We are now a month in to the new year and facing a dramatically changing world – both at home and abroad. This seems like a good time for me to explain my belief in living life backwards.
Far too many of us sort of drift through life doing what is expected of us or what we ‘have’ to do, with little design or intention. Do you work at a job you hate because you need the money? Does your current life bring you joy, fulfillment, satisfaction?
I believe in living backwards: Start with my total goal of what my ideal life looks like, then figure out how to get there.
Many people tell me how ‘lucky’ I am to have such a wonderful husband, they ask me wistfully where I found him and if he has a brother… And it’s true, he is amazing and I am lucky. But it’s not an accident or mere luck that my husband is so perfect. I had stopped dating, resigned to being single rather than settling for the wrong guy. When I met him, I told him on the first date that I was looking to get married (in general, not necessarily to him), and that if he wasn’t open to the possibility of commitment then he should tell me now. He was very taken aback, but after a little thought he decided he was open to the possibility. I spent the first week of dates ‘interviewing’ him to see if he met my criteria and if we had compatible life goals, views, and interests. I even laid out my expectations for how we communicate and fight, how we handle major life issues, and what kind of marriage and relationship I wanted to have. I got lucky in that he was compatible, wanted the same things, and was willing to compromise with me. But if he hadn’t, I wouldn’t have kept dating him let alone married him. Now, this approach seems really cold-blooded to some, but it did ensure that I didn’t waste his time or mine, it ensured that we were on the same page from the very beginning of our relationship, and it did ensure that we have a very solid foundation to our marriage. The start of a new relationship is the best time to be pragmatic – before you get emotionally invested.
So, are you ready to live your life backwards?
- Sit down and think carefully about what your ideal life looks like. Where do you live? What do you do with your day? What kind of relationships do you have? Be sure to also think about what you enjoy doing and what skills you have that you want to use or skills you want to develop. The more in detail you go, the more successful the next step will be…
- Plot out how to get from here to there: Do you need further education? How will you make that happen? Do you need to master a certain skill set? Find a class or just start with some books from the library and YouTube! KNOW YOURSELF – make sure your desired goal is what you really want and your plan needs to be realistic for you -if you aren’t academically-inclined, a future that requires a PhD might not be right for you. I am very impatient and a little lazy, so any life goal or plan that requires very patient work (like being an art restorer) is totally out for me (there is a reason I created the Good Enough philosophy!!) Be aware that as well as you may know yourself, you may be wrong about things. Maybe you are generally impatient but for the right thing you have unlimited patience… maybe you could be an art restorer after all! I know lawyers who hate conflict but have been shocked to find they love being a litigator (which is all about direct conflict!) Don’t get so locked in to ‘knowing yourself’ that you don’t try new things.
- Finally, make choices that further your goals. Evaluate opportunities – will this help me towards my goal or take me in a different direction? (Sometimes we find wonderful things in other directions, but not if they are pushing us to stay where we don’t want to be!) Look for the right opportunities – volunteer for an extra work project that will let you develop skills you need, sign up to teach something you need to practice with, develop an article on your topic and submit it to local publications or the office newsletter. Find role models – people in your or a similar industry who are doing what you want to do and study how they got there. Call them and ask for an informational interview and pick their brain about how they got there and what they like and don’t like about their job.
Be ruthless – you may have to make very difficult choices about work, time, and relationships, and friends and family may feel threatened by your plan – especially if you want something very different than what they have.
Don’t forget to stop periodically, at least once a year, and evaluate where you are, make sure your desired destination hasn’t changed (if it has, redo your plan and continue towards the new goal!), check for trends and changes in your industry that will impact your plans and adjust accordingly.
I made this choice very very early in my life, and have been living pretty close to my ideal life ever since! Nay-sayers will try to shoot you down with archaic notions of ‘paying your dues’ by doing something you hate before you’ve ‘earned’ the right to enjoy your life. I believe that life is too short to waste it on something you don’t love. These goals are not impossible and they aren’t just a luxury for the rich. This does require discipline and dedication and lots of hard work, but it is possible and achievable!
What are you going to work towards this year? I have 3 books I’m working on that I need to make serious progress on; I have some art competitions coming up I’m racing to finish pieces for; I’m growing my textile business; I’m starting to study for law school which I will be starting this fall; I have my Fulbright stint abroad coming up, and I have a number of smaller personal and collaborative projects that I’m also trying to juggle. I’m hoping this year is a very full, successful, productive, joyous, and healthy one for us all!!
Would love to hear from you about your plans and goals for the year!