Plan Backwards From the Future You Want

We live our lives forwards from the present moment. But – if we wish – we can go the other way, and plan our lives backwards from the future we would like to experience.

I’ve discussed this idea before, in regard to specific tasks, projects, and goals. Now I’m offering it for use in a much broader context. The concept is fairly simple but effective: start with one of those standard interview questions – “Where do you see yourself in five years?” – and build on it.

You can ask a series of step-by-step questions, such as:

  • Where do you see yourself in five years?
  • What steps can you take to get there?
  • What skills, abilities, knowledge, and experience can you cultivate to facilitate taking those steps?
  • What are you going to do today to begin that process?

You can expand this reverse planning (some might more optimistically call it “reverse engineering”) into a full range of work and life considerations:

  • Where do you see your career and achievements in five years?
  • Where do you see your “tribe” and your relationships in five years?
  • Where do you see your finances and your relationship with money in five years?
  • What will be your living situation in five years?
  • Where do you see your personal health and fitness in five years?
  • What do you see as your purpose and mission five years from now?
  • What will be your values and sources of meaning in five years?
  • Where will you obtain your joy five years from now?
  • Where will you find your comfort in five years?
  • Where will you get and give love five years from now?

Obviously, this five-year time period need not be written in stone; you can ask these same – and other – important questions regarding shorter and longer time frames, too.

As you figure out your answers, you’ll find them helping in moving on from simply reacting to life and making the best of opportunities that happen to come your way, toward a more thoughtful – perhaps more successful – approach that puts you firmly in the driver’s seat of your work and your life.

The basic idea is simple yet effective: to plant a “stake in the ground” of the future, establishing one or more goals you would like to reach, and then working backwards to develop an action plan you can pursue to help you get there.

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