What I Did When I Got Lost
Correcting the Drift is not as hard as it seems.
So, in the last post, we talked about drifting and the difference between setting a direction for your life and mapping out the route you want to take to get there. Now, we want to talk more about what to do when you find that you’ve been drifting, and want to stop.
Let’s go back to our analogy of life being like a constantly flowing river that you are set upon in a boat with only a rudder.
Time flows like a river, and there is nothing we can do to go back in time or move forward into the future — so our boat has no oars. We can only steer our way through life at a constant speed — which is why our boat only has a rudder.
Where our analogy breaks down, though, is that unlike most rivers, the specific routes of our individual lives have never been charted.
There is no Google Earth for life where you can zoom in on any given part ahead and know with certainty what the path ahead will look like.
No map exists to tell you exactly where you will find the next rapids, or eddies, or even the waterfall at the end that will mean your certain death.
So what can you do?
Is there even a purpose in trying to plan a route when the way ahead is unknowable?
Without getting into the realm of the philosophical, I will say that, yes, I believe there is a purpose.
The purpose of route planning.
Let’s assume that we’re all reasonably intelligent, reasonably rational human beings. We are free thinking to a certain extent, and we want more for our lives than what we have — or at least we want what good we have to continue with us throughout our lives.
OK, now that we’ve established that, we have all we need to get started.
Where to start?
Let’s start at the end. After all, didn’t Stephen Covey tell us that one of the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People is to “Begin with the end in mind”? Now, this is not a how-to on implementing the Habits, but that book has had a great influence on my life, so I can say that any of this won’t be guided by Covey’s wisdom. If you haven’t read it, get a copy at your local used bookstore (they’ve probably got a dozen of ‘em), or order one delivered directly to your device or your door from Amazon (affiliate link) (non-affiliate link).
Where do you want to be at the end of your life?
One of the most profound exercises I’ve ever done was a part of my life planning process as outlined by Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy in their book “Living Forward” that I talked about in the first post in this series. In this exercise, I was to imagine that I was a fly on the wall at my own funeral, during which I got to hear those closest to me saying the things about me that I wanted to be true.
Don’t gloss over this part.
In my opinion, this exercise is where you figure out exactly — EXACTLY — what you want from your life.
Take some time to get it right.
I probably spent 2–3 hours just on this. Find a place where you can be alone and free from distractions for a few hours. You can probably do it an hour here and an hour there if you have to, but I recommend setting aside some time to just do this part all in one stretch.
Prepare for this.
You’ll not only need a quiet place, but you’ll also want to be alone.
Don’t try to do this at a coffee shop.
When I started thinking about the things I wanted my wife and children to be saying about me at my funeral, I broke down crying. No. I was sobbing.
I don’t mind telling you that I needed some tissues to get through this exercise.
In your preparation kit make sure you have: A secluded, comfortable, distraction-free environment; refreshments (water, tea, coffee, snacks, etc.), a pen and paper and/or computer/tablet. (There is something special about the feeling of handwriting this the first time through. I highly recommend putting this down by hand in a special notebook — Moleskine is my favorite — with a fountain pen, or at least a comfortable ballpoint pen or mechanical pencil.) Don’t worry about getting it down perfectly — you can edit when you type out your eulogy later.
Take your time with this, and make the time to take your time.
That is, put it on the calendar NOW.
Before you go to bed today, find the time on your calendar within the next two weeks to spend 2–4 hours on writing out what you want specific people to say about you at your funeral.
You don’t have to go too far overboard and imagine what you want every person in your life to say about you. You do have to make sure you’re including those people who mean the most to you in your various aspects of life.
For example, I, of course, included my wife and my daughters, but I didn’t include each daughter individually. Rather, I thought of what I wanted to be as a father and imagined — specifically — what I would want to be said about me.
I also knew that I didn’t want to be in my current job role at the end of my life, so instead of including co-workers by name, I thought of what I wanted to be as an employee, as a leader, and as a mentor and included bosses, employees, and mentees in my list.
Start by making a list of all the people/roles you want speaking about you at your funeral. Then begin thinking through what you want the ones closest to you to say because this will probably be the toughest, most emotional, and most time-consuming part of the process. It will probably get easier when you think through what you want your neighbors or volunteers at the animal shelter to say about you.
When you get this done, then you’re ready for the next part of the process.
You are meant for great things!
Come back here and share with us how this part has impacted you. Have you ever done anything like this before? Is there any part of this that makes you hesitant? Share with us below.
In the meantime, here are the earlier pieces in this series: