Don’t Look Back (You’re Not Going That Way)

Do you live your life in The Past, The Present, or The Future?   

My mother-in-law passed away last September.  I remember when she was in her final years, and her short term memory and her future were stolen by the evil disease of Alzheimer’s. She lived in the past.

To make her final years as enjoyable as possible, we did our best to foster her remaining positive memories from her long ago past.  During our visits with her in the nursing home, we’d pull out a pile of old pictures, and smile when she lit up with oft-repeated oft-repeated oft-repeated stories about her earlier years. Her past was better than her present, and she had no prospects for a future here on earth.

She didn’t have a choice.  She Lived In The Past.

Let’s go to the other extreme.  My granddaughter, Octavia Rose, is 5 months old.  She has no past, and she knows nothing about her future.  She’s 100% focused on the Present.  Of course she is, she’s only 5 months old.

She doesn’t have a choice.  She Lives In The Present.

Unlike my mother-in-law or granddaughter, however, we DO have a choice.

Today, I’m going to encourage you to enjoy the life you have remaining and to avoid spending your precious years in the trap that often catches people as they age.  Enjoy The Present, dream about your future, but try to minimize the amount of time you spend looking back.

The Three Time Phases Of Life

We all have three choices when it comes to what time frame we focus on:

  • The Past
  • The Present
  • The Future

Are you intentional about deciding how much of your mental energy you’re going to dedicate to each Time Phase?  Today, we’re going to look at what it means to be intentional while living your life.  Make a conscious decision to “Don’t Look Back”, and choose between how much of your life you’ll commit to The Present vs. The Future.

What Is Your Time Phase Allocation? TPA

I suspect most of you think about your Asset Allocation as you manage your investments, and read with interest articles about How To Achieve Your Targeted Asset Allocation.   

But I suspect almost none of us have considered our Time Phase Allocation.  Have You?

Since I just “invented” the word TPA, don’t worry if you haven’t thought much about it before reading these words. To make your job a bit easier, I’ve done a bit of legwork for you.

Let’s look at 4 examples:

  • My Mother-In-Law (Alzheimer’s)
  • Extreme FIRE 
  • Someone with $0 Saved For Retirement
  • My granddaughter

Taking some liberties with the numbers, here’s what their Time Phase Allocations may look like:

It’s an interesting visual and shows the extremes from someone who lives entirely in the past (Alzheimer’s) to someone who lives entirely in the Present (a child).

For the “extreme FIRE”, I used an example which highlights a concern I have for folks who think too much about the Future at the expense of the Present.  Most FIRE advocates don’t fit this pie, which is why I labeled it “Extreme” FIRE.  Don’t call the FIRE police, please.

Go with the flow, it’s only an example to make a point.  On the opposite extreme, those who haven’t been responsibly saving for their retirement are living too much in The Present, and haven’t carved out a big enough piece of “Future” in their Time Phase Allocation.

So…what’s YOUR Time Phase Allocation? 

Have you thought about it?

If not, you’re not alone.  I had never spent time thinking about it until I wrote this post, but I think the concept has merit.  Focus on “Don’t Look Back”, and find a way to spend more time in The Present.  Don’t overdo it on “The Present” like someone who isn’t saving anything for retirement, or spend too much time on “The Future” like someone who is obsessed with reaching retirement.

Experience the joy of living each day.  Find a way to increase “The Present” slice in your TPA pie.

I encourage you to think about it and decide how you want to spend your life.

For The First Time Ever:  I’m Sharing My TPA!

Since I’ve already shared my Asset Allocation, I felt it only fair to share my Time Phase Allocation.  Let me preface it by saying:

In my final few years of work, I was focusing really, really hard on reaching The Starting Line of retirement.  I was living in “The Future”. I was Alone in my City Apartment during the weeks, and I wasn’t enjoying “The Present” all that much.  It was a sacrifice my wife and I agreed to make in order to make our retirement move to the mountains, but it wasn’t much fun.

All that changed when I retired.

I’ve “felt” this change in the 10 months since I’ve retired, but I couldn’t put my finger on it until I wrote this post.

I’m Now Living In The Present, and it’s a wonderful place to be.

Now that I’ve achieved Retirement, my future doesn’t matter as much.  In fact, if I’m honest with myself, the longer term future is pretty bleak (think, Alzheimer’s?).  No worries, I’m really not thinking about it all that much.  I’m focused on The Present. 

My wife and I have worked 33 years to get where we’re at, and we’re loving every minute of it. 

Mission Accomplished. 

Goal Achieved.

It’s Time To Live In The Now.

It’s the biggest single change I’ve noticed in retirement, and it was completely unexpected.  I’m not complaining.  In fact, I’m rather enjoying myself.

Don’t Look Back (You’re Not Going That Way)

As for the title of this post, looking back fondly at our memories isn’t a bad thing.  I’ve got many great memories from the life I’ve led thus far, and there’s nothing wrong with thinking back to some of the great things we’ve experienced in life.  I’m giving “The Past” 15% of my TPA slice, and I enjoy thinking about the memories of raising our daughter.

But the past is not where we should focus our time, energy or brain power.

The Past Is The Past.

We can’t change it, and we’re wasting precious energy if we worry about the “Coulda Shoulda Woulda’s” of our yesterdays.  If you’re going to invest energy in thinking about something, find something more productive to think about.

Savor The Present, and invest the appropriate amount of energy in shaping The Future. 

I’ve Only Got 32% Of My Life Left To Live

According to the SSA Longevity Calculator, I’m going to die at Age 82.7.  I recently turned 56, which means I only have 32.3% of my life left to live.  Run the calculator yourself, then do a little math.  Since you’re reading this blog, I’m guessing you’ve already lived the majority of your life.

That could be depressing, but it’s not.  That’d be giving too big a piece of the TPA pie to “The Future”, and I’d rather give that piece of pie to The Present.

If the SSA is correct, I’ve got 26.7 Years left, and I plan on making the most of the days I have left.  

Every. Single. One.

It’s time to live in The Present.

Boston Had It Right

I took a break while I was writing this post and did some trout fishing on my beloved Toccoa River. (hey, I’m retired.  You don’t really think I sit at a keyboard all day, do you?)

As I was fishing, I thought about this post (a common thing for me, thinking about whatever post I happen to be working while I’m away from my computer and my brain is free to wander.  In fact, I do some of my best “writing” while I’m walking the dogs!).

As I was throwing that line out to those stubborn fish, that catchy tune from Boston, “Don’t Look Back”, filled my brain.  I’ve always loved Boston, and that song is my favorites from my younger days.  When I got back to my computer, I looked up the YouTube video and enjoyed their classic tune:

I love the lyrics to this song

Don’t look back
A new day is breakin’
It’s been too long since I felt this way
I don’t mind where I get taken
The road is callin’
Today is the day

A New Day Is Breakin’

What do you want Your New Day to be?

In retirement, we have a greater ability to influence our future direction that than in any other period in our lives.

We’re free from the bondage of work, we’re done saving for retirement and we can make our “New Day” whatever we want it to be.  Don’t spoil the beauty of your New Day by fretting about your past, or worrying too much about your future.

Don’t Look Back. You’re not going that way.

Curtis Has The Right Idea

My friend Curtis is 81 years old.  (You remember Curtis, right?  He’s my previous boss who wears a kilt).

He planted the seed for today’s article when he posted the following on Facebook at the beginning of this year (I responded to his post with a comment that I may have to write about the philosophy in his post, which I’m doing today).  Now that I’ve written it, I owe a huge “Thank You” to Curtis for making me think about this concept of Time Phase Allocation, and for generating my first ever TPA.

I’d love to see Curtis’ TPA,  I suspect it’s got a huge slice of pie dedicated to enjoying The Present.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again.  Curtis is a mentor in my life, and he’s taught me a lot of things since I first worked for him way back in 1988.

This time, he taught me to “Don’t Look Back, You’re Not Going That Way”.  He led me to “invent” this concept of Time Phase Allocation.

It’s an important lesson for all of us.


Time is a funny thing.  It always moves at the exact same pace: 60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour.  24 hours in a day.  Always forward, never back.

Time is one thing we can’t control in our lives.

What we CAN control is what we do with the time we have left.  We CAN control our “Time Phase Allocation”.

Choose To Live In The Present, and find a way to expand that piece of the pie in your TPA.

Enjoy your life, and shape the days ahead into the best they can be.  Pursue your Passions, and live life to the fullest. 

Time is short.

Don’t Look Back.  You’re Not Going That Way.


This post was originally published in The Retirement Manifesto.

2 replies on “Don’t Look Back (You’re Not Going That Way)”

Awesome post. The singer John Prine said that “time don’t fly it leaps and bounds.” I have found this to be true. Lots can go by and then there are the moments and episodes that you remember. Maybe allocating more to the present creates more of these moments? Thanks

You may have longer than you think–remember those are averages, and being content in the present moment is good for your overall health. Getting out and being physically active is one of the best things you can do to maintain good health. And speaking of statistics, if you make it to 65, your odds of making it to 85 are very, very good.

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