5 Backwards Steps To Bolt Your Dreams Forward
Dreams, ambitions, personal progress…we all have them. For personal and professional development it can be a long and tangled string of could and should do’s. We often fantasize about the end state and get confidence that’s where the payoff is but for far too many of us it is the action steps to get there that we often don’t formalize, in short we have big ideas and little plans.
The first step in anything new to accomplish is usually the hardest. Often that step, while certainly being directional to aspirations, can be perfunctory or be a multi-task in requirement for many things not part of the “big plan” and we then excuse or rationalize away every oncoming distraction. So how do you get to the big there? A plan would seem obvious but having ideas in your head and actions written down on paper are not the same thing. (I’m also an advocate of writing in lieu of or before typing because there’s an emotional connection you don’t get with a keyboard.)
We face so many distractions and interruptions from immediate priorities that it is can seem flip to schedule yourself time to make a plan for something you really want. If we do get around to a plan the idea has usually been fermenting in our brain for some time. What if there was a practical way to not only get a plan done but to then act upon it? There may be, but you might want to try going backwards!
Sure, it seems counterintuitive as plans usually have completion dependencies to advance along a progress timeline but reality is that it is extremely hard to forecast steps into the future and can be highly distracting, derailing or redirecting and many actions end us up in a different place than thought because the circumstances of the moment seemed to chart a more urgent, logical, or perhaps less resistant path.
Happy accidents aside, it’s not the most efficient way to get to your vision. Working backwards provides the initial priority that it is the end state we are really striving for not the first step. There are usually many paths so it’s focus on the finish that counts. The more clear and specific we are about where we’ll end up better arms us agains falling prey to the distractions? Try creating a 5 step plan with five backward steps to make clear what your sequence needs to be. Here’s the outline:
- Formulate and spend time with your Vision of the End State goal, be it a position, a situation, a possession or a state of being or feeling. Identify in that vision why it makes you happy and what thing(s) are your real drivers of happiness. What is the potential downside of getting there? If your vision exercises leave you feeling happy about yourself it’s got good karma you’ll want to work for it and go to step 2. (If it leaves you anxious or uncertain move on the the next dream or come back to it as life evolves and see if your assessment changes)
- Visualize the specific effects of the accomplishment, of getting there. Many people use Dream Boards to hold images of the things they associate. It may be a picture of an opulent office, it may be a peer’s sign of respect or it may be an image of self satisfaction a vacation or a smile when the bills come due. The image doesn’t need to be a picture, it may be a quote or a few lines you write down that typify what you’d do or say or feel in your end state. Having set images for your brain to see reminds you of your initial vision otherwise dreams often involuntarily evolve or devolve–and sometimes go far astray of our true desire.
- Chart your helpers. None of us get very far on our own, at least not in isolation. If you are lucky you may have a champion or an advocate. You may have a spouse who inspires and supports you. Perhaps a team or a staff or a customer who respects your leaderships and wants to rise with your ship is willing to work in line with your dream. Write them down with two other columns answering, 1) Why do they support me, and, 2) How do I prove them right.
- Identify your dream killers. This might be your own propensity to procrastinate. Self or imposed fears of the unknown, or even of success. Competitors or grudge holders or proven volatility in markets, conditions or relationships. Don’t make it an exercise in paranoia but it is critical to be honest. Your dream is about to turn into a plan so accurately identifying both the helps and the hindrances will give you a reality base to progress through.
- Make an Action Tree. Try this backwards also and limit it to the 5 biggest steps. What will be your tipping point action that finally gets you to your vision? What key thing happened that enable that? What significant thing did you do to put yourself in position to advance your goal prior to that? What near term success gave you and others the confidence you could succeed? What do you need to do tomorrow to start the chain rattling?
You now have a high level plan and an untimed timeline that you can now put time ranges on. Even if the time estimates are off you can adjust those and stay true to the plan. You took 5 steps to get a 5 step high level action plan. Sure, there may be countless smaller actions you need to do in each step and the path is more likely crooked than true but now you have a clear map that you can update and annotate as fits your style. You know the actions you have to get to, you know who your helpers are and what negatives you need to avoid or overcome. Reminding yourself of the effects of the accomplishment provides the motivation and it should all lead back to the core vision and desire that started you on the path of accomplishment
Sometimes it can be pretty smart to look backwards to propel yourself forward. What’s better than getting to your dreams…and remember to enjoy it when you get there!