In just the last couple of weeks, a lot of big things have happened. I moved from the city to the country. I got engaged. KateM watched her little boy turn a year old.
Whenever these big life events happen, they can make us stop and think about our lives as a whole (at least they do for me). It makes us consider the big goals we’ve been working towards, and whether or not we need to change course. It makes us really think about how we are doing. Are we on the right track? Are our choices getting us where we want to go?
Making these big decisions or being part of these big life changes takes you out of the day-to-day, and reminds you to look at your life big picture.
What kind of life do you want to be working towards? Does the map you’ve been using still make sense? Do you still like where you’re going?
Or have things changed?
At work, plans change all the time. Priorities shift when we get new information. And the same thing is true in life.
So when big things happen, don’t try to force them to fit into whatever you were already planning to do this year. You need to be flexible; if your target or your route needs to change, you need to be ready to make that change in order to get what you want.
As we round the corner to mid-2015 (when we recommend doing a personal midyear review anyways!), this is a time for self-reflection.
But self-reflection doesn’t have to happen on a set schedule. You should be prepared to do it anytime when thinking about your goals, priorities, and plans might get shifted by your life. Here are some questions to help you consider your goals and plans during a big life change.
1. Do you like where you are going?
In life, we make lots of small decisions every single day about where we are going. We do it without realizing it. But it is when we make big decisions that we get the chance to step back and really think: is this decision or event leading me in a direction that I like?
You get the chance to look at your life as a whole; you get to check out those many small decisions you were making every day, and ask yourself if they are really working for you.
Did you decide to show up to work on time with a smile on your face every day? Or did you walk in 5 minutes late? Did you decide to go to the gym most days, even when you didn’t feel like it? Or did you skip it more often than not?
When we set big goals, we do it with good intentions.
But in day-to-day life, there are so many factors that make it easy to be less than the person we aspire to be. And so we miss our targets and tell ourselves it’s okay and that we’ll be better next time.
So ask yourself: will you truly be better next time? Or do you need to change your goal to be more achievable, more realistic, or more in line with the things you truly want?
2. What are you proud of? What do you regret?
Big life changes create milestones. And at milestones, it is a perfect opportunity to look back and reflect on where you have been.
On 99u, Tanner Christenson writes about a Harvard Business Review study:
“The research is clear: dedicating time to reflect on your life and work regularly…really does have an affect on performance.”
It turns out that reflecting on the past is one of the best ways to understand your greatest strengths and to actually hone those skills. And as we know, maximizing your strengths is one of the most impactful ways to become successful (more so than broad improvement in all areas or focusing on improving your weaknesses).
So whenever a big change happens, look back on what went well. Where did you shine? Where did you feel proud? Where did other people applaud and acknowledge your efforts?
Look back also on what didn’t go well. Did you drop the ball? Were you working in an area where you don’t have strengths? Did you let an outside factor stand in the way of you doing your best work?
The better you understand where you’ve been, the better choices you’ll make about where you should be going in the future.
3. What would it mean for me to live a truly rich life?
Ramit Sethi, of the site I Will Teach You To Be Rich, asks this question all the time. What does a “rich” life look like for you?
This has to do with finances, of course, but it’s about more than that. Living a rich life means different things to different people.
For me, feeling rich would mean going on vacation and owning a house with lots of land for animals and projects. For someone else, it might be being able to go grocery shopping without having to worry about how much things cost. For someone else, it could be saving enough to send all of their kids to college without loans.
These goals are so different, and they are very personal. And that is what makes them powerful.
It is important to get specific on things like this. With money and finances, it is easy to think that more, more, more is always better; it’s easy to get caught up thinking that no matter what you have, you always want more.
If you don’t get specific about what would truly make you happy — what would make you feel rich, fulfilled, and grateful — then you’ll fall into the trap of thinking you’ll never have enough and that you always need more. You’ll never be able to realize, “Hey, I did it! I bought a house and went on vacation. I am living my rich life.”
So what would it mean for you to feel rich? Has it changed from what it was last year?
Are you on track in your financial life to make your rich life a reality? If not, are there changes you can make to get yourself on track?
4. How do you want to feel every day?
This question is kind of a two-parter:
- How do you want to feel in your body?
- How do you want to feel as a person?
When it comes to how you want to feel in your body, your health is the key target here. Do a quick scan of your body right now. How does it feel?
Are you holding tension? Where? Do you feel sick? Where are you uncomfortable?
If you’re not happy with how you feel, think about what needs to change. Do you need to eat better? Get more exercise? How can you set a goal that is achievable day-to-day?
Now think about how you want to feel emotionally each day. Happy? Proud? Strong? Fearless? Smart? Joyful?
Grab a thesaurus and start journaling. Just like with your financial life, getting really specific in how you want to feel in your emotional life can make it much easier to hit that target and actually start feeling that way.
See, feeling “proud” is a good thing; feeling “carefree” is also a good thing. But these two feelings are quite different. If you want to feel “proud” but you feel “carefree”, you probably feel good but you don’t feel the way that you want to.
Once you know how you want to feel (let’s say, for example, it’s “fearless”), then you have something to strive for. You have something to check yourself against. In any situation, you have a yardstick to measure yourself with and ask, “Do I feel fearless?” or “If I were fearless, what would I do in this situation?”.
And then you can act accordingly to achieve the results and feelings that really mean something to you.
Are you making choices every day that are helping you feel good, in your body and your soul?
5. What do you value? What is your purpose?
Okay, these are big ones. But during big life changes, these areas can come into sharper focus than any other times in our lives.
Because when you’re starting a new job, moving, getting married, having a kid (and the list goes on), you are making a big decision about the kind of life that you want to live. And understanding your values and purpose will help you make the best decisions as you go on and live that life.
If you set a yearly theme, revisit that. Otherwise, just start writing out ideas that sound interesting to you. This will likely take some brainstorming.
Try writing out the things that matter most to you. Think about what you want your impact on the world to be. It might take some time to get there, so just start writing. Write out 20 ideas. If none of them feel right, take a break, and then come back and write 20 more until something starts to feel authentic and true to you.
Another helpful thought exercise for this is called the “funeral exercise”. Imagine yourself being able to watch your own funeral. What do you hope people will be saying? How do you want people to remember you? What do you want to be your legacy among the people who knew you and loved you?
Work backwards from where you want to end up. When you know your values and what purpose is driving you, that will help inform the decisions you make every day about who you want to be and where you want to go, and will help you end up where you want to be.
How do you react to big life changes? Are you on course to meet your big goals for 2015 and beyond? Let us know in the comments!
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