Working Backwards in Life

How often we get the feeling that life just passed by quickly? How often we feel we could have lived it differently if given an alternative? How often does life leave us with regrets and ifs and buts? Well, if you have ever felt this way in life, you have not worked backwards in life.

Working backwards in life is a powerful technique I have come to know. Simply speaking, it means to have an end objective in mind and then take the necessary actions to meet the objective. Delve deep and it symbolizes living a life without constraints; but a life of possibilities. When the end goal is clear, the plans automatically happen. But when the end goal is not clear, we move in the direction life takes us. Without having power in our hands.

Let me explain this through some examples from my own life:

  • When I did my engineering, I did not know why I was doing it. I had no futuristic objective in mind. On the contrary, doing MBA was a well thought through decision. And I had an objective in mind. An objective to change my function and industry. An objective to understand business fundamentals. Among the two experiences, I definitely loved the second one more. Even though it was risky and meant that I take a career break and give up a salary; it was a decision taken with the long term outlook in mind and not just an immediate output. I worked backwards on how I would want my career to take shape in the next 20 years and realized how MBA was a perfect choice; a choice I would not have made if I had not worked backwards.
  • When I started writing my books, I worked backwards. If I did not know what kind of an author I wanted to be known as, I would have ended up writing the usual routine romance and stereotypical books. But I sat back and realized how I wanted my writing to change people’s lives. And the entire tone and meaning of my writings changed from there on. I worked backwards.
  • When people ask me why I am single at this age, I smile. Because I am living in the moment. I once wrote a poem called, On my death bed. I worked backwards on the kind of life I wanted to live. And a good marriage than an early marriage was an obvious choice. I worked backwards and decided to be happy no matter what. I remind myself of this decision everyday.

As a product manager, we are always encouraged to work customer backwards. In our lives too, the same principle applies. When we don’t work backwards in life, we simply react to things happening to us. But when we work backwards, we begin to feel in control of our lives. And then even when things happen of which we have no control of, we still continue to work backwards to reach the same objective. We no longer let life be defined by constraints, by events, by others; but by our choices, our potential, by our dreams and vision.

Working backwards helps maximize the joy of living. Try it!

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