A little while ago, I shared with you my backwards step to creating your own vision for your life. I had you envision yourself in the final stage of life, looking back and thinking about the things that you’d done that really mattered to you. I told you to envisage each relationship you’d like to still have at that time, and what you would want it to look like as you approached your death. I encouraged you to really allow yourself to feel the emotions of the thought process, to let yourself feel the reality of it.
I explained that the end of life gives us much clarity about how wisely we’ve used the time given to us, and it is unwise not to pay attention to it now. People already know what is truly important to them on some level, but they tend to block it out as they’re chasing other things. A young person thinks ‘I’ll do that later’, but later never comes. A person in middle life says ‘I’m too busy now!’ but things never slow down. By the time you’re older, you’re starting to realise the end is much closer, but if you’re in retirement you may then be saying ‘It’s too late.’
The time is now. Whatever stage of life you’re currently in, there is no other time to begin but right now. If you don’t want to be the person grieving on their own death bed because they didn’t listen to themselves and pursue what really mattered to them, you must move forward.
Now we’re ready to move to the next step, if you’ve written down your list of end of life goals. It is time to scrutinise your current activities and goals. Think about things that you’re currently doing or working towards that are taking you on a sidetrack. You have to start to understand that your end of life goals create the path for the life you lead right now.
Note that we’re still in a thinking stage here. You’re not quite ready to forge ahead with action yet. This is the beginning of your pathway and it pays to be very thoughtful and very honest at this stage. The more time you invest into weighing up what matters to you and how to live your life to achieve it, the clearer your vision of your path becomes. Ultimately that clarity makes everything you do that much more powerful.
You are going to have to be very forthright with yourself here, because you will likely find that you’re currently be working very hard towards goals that are not actually in line with what you truly want. For example, if you’re putting in 80 hours a week trying to get rich while your family relationships are struggling, does this line up with your goals? It certainly might be something to reconsider if your end of life goals do not include being rich but do include close, loving relationships with your spouse and children. On the other hand, if you wish to pay off your mortgage before you die but you’re not being wise with your money now, you will want to set that straight.
Some areas to consider during this stage will be your relationships, finances, health, passions and interests, paid work, charity work, childrearing, personal belongings, impact on others and environment, relationship with God and things that you would like to be known for. Take a look at where you are at within each of these areas and compare your current reality to where you want to be. Notice whether you have items on your current agenda that need to be pared out. Pay attention to whether you need to start investing more into other areas.
Write it all down.
Some of the discrepancies I noticed between my current life and my end of life goals were:
- I wanted to have my mortgage paid off and to have some money to pass to my children as a parting gift, but at the time was spending above my means and accruing a credit card debt.
- I wanted to be known as an independent and strong woman, and yet was a person who allowed fear to hold me captive, robbing me of my potential in many areas.
- I wanted to be as healthy and fit as possible in old age, yet was not exercising or eating well consistently enough to support this goal.
- I wanted to have good relationships with others, but was racked with social anxiety and had a tendency to hold others at arms length.
As you can see, in beginning to really scrutinise your own current actions in light of what you really want, things start to become very obvious. Some of the discrepancies above fall into the category of sidetracks (such as accruing credit card debt when my goal was to be debt free) and others fall into the category of roadblocks (for example social anxiety which impeded my relationships). The difference between a sidetrack and a roadblock is that a sidetrack leads you in another direction; takes you on a different path. A roadblock stops your progress; keeps you from moving forward on any path.
This is where you will notice an action plan start to take shape, but I want you not to rush through this stage. Sometimes it can be a little difficult to realise you’ve been off track and if that is true for you, taking your time with it and allowing grace for yourself will ease things. Letting go of some of the goals that are sidetracking you may be hard, but you’re creating space for the things that really matter, and in the end that is going to empower you. Take your time with this stage just to think everything through.
Remember to discuss this goal making process with your partner or family as you feel led. You will often find that you and your partner share many similar death bed goals and this allows you to collaborate, which empowers you both. It’s extremely beneficial for you to be on the same page, even if you have different goals. Open communication is the key.