The long view – it’s longer than you think
How would you rethink your life if you knew you would live for 100 years? That was the challenge laid down this week by Professor Andrew Scott at the Meyler Campbell Annual Lecture.
The work he has done together with Lynda Gratton suggests that many of the ways we think about our careers and lives will not serve us well for a future we are barely able to imagine. Even today’s forty-somethings have a greater than 50% chance of living beyond ninety. And our children may well live for an entire century. So even with retirement pushing out to 70, there are likely to be another 20 or 30 years to live beyond that point. We need to be thinking positively about longevity rather than ageing, and considering wholly new stages and goals for our lives.
Many of us will start by thinking what that means for us financially. It is no bad thing to consider how our tangible assets will sustain a longer life. But actually what most of us fear most about our later years is not reduced income but reduced quality of life. The Who’s sentiment “I hope I die before I get old” is one that many still subscribe to, despite it being increasingly unlikely, especially among the more prosperous.
So what can we do to make those extra years truly worth living? We need to grow what Scott calls our ‘intangible assets’. These will help us retain well-being and resilience throughout our lives. Scott invited us to consider actions in three broad categories:
- Productivity – meaning our knowledge, our peer group and our reputation. We need to make sure we keep learning throughout our lives, actively sustain and develop our peer networks as these tend otherwise to become smaller and less diverse as we get older, and recognise the deep value of our experience and professional standing;
- Vitality – health, balanced living and regenerative relationships. Actually using that gym subscription is all the more important when it’s setting you up to be an active ninety-something. Hundred hour weeks don’t help sustain a hundred year life – there’s less rush than we think. And finding that balance also helps us find time to nurture the relationships that sustain us for years to come;
- Transformation – the ability to evoke and deal with change. Today’s recipients of a telegram from the Queen will have seen two World Wars, commercial air travel, men on the moon, the internet and far more. Who knows what’s still in store for us and our children? To cope with this change and even drive it, we need to develop our self-awareness and knowledge about how we can experience change positively. And we will need diverse networks who will help us plot and walk the path from here to there, wherever that might be.
For me, the lecture brought a whole new dimension to the work/life balance debate. What we do right now casts a very long shadow forward to our extending future and that of our families. Whilst time at work is needed to build our tangible assets, if it comes at the expense of building our intangibles, we risk being very much the poorer for rather longer than we would like.
If you’ve been looking for the prompt to build a more balanced and fulfilling working life, perhaps the 100 year view may be just the perspective you need. You can find out more here.