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Plan your life – Part 1 : Defining your purpose and motivating goals

It is of the greatest losses in life, that we find ourselves at the end of our journey of life, having climbed the ladder of perceived success, only to reach the top and realise that it was leaning against the wrong building!

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Say, [O Muhammad], “Shall we [believers] inform you of the greatest losers as to [their] deeds?

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[They are] those whose effort is lost in worldly life, while they think that they are doing well in work.”

This description, quoted from the closing ayaat of Surah Al Kahf, describes the one who stands before his Lord, considering himself to have been successful, only to realise his deviation once it is too late. I read these aayaat and worry about my own self and it’s direction – today, tomorrow and in my remaining time in this world. How can I ensure this is not going to be my state?

One of the ways I think this disaster can be averted is through planning and regular, personal reviews. We all do it quite naturally at work and while studying and it probably goes something like this:

  1. Define your purpose
  2. Set a goal (e.g. certification, project delivery)
  3. Develop an approach (get your resources in order and work towards the target)
  4. Measure progress regularly (coursework / mid-term exams, project meetings, sprint reviews etc.)
  5. Test your knowledge / product and improve until…
  6. Completion (exam day, go-live etc.)

Step 1 of this process can be one of the most challenging. Personally, I ask myself some specific questions to get to the essence of what my specific purpose is. I thought I would gather some of my favourites here and would love to hear about your personal reflective questions and comments too. Take 15 minutes to try one or more of these approaches and you will learn a lot about yourself, in order to develop your own personal goals and plans.

Exercise 1 : In pursuit of happiness

To pursue what makes you truly happy, these questions help to build a purpose congruent with my preferences and strengths:

  • What makes me smile?
  • What are my favourite things to do?
  • I lose track of time when …
  • I feel great about myself when …
  • I’m most inspired by … (may be people)
  • I’m naturally good at …
  • People typically ask me for help with …
  • If I had to teach, I would teach …
  • I regret not fully doing, being or having fully in my life …
  • I use my skills and resources best by…

Exercise 2 : What do you want to be known for?

Another great approach is to write your own eulogy or reflection as if you have achieved old age:

  • At 90 years old, looking back on my life, what matters most to me are:
  • My deepest values (things I hold really important) are:
  • Looking back at my life, my challenges, difficulties and hardships have been:
  • And I overcame them by…
  • Causes I believed in…
  • If I could speak to a large group of people I would tell them:
  • Looking back after 90 years, I have lived in…
  • …  my hobbies are…
  • … my best relationships were …
  • … I worked in …
  • … I achieved …
  • … I am most known for my … (qualities / behaviours)
  • … People most admired me for …
  • … People will most miss from me …

Exercise 3 : What motivates me?

And then there is the more direct approach asking about the meaning of my life:

  • Why do I want to get out of bed every day?
  • Who do I want to live for?
  • What do I want to live for?
  • Why do I want to go through lifes struggles?
  • Why do I want to be active?
  • What do I want to achieve in 1 year? What about in 3 years, 13 years and 23 years?

These are just three possible approaches to developing thinking about your personal purpose and subsequent planning to ensure you live a life without regrets. Don’t regret starting, for indeed:

If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much.
– Jim Rohn

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