by Annette Bridges. © 2006. All rights reserved.

There I sat… in my sand chair, on the beach of my dreams, relishing the ocean surf and air, reading my magazine, away from phone and computer. Little did I suspect I was soon to read a story that would lead me to question my outlook for the future.

Why is it that a near-death experience often leads to a dramatic change of course in an individual’s life?

The story that suddenly captured my attention was about a couple’s change in their life’s trajectory. They were in the eighth year of their five-year plan to accomplish their dream of a life at sea. After the wife had what was described as a serious health scare, they asked the question, “What were they waiting for?” They answered by putting lucrative careers on hold and selling everything that wouldn’t fit on their sailboat. Thus began their change of course.

The first thing that hit me was that I didn’t have a five-year plan or a ten-year plan or any plan at all for the rest of my life. I had reached middle age without making new goals or imagining new dreams. Somewhere along the way, I had stopped envisioning or planning for the future.

After reading this couple’s story, I asked myself what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I reasoned that I was comfortable, content and satisfied. Honestly, a future of senior years was a path I wasn’t anxious to travel, so I had started to focus only on making the most of present moments and had decided to let the future take care of itself.

Certainly my husband and I talk about places we want to see and things we want to do… one of these days. But we didn’t have specific dates in mind for these dreams. I was now beginning to wonder if our dreams would ever be reached or experienced without setting tangible and realistic goals.

Looking back at my life, I recalled how it felt to want to make a change and not know where to go or how to begin. I remembered the frustration and unhappiness caused by indecision. And I thought about the lessons learned from these times — that a proactive and definitive approach was needed to make progress instead of a vague proposal that tends to keep one in idle, doing nothing, going nowhere.

I wanted to change my view as well as my course for the future. As I sat in my sand chair gazing upon the vast ocean scene before my eyes, I contemplated the infinity of life. I was reminded of an elderly friend of a friend. This dear man was in the midst of remodeling his home, even though he was approaching the century mark of his life journey. My friend asked him why he was remodeling his house at this point of his life. And he replied, “I take my concept of home with me into eternity.” And he further explained how he must always be perfecting, improving, moving forward — setting goals and going about achieving the goals.

If you’re a country music fan like I am, you’ve no doubt heard Tim McGraw’s hit song released a couple of years ago: “Live like you were dying.” The song encourages listeners to live “like tomorrow was a gift” and make the most of the present. The song asks, “You got eternity to think about what you do with it — what should you do with it?”

I realized my view of the future had become clouded by fear and dread. I had lost the zeal and joy for the future that I had felt in my youth.

So, I’m changing my course and singing a new song: “Live like life’s eternal.” To me, this means believing, knowing and expecting infinite possibilities of what I may do next in my life. Tim’s song suggests bull-riding. Well… maybe not.

But I’m being impelled to ponder my future with a new sense of enthusiasm and anticipation. Reshaping my view of the future by a life that is eternal is wiping out fear of age and tribulations, erasing limitations, encouraging goal setting and an expectation of obtaining new dreams.