Another new year approaches. No doubt you’ll hear the endless talk of resolutions and goal setting from the usual suspects. Your gym will be busier than usual for the first two weeks of the year. Self-help books might see a brief uptick in sales. Business coaches will see renewed interest from professionals and business owners who desire more money, accolades and success.
Of course, these goals and resolutions are short-lived. By mid-January, the gym returns to normal. We get back into our normal routines and life continues as before.
Part of the problem is that we write down our goals and dreams and never look at them again. Why? Because reading your goals, ambitions and dreams bore the heck out of you. It’s the same dry pipe-dreams year after year.
The Future You Chronicle
A few years ago I started a year-end exercise. It’s sort of like a goal-setting exercise, but not really. It’s sort of like a five-year plan, but not really. You’re going to write a day in the life of your future self. I’m going to give you a series of questions to answer that will simplify the exercise and make it fun.
These won’t be eye-rolling job interviews question like “where do you see yourself five years from now.” These are more focused questions that will force you to uncover your desires and flesh out a high-level plan to achieve them.
Once we review the questions, I’ll show you how to structure your story to make it interesting and plausible. You’ll be reading this story at least once a month over the next year, so you’ll want to make it a fun read.
We’re going to focus on the seven major areas of your life: professional, relationships, health, financial, personal development, environment, and lifestyle.
How will you earn your living?
At what level do you see yourself in your profession or business?
What achievements will you have made in the next five years to justify your position?
What obstacles have you overcome?
What is still missing from your professional desires? Or, what do you want to achieve next?
What does your romantic situation look like in five years?
What will have happened between now and five years from now to justify this future?
What new friends have you made? What are they like? What about them made you want to befriend them?
What relationship obstacles have you overcome?
What does your family relationships look like?
What’s still missing from your various relationships?
What foods do you eat to maintain or improve your health?
What activities do you do to maintain or improve your health?
How has your desire to improve your health influenced the choices you’ve made in your life?
What major obstacle have you overcome?
What have you yet to achieve as it relates to your health goals? Or, what do you wish to accomplish next?
What does your personal finance balance sheet (assets, debt, cash) look like?
Where do you stand on each of your financial goals, whatever they are for you (cash, emergency funds, retirement, college, second home, etc…)?
How much money do you make each month?
What will have happened between now and the future to justify this income?
What major financial milestones will you have hit five years from now?
What financial goals remain?
What spiritual practices have become part of your daily or weekly routine?
What skills have you developed?
What learning opportunities will you have undertaken in the next five years?
What personal development practices have you tried but did not like?
What causes have you become involved in?
What do you hope to achieve next in the area of personal development?
Where do you live?
What is the climate like where you live?
Describe your home. Is it a house, apartment?
How is it furnished?
If you’re living in the same home you are currently living in, what renovations have you made?
Who is living with you?
What do you do for fun (on weekends, nights out, after work)?
Do you own a car(s)? What kind? If not, how do you get around?
How have your fashion choices changed? How do you typically dress for work, on your days off or for a night out?
What’s your most prized material possession?
Where have you vacationed? Do you have a second home or a timeshare?
If you have kids, what kind of activities do you do with them?
What pets do you have?
What lifestyle desires are still on your wish list?
Writing Your Story
Did you have fun answering those questions? Now the super-fun part begins. Start your writing exercise by imagining yourself five years from now. Pretend it’s a Friday night. Since lifestyle is a significant category, Friday is a useful assumption since you include both work and a typical night for leisure activities.
You’ve just woken up. Where are you? Describe your bedroom. How is it furnished? You’ve already answered high-level questions about your home, but now you are diving a little deeper.
Next, run through your entire day in minute detail. Picture yourself going to your bathroom and brushing your teeth, heading downstairs and pouring a cup of coffee. That might not be part of your routine, but it’s part of mine. It’s an example of how you want to think about this process. Be sure to include small narratives about what you are feeling. Maybe you have a vacation coming up in two weeks or an expected professional milestone. Maybe you get paid today; sneak in a line about your paycheck. Writing about your thoughts allows you to include things that won’t necessarily occur during your day.
Continue this throughout your entire day in the life. Write about how you get to work (unless you work from home), Write about your workday. Include anecdotes about the people you deal with and their various traits. These tidbits make your story feel real. Refer back to the answers from the earlier questions if you need more information. Make sure you include information about all seven categories. Write until you reach the end of your day when you drift off to sleep.
You should have written at least two-thousand words in your first draft. Now you’re going to fill in some of the gaps. If you look back to the list of questions, you’ll see ones like this.
“What will have happened between now and the future to justify this income?”
Read through your first draft and include anecdotes about what will have happened in the next five years to justify your prediction. Here’s an example.
“It’s been three months since I was named CEO. That sandbox software project four years ago put me on the map with the board. I had to make a few personal sacrifices to pull off that project, but it was worth it. It led to my promotion to General Manager of North America. Three years of solid revenue growth made me the natural choice once Carter (the former CEO) retired.”
Put your finished product away for a few days. Reread it and edit for clarity. Look through the answers to your questions one more time and make sure you’ve covered all seven categories to your satisfaction.
Your Eyes Only
Do not show this to anyone. If you know you’re going to share it with others, it will inhibit your thinking. Fear of criticism and embarrassment will creep in. That fear will temper your output.
You’re done. Put your masterpiece away. I try to read mine once a week. I don’t always do that, but I make sure I do it at least once a month. Reading it reminds you of what you hope to become in the next five years and what you need to do to get there. Have fun with this exercise. Good luck!