Most of us have stored in our minds various images of what we would like to achieve in life, some of which can be retrieved without much effort and others that are long forgotten or abandoned.
But those of us who go through a well-structured goal-setting process either alone or with a coach are often amazed that we have wanted to achieve so much. This is because the mind can only process a handful of thoughts at a time so we are rarely conscious of these intentions and aspirations all at once. This is why we need to get them from inside our heads and written down.
When we write down our goals and articulate them as short, medium and long-term, we see the beginnings of a life plan.
Now we can examine whether or not our goals complement or contradict what we truly want to achieve in life. Are they congruent with who we are or who we want to be?
At this point, we will turn to inspirational management guru Steven Covey who, in the outstanding Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, advises us to “begin with the end in mind.”
Let’s imagine we have lived to a grand old age and our family, friends and former colleagues have arrived to celebrate a milestone birthday or even our funeral. Someone makes a speech that includes a pen portrait of our life and rounds off this verbal biography with a toast to the fact that we have “been such a good something.”
What could that something represent?
It would be time consuming to go through a roll call of everyone with whom we have interacted throughout life and in what capacity, so, let’s look at it simply in terms of the parts we have played.
How do we measure up? Have we been a good son/daughter, grandchild, parent, grandparent, great grandparent, brother/sister, nephew/niece, spouse, aunt/uncle, friend, colleague, boss, leader, peer, neighbour, citizen, supporter, champion, winner, mentor, student, campaigner, adversary, owner, carer?
By considering how we would wish to be remembered and working systematically backwards, we can work out the strategies needed to arrive at those milestones.
Working backwards works well with all our intentions whatever the timescale. If we have a short-term goal, say of acquiring a new car, the end point would simply be sitting behind the wheel and enjoying the open road in the desired vehicle. If we want to become a successful author, we would imagine signing copies for eager readers at the stores of the book retailers.
It was the self-help luminary, Napoleon Hill, who said: “What the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.”
So, the power of visualising plays a key role as we plan our journey for life but what we need is a map that reads Z to A, not A to Z.