In previous articles on this topic, I showed you how to look towards the end of your life and think about the things that you’d like to have achieved, the types of relationships you’d like to have and with whom, and what you’d like the emotions of that time to look like. I had you set your deathbed goals as a way of clarifying the things that are truly important to you, since being at (or even just thinking about) the end of life has a way of making these things very obvious.
The second article built upon the first. I had you take your end of life goals and compare them to your current life activities. You were to look for discrepancies between what you are doing now and what you really want and write those things down. This was to get you to begin to recognise your roadblocks (the things that are keeping you immobile on your path) and your sidetracks (the things that are taking you completely off course).
This third step builds upon the first two, so if you have not yet read either of the first two articles, I suggest you do that before you go ahead. Doing so will give you a better understanding of what we’re trying to achieve here and why. Click the hyperlinks in the text above to go to each article.
In the third step towards creating a clear vision of the pathway to your goals, you will begin forming an action plan to deal with each of the roadblocks and sidetracks, as well as planning for goals you desire but have not yet begun moving towards. This is a big step and can take much time and thought, so take it slowly.
Charles Spurgeon once said, “Start as you mean to go on.” I have always taken that to mean that you shouldn’t live in a way incongruent with your values in order to find some lesser form of gratification, intending to change at some future point to a more virtuous life. Rather, it is better to begin living consistently with your values and continue strongly on that same path until you reach your goals. Obviously we have all reached for lesser things to some extent up until this point, but this is our opportunity to make it right.
Take your list of discrepancies from the last article and read over it once more. If you recall, some of mine that I shared with you looked like this:
- 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.
I want you to begin to write a simple to-do list for each item. I find it easiest to use an online journalling app for this type of list-making activity. The flexibility, changeability and ease of use is very helpful. Remember, this does not have to be fancy, just useable.
From my list you can very easily see some things that need to be done to fix my budget issue: rebalance budget, absolutely stop overspending, begin paying down debts, start saving for unexpected expenses.
Dealing with the health and fitness issues is another easy list of things to do: review diet and plan a better one, research exercise plans, figure out how to deal with stress.
Some are harder. How do I begin to work on my fears? If you don’t know the answer or can’t immediately see the way through a problem area, you will need to do some research. For now, just put ‘research’ or name specific areas of research on your to-do list.
Go through each discrepancy on your list from the previous article and brainstorm action points for each. Consider how you might begin to make progress on each of your end of life goals. This does not have to be an exhaustive list; it is a starting point. Often, getting started will bring attention to further or more specific actions that you will need to pursue.
What is probably becoming obvious to you right about now is that you don’t know how to do everything on your lists. You may also be realising that some of the action points on your new list are quite complicated. For example, creating a new budget and making cuts to your family’s spending can be a huge undertaking and requires much thoughtfulness, time and cooperation from family members. If you’ve never budgeted before, you will need to learn this skill. Remember, research and learning can go on your list of things to do.
You might find that making changes to the way you or your family does things can create extra work. For example, if your meals are not as healthy as you need them to be to meet your long term goals, you will need to change the way you eat. This can involve extra time in shopping, preparation and educating yourself on nutrition. Keep in mind when faced with this extra work that you are working towards your own truest desires in life. Anything less than this is cheating yourself of what you really want.
Finally, you will most likely already be aware by now that some activities or things you’re pursuing are not in line with your goals at all, and you need to begin to plan how you are going to pare these things off. For example, if you’re currently putting many hours of your time into trying to make more money than you actually really desire to have, it’s time to begin to realign to your goals. This will mean making a feasible and well thought-out plan to stop or decrease that work within a reasonable time frame.
Paring out activities that are sidetracking your plans is a vital part of clarifying your path. You have to make room for the things that matter to you, which means getting rid of things that do not. This may be hard, and you may feel in some sense that you’re letting yourself or someone else down, but keep your real goals focused at the forefront of your thinking. You need to use your time and resources to achieve things that matter to you, rather than wasting them on things that do not.
Please note, I am never suggesting that you should just go quit your day job without a backup plan. Nor do I believe you should make drastic changes that affect your family without discussion beforehand. This is why I suggest a lot of careful planning and communication go into all of the choices and changes you make.
Reorienting yourself to your end of life goals is a complicated process and it takes time. Some of us may have the luxury to make decisions and changes quickly and without fuss, but more often we do not. Take responsibility for your future, plan and communicate responsibly.
At the end of this planning phase you should have a rough list of things to do, things to research, things to begin to let go of, and things to begin work on. Your path is starting to take shape!
We’ll continue with the next step soon, so make sure to check back for the continuation of this series, and please subscribe below if you haven’t already done so.