If you want things to be different in your life, then you’ve got to think differently.
In fact, you’ve got to think backwards.
Lasting change can only happen if you have the right tools, the right mindset, the right preparation, and the right perspective.
The problem is: the tools you need may not be the tools you have right now. The mindset you need may not be the mindset you have right now. And so on.
So how do you get what you need so that you can achieve what you want to achieve?
You start with the end in mind.
Start with the end in mind
Imagine setting out on a road trip with no destination in mind.
Or pulling out everything in your fridge not knowing what you were trying to cook.
Or grabbing some wood, a hammer, and a handful of nails, ready to build…something.
The same is true when it comes to personal development. If you are going to improve anything about your life, you need to know what you’re trying to improve.
You have to start with the end in mind.
Finding the end
Of course, sometimes, identifying what you’re trying to improve can be harder than it sounds. When things just feel “off” in your life, it’s not always easy to nail down exactly what you want to change, or what would make things better.
This post is a great place to start when you’re trying to identify your pain. Use the thoughts and exercises in it to help yourself discover what it really is that’s holding you back.
Need a little extra help or a different approach? You can also try these techniques for uncovering your “end” point.
The five whys is a technique that can help you get to the root cause of unhappiness or dissatisfaction in your life. By starting with a surface level problem and then asking “Why?” five times, you can often get to a deeper problem that, if solved, can lead to more complete and lasting change. For more details about the five whys method, read this.
Write your obituary
In 1888, Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, opened the newspaper and saw…his own obituary. The newspaper had erroneously printed an obituary for Alfred instead of for his brother Ludvig (who had actually passed away). The obituary referred to Alfred as “the merchant of death” and described how his life’s work had been figuring out ways to kill many people at one time.
The mistake served as a wake up call for Alfred, who decided that he did not want to be remembered as “the merchant of death” and ultimately decided to use the bulk of his fortune to establish the Nobel Prizes.
It certainly makes you think: if you found your own obituary in the newspaper tomorrow, what would it say? And would you be happy with it?
Writing your own obituary may sound morbid, but it can actually be enlightening, opening your eyes to what you have accomplished and what you haven’t, the kind of person you are and the kind of person you wish you were.
Need some help writing your own obituary? (We don’t blame you.) Here are some questions to ask yourself to help get you started.
- What was your biggest accomplishment?
- Who are you leaving behind, and what kind of relationship did you have with them?
- What was a dream you had?
- What will others remember you for?
- How will your legacy live on?
- How will your life be celebrated?
Once you know what the “end” looks like, you’re able to work backwards from there. You start with the end in mind and connecting the dots from where you want to be to where you are now.
One way to connect the dots is by using celebration questions. These are questions that can help you identify what your life will look like when you reach that “end” you’ve envisioned for yourself.
For example, you might ask yourself things like:
- How much time do I spend with my family?
- What do I do when I’m by myself?
- What is my top priority?
- How do I spend my money?
- What does my day-to-day life look like?
- What have I cut out of my life (and how has cutting it out helped me)?
- Who helped me accomplish my goal, and how?
- What habits helped me accomplish my goal?
With celebration questions, the key is to try to get into the details of your life. Identifying those details will paint a clear picture of the end result you are going for, which will help you better know how to illustrate a life that brings you to that result.
As you draw backwards, uncovering the steps that will take you where you want to go, remember to keep some flexibility in your plan.
If you are too specific or too rigid in your plans, you set yourself up for failure.
Imagine that you are taking a road trip to visit family for the holidays. It’s important that you arrive at your destination by a certain time on a certain date, when all the festivities begin. You have your route planned out carefully: the highways that will get you there the quickest, how many times you’ll have to stop for gas and food, etc. You feel confident in your plan, which you spent a lot of time perfecting.
Everything is going well…until you hit a detour sign. The road you had planned on taking has closed, unexpectedly and indefinitely.
If you were going to stick to your plan, with zero flexibility, you would park in front of the detour sign and wait for the road to reopen. If you do that, you’re likely to arrive late to your family party…but at least you stuck to the plan!
When designing a plan that will get you from where you are now to where you want to be, realize that there may be times when the plan needs to be tweaked, added to, or scrapped entirely. Perhaps the party starts in the car! Maybe A FaceTime call to where the party is at, where everyone in the car sings a song or plays a game with those they are traveling to see. The end goal is to party with the family. The when, where and how might need to be altered, temporarily.
The important thing isn’t that you come up with a perfect plan on your first try. The important thing is that you end up with a plan that helps you design a life you love, love your life while living it and know you are already there even when it doesn’t seem like it yet.
Nowhere to go? Know where to go.
If you’re feeling lost—like you know something is broken but you can’t quite figure out how to begin fixing it—take some time to pinpoint where it is you want to go.
The truth is: your mind can take you anywhere. With a purposeful destination, a flexible plan, and enough determination, you can do and become more than you’ve ever thought possible.