In previous articles on this topic, we’ve gone through three stages in order to clarify the direction of our lives. First we took a look forward to the end of our lives here on Earth, which allowed us to imagine the things we’d want to have achieved and the relationships we’d want to have at the end. This helped us to really see and understand the things that are important to us.
Second, we compared our new lists of things that matter most to us with our current activities, to begin to see where we’re misplacing our time and energy right now. Obstacles and distractions were brought into focus, while things that were not aligned with our end-term goals were made obvious.
Third, we began crafting a plan of action so that we could address the discrepancies between what we really want and what we’re actually doing. We created simple to-do lists for things we want to achieve in life, and considered how to wrap up on things that are not what we really want, so we could focus on what we do want.
All of this process so far has been realigning ourselves to the things that really matter to us; the things that we truly value. In order to get moving on the path we can now see clearly before us, we need to put into place the final step. That is, to begin working on our (probably quite lengthy) to-do list.
Now, some things are very different about this to-do list from the average one you may be accustomed to. Keep in mind that your list is a mixed-term list. Some items on it are going to be ones you can get done quickly, and some will take years to complete. This is okay! We’re always in a rush in our society, but when you’re mindfully working towards a very long-term goal it is alright, and necessary, to take your time.
Your list may at this point still be quite general. It is difficult to make detailed plans for something that may not take place until 25 years from now, for example. It is okay to simply let your end goals guide your current activities, and not plan too far in advance. For example, if I know I want to be out of debt before I die, I can easily apply that knowledge and create a short-term goal of paying off my credit card. I don’t necessarily have to plan the next step right now, if the current step is in line with my goal.
Your list will also be dynamic. What I mean is that you will most likely need to add things to it, and it’s quite possible you may take things off as well. Your list will change according to where you are at on your path at the given moment.
If some of your new goals are things that you’re still learning about, you will add things as you learn more. The important thing is, this is more like a living, changing, flexible guideline to keep you moving forward towards achieving what you want from your life, and less like a grocery list of items that you stick to without further question.
Just like a lamp shining at your destination, if you keep your end point in mind, it will help you to see the path ahead. So even though you have a list of things to complete, please don’t focus on that exclusively. Maintain an awareness of where you’re heading, so that you will be able to recognise if you’re veering off the path. Readjustments are a necessary part of any long-term plan. It can be easy to begin to slip away from the path if you forget why you’re even trying to do this in the first place.
You may find that you’re not really sure where to begin working on your list items. I generally advise you to begin with foundational items that will ease your work in some way. An example of this might be if your end-term goal is to have published written work. A foundation you can set right now in line with that goal might be to simply start getting up earlier and writing 1000 words each morning. This is an attainable goal you can either start immediately or work towards (if, for example, you currently get up a lot later than you will need to). Obviously, you’re probably not going to be writing stuff for publication right away, but you’re setting a framework for that future goal and giving yourself a starting point. That’s what is important right now.
Perhaps at the end of your life you would like to have lived a very healthy lifestyle and have remained active into advanced old age. Right now you may not be ready to run marathons, but what foundations can you put into place today that will eventually lead you to your end goals? Perhaps you can get a physical checkup and see where your general health is at right now. Maybe you take an honest look at your eating habits. Are you getting enough sleep? Begin to create a foundation that you can build upon to one day achieve your goal.
If you find yourself overwhelmed, which you most likely will at several points on your path, break your goals down into smaller portions. You can break things down to the smallest possible pieces if you need to. I remember when I was having driving lessons, at times I had to make my first goal just getting in the car. Because of my anxiety, that was all I could mentally handle. Once I got into the car, I found myself able to proceed with greater ease.
The most important thing about the final step is that you simply begin to move forward. Now that you can see where you’re headed, this should be much easier to do, and if you will just begin to move you’ll find yourself picking up momentum. You’ll also notice how satisfying and rewarding it is to be working in alignment with things that really matter to you.
Living according to your values is a huge gift you’re giving yourself, and a great example to all those around you. That doesn’t mean it will always be easy. Some of the really valuable and worthwhile things we do in life are wrought with difficulty.
My aim with this website is to address as many of the potential obstacles and roadblocks along our paths as I can, and provide support for you on this journey. If you find yourself in difficulty, feeling overwhelmed or paralysed or otherwise unable to proceed, please come back to the site. If I haven’t already addressed what you’re going through, please reach out to me through my contact page and I will do my best to help you through it.