We all have dreams about our future. The places we might visit. The jobs we might have. People with whom we might fall in love. The successes we hope to achieve. Many of these dreams are lofty, as they should be.
Dreams are the most significant ambitions of our life. Because dreams are big, they come with a sense of challenge, even sacrifice, which we must make to accomplish them.
Many dreams come to us in the form of a what if question. As in, “what if I [insert dream here].”
Many people only think about this in hindsight. They ponder, “I wonder what could have been if I had tried to _____.” I find it tragic when people have identified their own what if but never sought an answer to that question.
My goal is to give you the inspiration and the tools to discover and pursue your own what if. When you do that, you can live a life void of regrets and never have to ask yourself, “I wonder what could have been if I had tried to _____.”
It’s a big world out there, full of wonder and endless possibilities. The excitement we garner from our dreams is rivaled only by the fear which can swallow us whole while grappling with overwhelming choice.
Finding our way in this world is not easy. “Follow your heart” sounds like great advice but most of the time we don’t understand our own emotions in the moments when it matters most. There is too much information and too many possibilities to just go wandering in the darkness all alone.
This leads us to seek help. We turn to our friends, parents, and Google to ask, “what is the meaning of life,” “what do I want to be when I grow up,” and “how to be happy.” Perhaps one of those search queries even brought you to this article.
However you got here, I am glad that you are here. It is my honor to share with you a few thoughts on the pursuit of happiness and achieving your life goals.
Chapter 2 of my book Exponential Happiness is all about discovery. One of the tools that the book explores in great detail is how to uncover your life goals and then write an action plan by which you can realize those goals. The tool is called the Life Goals Exercise and the outcome is having a 10-year plan.
I’ve already shared my life goals and given a brief on how anyone can conduct this thought exercise to discover their own life goals in this blog post.
The gist of it is to think of broad and longterm desires and then split that up into focused, bite-sized items, on which you can take action over time in pursuit of your goals. By doing this, you create a document that will act as a point of reference as you walk through the journey of life. What is important to keep in mind, though, is as I like to say, “a bad plan is better than no plan, but the most important element to any plan is the flexibility to change.”
Establishing your life goals is important, and though a written document may directionally reflect where you will find happiness throughout your life, such a document should be revised as your desires, knowledge, and circumstances change over time.
Backcasting is actually what bridges the Life Goals Excercise into an actionable 10-year plan. Whereas forecasting uses historical data to predict the future (think: weather forecasts), backcasting imagines some fictional future state and slowly steps toward the present, contemplating each step in reverse order which leads to the present moment.
After backcasting a scenario, you will have a clearer picture of how to move from the present moment, toward the imagined future.
We live in a wondrous era of accessibility to information. When it comes to imagining some future career or a specific position at a company where you would like to work, no better insights can be gained than those from a few minutes spent searching around on LinkedIn. Just find a few people who are currently doing something you would like to do in the future and see how they got there. No one path will be the “right” answer, but you might see some patterns emerge from the profiles you look at.
What did they study? What jobs did they have in their early career? Are they published? If yes, what did they write? What are their professional interests?
If after reviewing 5-6 profiles from people in similar roles you can’t see any pattern, then perhaps that is the pattern. Looking at my LinkedIn profile will likely leave you confused. I’ve had many roles in many industries. Turns out that the diversity of my experience has also been an asset in pursuing ever more interesting career prospects later on in life!
You never know where your greatest assets may lay. Consider engaging a mentor to help along with the process. Not sure how mentorship works or how to find a mentor? Check out my book Exponential Happiness for loads more details on this and other topics to help you in your pursuit of happiness!
If you’re not yet ready to dive into a book, then please leave me a comment below with any questions you have and I will be happy to advise you the best I can directly!
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