/relationships? Some ideas:
- Prioritize time with your family/relationships. Sure, you can work that weekend and get the money, but ten years later, would you rather have the money or time with your daughter?
- Give your family a good death. Scott Galloway wrote about how, when his Mom was diagnosed with stomach cancer, he spent almost all of his time with her, watching TV shows, talking about his family, browsing through old family photos, and hearing her stories.
- Find things you can do with your partner. From my experience as a couple, I have different interests than my partner. But just because we have different interests does not mean we can’t find things to do together that we both like. Movies. Paint nights. Sports. Board games. The list is endless. It’s a matter of trying out new things and landing on something that works for both of you.
10, 20, even 50 years later, your health will matter. Your health will determine how much ‘life’ you get out of your life. Without your health, you may be stuck at home or in the hospital living out the rest of your life needing medical care. With your health, you can get out there, be mobile, and enjoy life.
Another bonus of investing in your health now is that there is a trade-off between money and health. You sacrifice your health in your earlier years to get money. And later when you are older, you sacrifice your money to get more health. Investing in health now will help you save money in the future.
How can you invest in your health? Some ideas:
- Prioritize sleep. Blue zone people make sleep and rest a priority. In certain blue zone areas, people take naps in the afternoon. Most blue zone people do not have a set schedule, so they sleep however long they need to before they go about their day. Do you wake up feeling fully refreshed and energized? Do you feel tired throughout the day?
- Be active when attending company webinars/talks. Since we are all remote, any time there’s a company webinar or talk from the CEO, I watch the video on my phone and turn on my treadmill so that I’m watching and walking at the same time. It’s better than sitting at my desk and passively paying attention to the talk at the same time while working.
- Build exercise into your daily life. If you have to turn on your TV, walk to the TV to turn it on. If you need your charger, grab the one by your bedside so that it forces you to walk to your bedroom. Pets, like dogs, are a simple way to get more exercise because you have to walk your dog every day.
Having a sense of purpose (ikigai)
Ikigai is the Japanese word and translates into ‘sense of purpose’. A classic experiment shows that elderly nursing home residents live longer when given a plant to care for.
Why do caregivers live longer?
Given a plant to care for, elderly nursing home residents live longer. That simple classic experiment (1) highlights…
That experiment shows the power of having an ikigai, or a sense of purpose. Whether it is a plant to care for, grandkids to watch, or a book to write, having a sense of purpose will not go away, even if technology ends up replacing us.
How do we get a sense of purpose? That’s the million-dollar question, isn’t it? I can’t tell you what your sense of purpose is, but I can share with you some ways to find your sense of purpose:
- On Saturdays, when you have nothing you need to do, what do you choose to do? What would you spend your time doing if you had the choice?
- When you were young, what did you love to do? You might say playing with Lego or playing video games. These aren’t purposes, but they may hint at a purpose. For example, playing with Lego might mean you were meant to design or architect structures. Or that you like to piece together small components together (could be components of a strategy, could be different people together into a cohesive team, could be coaching kids on a sports team).
- What do you spend a lot of money or time on? Examine your credit card statement over the course of a few months. What do you spend a lot of money on, aside from the usual commitments — rent, food, car payments, insurance, etc. Do you spend a lot of money on books? Video games? Nutritional supplements? Loose leaf tea?
Let me clarify — your sense of purpose may change. Many entrepreneurs for example make millions or billions, and then decide that they want to use their money to do social good. I’m saying that having a sense of purpose will not change. You have a purpose now (maybe not a good sense of what that is, but you’re moving forward). You will have a purpose later.
One way to think about your long-term goals is to think about what could change. Your money situation would be different. Where you live and work could be different. If you spend a lot of time and money, immersing yourself in your town, but then end up in a different town a decade from now, you likely aren’t going to feel good about yourself. So instead of focusing on the change, focus instead on what will not change. Specifically:
- Your family and relationships
- Your health
- Having a sense of purpose
When you know what will not change in the long-term, you can afford to invest a lot of time and energy into those areas of your life.
Speaking of the long-term, I recently published a book called Strategies for Long-Term Success, where I outline the specific strategies I used to be a bit better at life over ten years. If you’re interested, please check it out. If you are interested in a free copy, you can check out my gumroad page where you can pay whatever you want.