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STRONGER TOGETHER: The “Destination Happiness” Balance—Planning for tomorrow while embracing today

Last updated: 15/01/2024

"STRONGER TOGETHER" is a weekly column where Tanya explores key issues. This week Tanya discusses "Destination Happiness Syndrome" and the fine balance that exists between planning for tomorrow and embracing today.

By IMPACT Community Services Managing Director Tanya O'Shea

Tanya O'Shea, IMPACT Community Services Managing Director

The concept of "Destination Happiness Syndrome" recently surfaced in a conversation centred around superannuation, retirement, and work. The discussion wasn’t exactly uplifting—people spend most of their lives working, dutifully accumulating superannuation in anticipation of a long and fulfilling retirement. It highlighted a tendency to focus on a distant future, while postponing dreams and bucket list items until retirement.

This conversation struck a chord. Maybe it was because since turning 50, retirement planning has become more of a priority and focus. Or maybe because a close friend of my husband has recently been diagnosed with stage 4 bowel cancer.

Too often, planning and working for the ‘destination’ distracts us from living in the present, and it takes a life-changing event to shake us back into reality and remind us to prioritise what is important to us—today. 

Let’s face it, reflecting on our own mortality is a poignant reminder that none of us know what is around the corner and the reality is, the ‘destination’, and therefore that bucket list, will not materialise for some of us.

Yet rather than advocating for recklessness and discarding future planning, let's explore how we can construct a life list for today that enables us to make conscious choices that will help to kick some of those bucket list goals sooner.

Drawing from Kate Christie's insights in "The Life List," key themes for consideration include health and wellbeing, wealth, adventure, growth, giving, relationships, lifestyle, and environment. She also suggests that a life list contains Go Big Goals, Go Small Goals and Go Now Goals.

Go Big Goals are ambitious endeavours that require planning, preparation, and months or even years of dedication. One of my Go Big Goals is to write two books, and I am already on my way towards achieving this.

Go Small Goals, involving two to three activities each month, provide a sense of continual progress towards something meaningful. For me, Go Small Goals involve learning, experimenting with new recipes, incorporating daily exercise, and dedicating time to reading books or articles related to wellbeing. I am also looking for ways to cut back on spending, so when those pesky promotional emails pop into my inbox, I am trying to remain strong by hitting unsubscribe BEFORE getting hooked into scrolling! These activities support me to practice self-leadership consistently, which in turn, enables me to achieve goals associated with maintaining my physical and mental wellbeing.

Go Now Goals encourage spontaneity and are all about saying yes when opportunities present. Want to catch up for a coffee? Sure, have you got some time now? Instead of putting things off, Go Now Goals can be gamechangers, as they encourage us to focus on the things within The Life List that we can do now instead of pushing pause and putting off until sometime in the future. 

A week before Christmas, I walked into the vet to get some heart medication for my dog. Before I left, I had committed to buying a puppy and by Christmas Eve, we had him home! Probably not something that I would encourage for everyone, but it is a great example of a Go Now Goal that I didn’t need to put off until another day.

To get started, take time to reflect on what you value, what you spend your money and time on, who you admire and why. Write down 1-2 experiences, changes, or habits under your Go Big, Go Small and Go Now Goals and consider each of the themes and which ones resonate most for you. Currently, health and wellbeing, wealth, growth, and lifestyle are the themes that are most important to me, therefore I prioritise activities that support me to progress in each of these areas on a weekly basis.

Your life list is personal; keep it flexible for when plans change and celebrate the successes. While I plan for a fulfilling retirement, I refuse to wait until the age of 65 to pursue what matters most.

Please note: This website may contain references to, or feature images, videos, and voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who have passed away.

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