Reverse engineer how you think about your life. In order to know what you are supposed to do, try to imagine what your life would have been like towards the end. Begin with the end in mind and you’ll figure out the path taken to get there.

Take a moment right now to stop, and think about where you are and how you got there. I mean physically, right now. Did you walk in the room because you need to get something? Are you on a train heading to work? Are you killing time in a coffee shop? It seems obvious, but we do things for a reason.

In reading this whole article, you will know what you are supposed to do in life… or at least you will have a greater sense of clarity around it!

Starting with the end in mind

From infancy, our brain sets out on the task of making sense of the world. It takes information in, digests it, makes sense of it and orders it neatly for us so that we can repeat the thinking cycle with expertise or precision like behaviour.
The same is true for when we head out on a journey. We usually start out by having a rough idea of where we need to go. If you are heading out on holiday or taking a road trip, you usually have the destination in mind. You find the gorgeous guest house on Air BNB, you write down the address and then… you do one of two things. You either slam that info into something like google maps and sat nave your way there, or you go old school and get our an A-Z road map and begin plotting the course.
Whichever method you use, you plot the path, then you follow it and baring a few Starbucks detours and a flat tire change you end up where you intended to be.
Why should life be much different to a car journey? Perhaps the biggest difference is the challenges we face in-between, but if we know where we are heading then it becomes easier to plot a course. You’re ‘where’ in life might not be a physical destination, although it’s okay if it is, it may be the type of person you are becoming or things you want to have in your life over its course.

Aim for something beyond yourself

Without sufficient motivations, human beings tend to give up and spiral downwards emotionally. Humanity’s reach must exceed its grasp (paraphrase of Robert Browning’s words). Search your feelings, you know it to be true that without a good reason as to ‘why’ you should do something, you aren’t all that motivated to get something done. When we lack purpose and direction, we feel useless. It’s fulfilling to aim your life.

The other reason you should build a road map to life is that if you know where you are heading then it’s harder for others to impose their will on you. What I mean is that when you don’t know what you want, people can project what they think you should be doing onto you, simply because it’s what ‘they’ would do. I’m not suggesting that advice from friends and family should not be taken on board, but when you drift in life you can easily find yourself being knocked and moved about by other peoples preferences.
In a world that is full of fog and cloud, the person with clarity is king (or queen… [you get the sentiment]). There is something innate within us that draws us to build and shape the world before us. We can anecdotally see that creating or ‘doing something’ is a thread throughout virtually every sphere in life; whether you look at business, trade, family life or hobbies of any kind. In order to have a sense of purpose, we must have something that helps us feel as though we are contributing.
Before we move to some practical tips, it is worth mentioning that it’s okay to not have everything figured out in life. We can have an over grandiose view of ‘life’s call’. We can think ‘If I don’t know what I’m supposed to do with my life then I’m totally lost’. Being content in moving towards some sense of positive contribution to the world is often what we are left with. Rather than worrying about a particular ‘thing’ that you’re supposed to be doing, instead, look to a range of things that are available to you. Some people have a knack for one particular skill or vocation. It may just be that they stumbled across one of the many possible things they could make work. It could also be that they happened to stumble across it sooner than the rest of us.

If you took 10 years to discover something you’d like to spend the rest of your life doing, would it have been worth it? Probably… So don’t feel pressured by having a quick answer to this. Instead, have fun discovering the buffet of life’s passions that each of us have laid before us. The good book says that time and chance happen to us all. With that in mind, I want you to cut yourself some slack.

Imagine what a life well lived would look like.

I want you to reach for something practical and emotional.
Firstly, let’s make a list of all the things you are currently passionate about. What brings joy to your life. It could be a hobby, a working interest or anything else. If it brings you some sense of joy, then it’s worth pressing into. Can you combine this passion with work or share it with a family member or friends?
The second thing is to think more about the substance of where your life is heading. If you haven’t caught my blog on ‘Values’, stop right now and begin there! When you grasp what matters most to you and can fathom the most important drivers for your life, then you will have boundaries to help guide you. It’s also worth mentioning that you can have the best-laid plans in life, but they still get laid to waste. That said, ‘if you aim for nothing then you will hit it every time; if you shoot for the moon, even if you miss you’ll land amongst the stars’ – Norman Peale.
Grab 15 minutes in a place where you cannot be disturbed. Sit quietly, close your eyes and imagine yourself at a funeral. Everyone you know is there… I mean everyone! Walk over to the coffin (picture it as clearly as you can in your mind). As you lean over the open casket you see that it is yourself in the coffin.
You are at your own funeral! Sucks, I know – but you about to learn something about your life! Now take a seat on the front row and sit and listen to the people you love to get up one by one and speak some words about your life.
Now, what is it you would hope they would say about you?
What significant things would you like them to have said about your life?
Who would you like to have been in the room?
Are there people missing who are still alive that you wanted there?
Why are they gone?

Open your eyes. Well, that was uncomfortable, wasn’t it? But, what did you imagine at that moment?
Let these thoughts start to shape your life. Who is the person you want to be, and what do you want to have achieved in your lifetime to make all of these people come to your funeral and say those things about you?
This is a powerful exercise taken from ’The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ by Stephen Covey.  Use this expertise to identify the most important things in life and let your life’s direction be determined by the words you pictured here.
Simply knowing with a sense of clarity what you want in life means you can eliminate the nonsense and distractions. If there are opportunities that come your way but they don’t fit with your overall sense of purpose, you can simply ignore it. Most people will tell you to make the most of every opportunity, but not every opportunity will move you towards the things that matter most. Some will be a massive detour of confusion and regret. It’s up to you to take personal responsibility and work them out, but having a clear end in mind means you can minimise the noise.

APPLICATION

Repeat the exercise a few times to really dig into the kind of person you want to have been remembered as. Once you’ve got clarity on your end of life thoughts (well done for braving the idea) you can progress to the next article! How to Set Goals that are in line with your aims in life.


Discussion Rules: I’m not into thought policing at all, but I am big on honour and respect. Opinionated is fine, but if you’re ill-mannered or nasty, expect to see your comments disappear. Please do not put your URL in the comment text and please use your PERSONAL name or initials and not your business name, as the latter comes off like spam. Have fun and thanks for adding to the conversation! (All credit to Tim Ferris’ site who I totally took this idea from).

Julian Joseph

Author Julian Joseph

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