Learn more about yourself by answering: Are the best years of your life ahead of you or behind you?

By: Jessica Akers, LICSW, Program Therapist, Integrated Therapies Partial Hospital Program

If you had to choose, would you say the best years of your life are ahead of you or behind you? Consider the question and answer with one of the only two options provided—don’t fall back on answering with “both” or “now.” Do you have your answer?

This question is part of an exercise that explores your sense of meaning, personal values, and life satisfaction. The question is then followed up by “why?” Why do you think the best years of your life are [insert your answer here]? The answer to “why” helps you understand what you value about your past experiences and what you desire for your future. From here you can use this understanding to set some achievable goals and methods for obtaining them.

For example, if you said the best years of your life are behind you and one reason is because you traveled much more when you were younger, you would identify traveling as something you value. Then you’d mark traveling as a future goal and devise a strategy to achieve it. When you ask yourself, “why?” you might discover that perhaps family obligations are preventing you from traveling at the moment. Get creative. In this case, maybe you find a way to travel with your family and to less distant locations, to save on cost and time.

And if you said the best years of your life are ahead of you, you may say it’s because you look forward to all you’ll do once you retire, for example. In this case, you could identify ways to do some of those things today, instead of waiting for retirement. You may also work to get on track or stay on track to achieve retirement when you want to.

Go ahead and try it. Follow these steps in the Best Years of Your Life exercise:

  1. Answer the question: Do you believe the best years of your life ahead of you or behind you?
  2. Explore your answer by determining “why” you feel that way, and try to explore ways in which you might have more control over your life path than you tend to think.
  3. Create a strategy or list for how you can pursue or achieve those things you value about your past or desire in your future.

This exercise can be done individually but can also be great to do with a group of friends. In a group, each step of the exercise is made more impactful by talking through your answer with friends, and this adds a layer of accountability because you’ve shared your strategy with others who may then ask you how you’re doing with whatever goals you may have set.