The general tendency when planning our lives is to look at where we are, then look at where we think we want to be, and then start planning each forward step that we think will take us closer to the vision of our future we hold in our minds. Or maybe you don’t plan at all – maybe you’re the dog tied to the cart being dragged mercilessly down the cobbled street as you get battered and bruised by the forces of life along the way.
The simple fact is this; 3% of the people in the world write down their goals and make a conscious effort to plan their lives – the other 97% work for these people.
Is it time for you to start planning your destiny? Is it time for you to start taking control of the limited freedom you have in life to make the best of everything that life throws at you? I would argue yes, the time to build your life is always RIGHT NOW, and the process starts by building the vision of your life in your mind.
However, I would argue that the way most people who bother to do this approach this process of life planning do so in completely the wrong way; they look at where they are (point A), then they look at where they want to be (their vision for their lives – point B), and then they set about trying to figure out the first step they hope will deliver them to their vision. Then they plan the second, and then the third, and so on.
You’re probably sat there thinking, ‘well, yeah – what’s wrong with that?’
The main problem with planning life, or indeed anything in this way, is that it’s so easy to add in unnecessary steps that don’t really serve you and end up increasing the distance between point A and point B on the journey of your life. It can also prove to make the process so daunting that people just give up after planning a few steps – after all, when you start by planning the first step from where you are, how do you know how many steps will be needed to move the needle and get results? When you get to step 3 you start looking at all the effort it’s taken to get to there, and remaining unknown length of the journey can become too much to take.
In fact, planning in this way actually almost guarantees that you’ll extend the journey from A to B so it spans your whole life, and you never get to even think about the next level… point C. The forces of life become the wind in your sails, and it blows you around the ocean, always changing course as soon as the shore is in sight, never getting you to where you want to be.
This kind of approach can be unfocused, and frustrating, and so it’s not hard to see that most people who think about their lives in this way quickly become disillusioned and fed up.
So what should you be doing differently to guarantee your successful transition from where you today, to where you want to be tomorrow?
The trick is to start on your deathbed and work backwards from there.
“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards”
– Soren Kierkegaard
So build your vision for your life from death; laying there in your coffin, surrounded by all the people you knew and cared for in your life, and who knew and cared for you. This is a powerful thought experiment that will focus your attention on what’s important to you in your life through the urgency of death. As you imagine leaving your body, and float up above the congregation, open your ears and listen to everything those people have to says about you. If there was one time to earwig, it is in this moment. Visit every guest who has come to wish you farewell, and listen to the conversations they are having. Given that it’s your funeral, those conversations are ALL about you, and the way you lived (or wasted) your life.
Imagine the state of your life right now; what are these people saying about you as you stand before them today? If you change nothing about your character, your approach, and your values, what will you hear these people say of you? Do you like what you hear? How does it make you feel? Are they proud of you, or disappointed? Do they feel blessed to have known you and been a part of your time on this Earth, or were you an encumbrance who caused pain and upset in their lives?
The key here is to be completely honest with yourself, because this whole thought experiment happens in the privacy of your own mind – if you’re not honest about the things these people will think of you, the only person you’re lying to is yourself. Be brutally honest about who you are, and what effect you are currently having on the people you care about in your life. It isn’t until we are fully self-aware of who we truly are in this moment, that we can take control and effect the changes we want to see in our lives.
“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it”
– Albert Einstein
If you’re being totally honest with yourself, you’ll see many things at the point of your death that you’re not happy with. You’ll hear your friends and loved ones saying things that cut to the core, and it hurts.
Good. It’s important that you really sink into this feeling. Live it as if you were there, increase the sharpness of the imagines, the loudness of the sounds, and the intensity of the colours and the smells. Feel the pain of not changing, and not moving towards your highest level self. It is from this level of pain that we can create massive lasting change, so understand that this is an important part of the process.
Now change the things you don’t like. Create your vision for the future by listening again to the people in the room at your funeral. Imagine them saying all the things you WANT to hear – how great your life was, how lucky they were to know you, and what a massive impact you made in their lives in such positive ways. Why are they saying those things? What was your character? What values did you live by? How did you spend your time? And who with? Get specific, very specific. The more specific this vision, the more able you will be to create the path that will take you there.
When you have that vision in your mind of who you are at death, chunk the time of your life into quarters. There are four 3 month long quarters to every single year of your life – start with the quarter before your death – your last 3 months on this planet as a living human being. What did you have to do in those last 3 months of your life in order to ensure the people at your funeral said the things about you that you saw in your ideal vision of yourself? Write down the top level actions and goals that you need ton achieve in this period in order to be the person those people at your funeral spoke so wonderfully about.
Now go back to the quarter before that – what top level actions did you have to achieve in order to be in the position you needed to be in to achieve the top level actions you’ve already written down that you need to achieve in your last quarter. Then go back to the quarter before that, rinse and repeat – and the same for the quarter before that; each time devising what action you need to take in order to put you in the position you need to be in to achieve your actions for the already planned next quarter.
Now you know where you want, and need to be in the final year of your life – and don’t forget to think big, without limitation. The only limitations in your life are those you place upon yourself… so don’t limit yourself!
Now, repeat the process of the second year – the year before your final year on this Earth. You can split this into quarters again and plan out your top level actions for the second to last year before your death, making sure to only include actions that you must complete in order for you to be where you need to be to achieve the goals and actions you have already set for your final year.
Rinse and repeat.
This is a powerful process that can be used in both life and in business, and in fact I would recommend using this method of planning backwards over any forward planning methods you may have used in the past. Always start with where you want to be – the end of the road – and work backwards from there. This powerful planning technique will help you create an outstanding life because it FORCES you to figure out the necessary steps for any goal, and for any vision, no matter how ambitious or lofty. Because you start with the end result, your mind HAS to find the path to get there, and this is why this method is so transformational.
What’s your vision? I’d love to hear about it – leave me a comment below!