4 Steps to Reverse-Engineer Your Legacy

I’d like to think that my life is on track, well-planned, agile, ready to pivot towards every wonderful opportunity in front of me and well on its way to leaving my desired legacy. Wouldn’t we all? We would like to think a lot of things — because planning, doing, reviewing, adjusting make it too real — and who has the time? I say I don’t have time to plan out my life beyond a week, and boom, I begin to drift off track. A slight drift is OK, but as more and more time passes, you can get so off track that you no longer see your intended destination and set up camp wherever you end up.

Here’s where the concept of Living Forward comes in. A few months ago, looking for tools for my family and for my clients to use for long-term, life-planning, I came across the book Living Forward: A Proven Plan to Stop Drifting and Get the Life You Want (link below). I’ve used the below process myself and found it to be incredibly powerful in drafting my legacy and staying on track.

If you find yourself drifting off course, out of balance and running at a pace that isn’t sustainable, take a few minutes today to find one entire day (eight uninterrupted hours) on your calendar when you can be away from your busy life, to do these four steps. It will be worth your while, I promise. After all, we spend more time planning a 1-week vacation than we do planning what we want our legacy to be.

No matter how old you are. No matter your situation. No matter your past. I recommend that you carve out a Life-Planning Day, preferably away from your family, work, the internet, digital devices and other distractions … and do the following steps.

Writing a Life Plan:

1) Write your Eulogy. This exercise is not intended to be morbid or sad. It’s intended for you to fast-forward through the challenges of getting through today, through this week … to what is really important to you, in the long run. Ask yourself about what your funeral might be like:

a. Who attends?

b. What are you most remembered for?

c. What was important to you; what were your priorities?

2) Establish your Life Accounts. Each account is a person, a cause or a value that you cherish, that requires investment, nurturing and commitment — to build, to keep at the front of your attention. Examples are:

· Spouse

· Religion or Spirituality

· Child or Children

· Financial Health

· Physical Health

· Emotional or Mental Health

· Professional Success

3) Prioritize your Life Accounts. You have to start somewhere, so pick the area or people in your life to which you are most committed right now, to make progress. If you are stuck, consider that many people choose their spouse, their religion, or their health.

4) Fill out these sections for EACH life account. This section will take the most time and pay out the most dividends, so don’t skimp on it. Write your first draft with no regard for accuracy or length. You can edit at a later point, and reviews should be planned monthly, quarterly and annually — for adjustments, accountability and course corrections.

a. Purpose — What’s the benefit of keeping this account nourished?

b. Inspiring Quote — To motivate you when you get stuck.

c. Long-Term Vision — What does success look like in this area?

d. Current Reality — No matter the size of gap between your ideal and current states, be honest about what it looks like today.

e. Specific Commitments (SMART goals) — What small steps can you take, today, tomorrow, everyday — for progress?

If you’d like to see this process in action (which I did), here is the Professional Success section from my actual Plan, updated this month.

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Account: Professional Success

Inspirational Quote: “It is never too late to be what you might have been.” — George Eliot

Purpose: I use my prior experience to enrich the lives of those with whom I work or for whom I provide coaching. I share knowledge and expertise thoughtfully and deliberately, with the singular goal of leaving individuals, teams and organizations better than when I found them. My role as a thought leader is earned through my relentless pursuit of self-improvement and by sharing authentic and educated thoughts, opinions and tools fitting for the situation. My self-worth is not derived from my financial gains, rather from tangible and positive outcomes achieved by those that I coach or advise. I am intentional and work on projects that are mentally stimulating, align with my values and that serves others.

Long-Term Vision: By the end of 2017, I have solidified my personal brand, through writing, speaking, project work and my website. I have several complementary coaching programs, several prepared talks and an updated website, connected to LinkedIn and Facebook for routing social media traffic. I have established the days of the week and the months of the year that I want to work and have developed templates and processes for the products/services that I want to offer. I’ve written and published my first book and use it as a marketing tool for speaking engagements.

Current Reality: My business is in the black and I have contracted work for several months. I have a variety of clients, but my processes have been first-of and clunky, behind the scenes. Although I write and post regularly, I limit exposure to my content to third-party sites, without having a current website where I can route interested readers. My website is woefully out of date and not providing any value. Momentum and word of mouth referrals are picking up, but my marketing materials have to be created/modified often — consuming valuable, billable time.

Short-Term Goals and Specific Commitments:

1. I will revise and launch my website (by July 1)

2. I will create packages for each service area, including price, audience, length, objectives — for my new website (July 1)

3. I will attend one coaching-related class/conference/seminar quarterly (on-going)

4. I will achieve ICF ACC certification (by Aug 31)

5. I will develop a dashboard for sales activities and hold myself accountable (by May 1)

6. I will block one day per week for follow-up and planning (by May 1)

7. I will continue to form mutually beneficial partnerships with other service providers and organizations. (List by May 15)

8. I will review all sales and revenue streams for progress during December 2017 (by Dec 15)

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Don’t feel like you can take the time away from your life to plan your future? Ask yourself these questions.

· Today, are you happy with the “story” of your life?

· When was the last time you reviewed your ideal future and what it will take to get there?

· What tools or systems are you using to hold yourself accountable?

As a coach, I spend most of my professional time with people at some sort of a fork in the road, sometimes after a significant unexpected sharp turn — helping them craft the best possible outcomes for their personal and/or professional lives. This way of looking at your life, in the past tense, examining the delta between your Current Reality and your Should Be has been a simple, easy to create, easy to follow and easy to course correct process — that focuses you to work on the things (and relationships) that are most important to you. Try it and I’d love to hear your comments and customizations!

If you’d like to read a more in-depth explanation of the above and other life-planning processes/examples, read Living Forward.


Cindi Basenspiler provides leadership and success coaching to individuals and teams facing their biggest challenges. Customized programs hold clients accountable for forming strong systems, processes and habits. Are you considering hiring a coach to help you navigate a challenge, to become a better you? Please visit my website.