How to Plan Your Life Backward

Create a vision that is compelling enough for you to take your next steps forward.

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Photo by Cathryn Lavery on Unsplash
Photo by Cathryn Lavery on Unsplash

Ever wondered why you seem to be more adept with planning your projects at work than in your personal life?

Do not be mistaken by the title. Planning is still a forward-looking exercise, but only in so far as there is a clear picture of the future that you wish to attain. If you work for a company with a vision statement and a strategy, you know where to anchor your annual targets and performance metrics.

In the same way, planning for short-term activities like a trip or a party seems easier than planning for major life changes because you have a clear idea of where you want to go, what you wish to experience, and who you want to spend this with. Therefore, the first step is to—

Begin with the end in mind

Beginning with the end in mind is a phrase we all know too well by now. In Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Covey asserts that things are created twice: first, mentally, and next, physically. Applied to your life, this end in mind is no less than your personal vision. Do you have one? If you do, how vivid and compelling is it?

Add details to your vision

The whole point of painting a picture of your desired future is for you to have clarity in your choices. This helps you stay on track despite everyday distractions and setbacks. What makes a vision effective and motivating is when it is visualized in a way that is so detailed, it appeals to the five senses of the mind. In most of my coaching sessions, I observe a shift in energy whenever the coaching partner (aka client) gets to envision their desired future in the most graphic way possible.

Imagine your grand finale

A life lived well can only be defined at its end. How do you want your ending to be like? Supposing that you are watching your final wake from a screen in a different realm, who are the people present? What do they say about you? What will your eulogy be about and who will deliver it?

Your answers to these questions will help you plan your life backward as these tell you what your ultimate priorities are. Knowing who you should invest your time in and what ideal self will you strive to become enables you to break your long-term view into shorter milestones.

Know your platform for take off

Once your goals are already clear to you, the next step is to come back to the present. When you stare at your vision down the road from where you are now, how many mileposts are there ahead of you? What needs to happen so that you can reach the nearest post, and the next?

These markers represent your more immediate goals for the different aspects of your life. You can be more specific by adding concrete outcomes for each along with an intended date – a time on target – to accomplish these.

Equip yourself

Seeing the vision and the path in front of you, what attitudes, habits, and behaviors do you have to cultivate so you can consistently move forward? What personal skills, tools, and resources can you tap?

One resource for you is an accountability partner who can be a coach, mentor, friend, or colleague. According to research, committing your goals to someone increases the likelihood of achieving your them. This partner can help you through your backward planning, as well as in the execution of your plans.

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