Almost 10 year journey I embarked on a journey into the fascination field of financial education and along the way, there have been people and processes added to our programs that enhanced their effectiveness by leaps and bounds.
One of these activities was suggested by my life partner, Steve Gordon, and it had to do with inviting people to think about an older version of themselves. Let me explain…
Kids Don’t Often Relate to Later
What I noticed early on was that the kids and teens in my Camp Millionaire programs (and many of their parents:-) had a really hard time thinking and planning for a future that was so far in the distance. When you think about it, using classic ‘retirement’ ideas (which I don’t teach the standard way…I teach financial freedom instead. More on that later), you’re asking a child to plan for maybe 50-70 years in the future. How many of us big kids can even do that now? Exactly!
As you might imagine, the challenge of making financial education relevant to their lives NOW has been the topic of more conversations than I’d like to recount but one such conversation led to this revelation…if you can get them to somehow relate to THEMSELVES later as a real human being and then put them into that older version’s mind, body and living situation, something seems to shift so they see the relevance of establishing great financial thoughts, beliefs, and habits NOW.
This brilliance came from Steve when he suggested I do a simple exercise with my participants (all ages) that literally walks them through a visualization of seeing their older selves. I tried it and guess what? It worked brilliantly!
I have used this visualization, and many variations of it, for over six years now quite successfully. I have included the basic version below for your convenience. Feel free to tailor it to fit your needs but whatever you do, use it!
Note: younger children often balk at closing their eyes in a room full of their peers. It isn’t necessary for people to close their eyes in order to visualize something. If I told you right now to NOT think of the purple elephant with pink pokadots in the hallway, you can’t NOT see the elephant. Wasn’t he cute? :-). I also tell them that they all look silly so not to worry about it!
Hope you enjoy the process and let me know how it goes! One last note: if you’re an adult, don’t be surprised if you end up in tears.
The Older You That’s Depending on the Younger You
The following visualization is designed to put you in touch with the older person you will eventually become; the person that is counting on a younger self to make decisions that will lead to a secure, happy future full of promise, adventure and financial freedom.
One of the easiest ways to do this is to record the visualization and play it back, listening to the sound of your own voice. If you can’t do that, simply read through it once and then go back and do it.
Here we go…
Find a comfortable place to relax, either sitting in a chair or laying down on your back with your hands at your side. Close your eyes and take a nice, slow deep breath in … and then out. Take four more slow, deep breaths, each time feeling your body and mind begin to get more… and more relaxed. Feel yourself sinking into the chair or the ground beneath you.
Feel yourself become heavy… deep breath in… and out. Imagine your body sinking deeper… and deeper… and deeper toward the floor with each breath you exhale.
Now imagine you are walking through a forest of old growth trees. It’s summer time and the canopy of the trees provides the perfect shade for a hot summer day. Hear the birds to your left and if you notice, there’s a little stream on your right. Your walking on a path of soft pine needles that make the most lovely sweet sound when as you walk along happily and contented.
As you continue walking, you notice there’s another path that goes slightly off to the right. You decide to take it and within just a few minutes you notice that the trees are beginning to clear and all of a sudden you’re at the edge of a beautiful clearing. You’re standing in front of a beautiful open field of grass, gently waving in the sight breeze you start to become aware of. The path beckons you into the field.
As you near the opposite edge of the field, the path turns slightly to the right again and you are walking in the woods again but this time there’s maple trees and oak trees and wild flowers all around. As you continue walking, smelling the flowers and the fresh air, you notice, off to the left up on a little hillside not far away, the cutest little rustic cabin.
On the front porch, you notice someone is rocking in a old rocking chair; they seem as peaceful as can be. You look closely and notice this older person looks a little bit like you might look in many years to come. You watch that person for a while and notice how content and happy he or she looks, just watching the world go by, not a care in the world, free to do anything at anytime.
You decide to wonder up and chat with this person but as you get closer you notice they don’t see you. You walk up onto the porch and you begin to wonder what kinds of choices did their younger self make to bring them to the place they are today. The place you’re watching right now.
It’s time to begin having conversations with that person on the porch. That older person inside you that’s depending on all the choices you make now. Depending on those choices to create the life your older self wants to experience later.
Walk up onto the porch and walk behind your older self. Just for today, take a step into their lives; slip into that older body in the rocking chair and see how it feels. Is it comfortable? Are you relaxed? Did you make the right choices?
Each day you make choices that affect this older self. Each day you are given the opportunity to make decisions that either help prepare this older version of yourself for a comfortable life or a life of struggle and stress.
As you get older, each year you live in the choices your younger self-made. When you’re 20, you see where the decisions at 15 took you. When you’re 30, you’re depending on your 20 year old self. At 40, you’ll be looking back at the decisions you made at age 30 and so on.
As you begin to learn how money works and make decisions about whether to spend your money or put it to work for you, close your eyes for a brief moment and ask this older self what decision they’d like you to make. Remember you have just one chance to use each dollar you earn wisely or the power of that dollar to work for you is lost forever.
Take another deep breath in, and out, knowing that you have the knowledge and power to create the exact life that older version is waiting for.
Say goodbye to your older self, knowing you can talk to him or her at anytime. Walk back down the porch and go back to the path. Wonder on back to the right, back through the field, feeling the sun on your back, the slight breeze in the air. Walk back into the forest and when you see the Y in the path, continue on to your right. Take a nice deep breath in, smelling the forest and the pine cones and dampness. Know that now you have someone new to think about when you need to make a decision about life. Know that you have access to the answers at any time. All you have to do is stop and revisit the person on the porch. They’ll tell you everything you need to know.
Take another deep breath in… and out. Slowly, on the count of three, open your eyes and come back to the present. One…two…three.
END OF VISUALIZATION
Now that you’ve visited with your older self, you know that there really is someone relying on you to make the wisest of decisions possible.
Remember that you don’t always feels like you know what those decisions are, but if you take time to consult your older self, he or she can often tell you very quickly what the best decision is for them. The most important thing to do is make sure you listen to that older self!
What does YOUR older person what you to do today?