Mining the Past–A Step into the Future

Updated: Aug 20, 2021



Looking to the Past or Clues


Finding something to do that is meaningful to us is one of retirement’s little challenges. For some, it’s a big challenge.

I often advocate looking to the past for clues. I’m not advocating a detailed review of WWII or the American Revolution. While that might be fun and an activity worth doing, that’s not what I intend. I hope people will personalize the question by asking “What have I done.”


You can be your own best resource. You may not only detail the things you’ve done, you may also remember what these things felt like. You know the difference between the ones that are clear winners and the ones that are total rejects.

Knowing that doesn’t mean that mining your past is easy. Sometimes a boost is helpful. I recently reviewed several Toastmaster magazine issues seeking articles on storytelling. In the December 2019 issue, Craig Harrison offers some ideas about questions to ask. I’d thought I’d share them to get you started.


You might ask the “first” question:

  • Your first day at school

  • Your first pet

  • Your first boyfriend/girlfriend

  • Your first breakup

  • The first time you saw your partner

  • Your first job

  • Your first baby’s first birthday

These may give you some clues as to stories to tell, but I think they are most helpful because they get your brain into gear on the topic. What was exciting about the first day at school? What did you learn in those early years that surprised or delighted you? Do you want to pursue a variant of those things now?


For example, I thrived on my first real science class particularly when we had a six-week unit on astronomy. You can believe I dug out that ancient scrap book that my mother thoughtfully preserved for me.





Then there are the direct “interest” questions: What were your favorite

  • Foods

  • Friends

  • Music

  • Hangouts

  • Relatives

Just how did you come by these favorites? From other people? Visits to unique places? Fun trips? Reconnecting could be fun. Would you like seeing those people, visiting those places, or taking that trip again? This time, of course, making them all new, different, and exciting.


Finally, there are the substantive questions:

  • What was your family like?

  • Where did you grow up and what made it distinctive?

  • What was the most extraordinary event that you witnessed?

All in all, thank you Craig.

I hope you’ll explore your past as a resource for the future. Doing so will help you create a future that is meaningful for you.


Ed Zinkiewicz

…the retired guy


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