Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today

The Blind Spot

What exists beyond your blindspot?

John was an engineer before he retired—he proudly burnished his skills as an analytic thinker. He devoted his working years to the art and science of his profession, but when upper management decided he should use his skills in a more managerial position, John begged off and rather than accept the promotion, retired. He prided himself on his ability to save, but was, by his own admission daunted by the investment landscape and skeptical of the "experts" pushing their favorite mutual funds. He chuckled as he related how companies skew performance data using arbitrary dates. He was no fool.

Retirement meant plenty of time to play tennis, now at four or five times weekly, manage his real estate holdings and spend time with his just retired wife and his grown sons. Life is good for John and his world is neat, tidy, organized and well conceived.

I met John and his wife at a restaurant; they were dining at the next table and conversation easily flowed along with the wine.

"I am so happy in retirement. Even though my wife and I have different interests, we love to travel together, but we're each engaged in the activities we enjoy."

"That's wonderful; well worth celebrating."

"Yes, it's all working out according to plan. I joined a tennis club and it's a wonderful to be a part of that community. I feel like I am in the right place."

I let his words settle, while I considered opening Pandora's box. I quickly decided that it was my obligation to pose the tough question-it's what I do.

"John, what would you do if you couldn't play tennis? What's your Plan B? What would keep you interested, engaged, alive and content if that was taken away?"

The shift in his demeanor was stunning, as if he'd been doused in ice water. He was frozen in thought, while the idea swirled in his engineer brain. The look of "this does not compute" flashed across his face.

"Wow, I've never thought of that. I just don't know. I can't imagine my life without tennis; it's such a significant part of my life now and something I've looked forward to all these years."

The fact is, John is not alone is his inability to think beyond his what he conceives as his preferred future. He's living his dream, and unless something topples his reality, he will remain comfortably ensconced in that world. It is safe to say that at some point, whether through normal aging, accident or infirmity, his ability to continue will be altered, diminished or ended; and then what?

The challenge is to consider the future with an eye on reality. We do not typically embrace the idea that we will encounter limitations or fall victim to accident or infirmity. However, considering other options allows us to move from life stage to life stage, situation to situation with greater resiliency and positive awareness, rather than experiencing the 'crash and burn' of dealing with these changes without planning or consideration.

Ask yourself, what else can fill your life? What might you like to learn, see, do or master or simply experience? Life transitions are normal; our ability to navigate them will help us live with greater balance, awareness and confidence. Confidence is a normal outgrowth of competence and the knowledge that you have considered a rational 'what-if' scenario. Those who believe, for example, that the stock markets will move in one direction forever, or that interest rates will remain static are victims of magical thinking. The same applies to those who refuse to see beyond their innate blind spots. That is not to say that one should live their lives in fear of catastrophe, illness or difficulty, but rationally, the idea that one's physical self will remain unchanged is dubious at best. I am not suggesting that every conceivable option and possibility be explored; that is impossible and meaningless. I am, however, recommending that you consider a reasonable Plan B, even if it lies outside of your preferred future or comfort zone.

What are your blind spots and how can you move past them with positive expectancy? Your health and happiness depends on it. Game on!