Begin with the end in mind because all good things must come to an end

When we went to school as kids, we didn’t think we would one day graduate and leave. It just felt like such a long time, something so far in the distant future that it didn’t seem real.

But when we went to college or university, we knew things were different. We knew we would only be there for a few years and will soon graduate into full adulthood with a job and everything.

But after getting a job, we stopped thinking. Every day became the same mundane day trading hours for pennies. We either imagine ourselves keeping our jobs forever, or dream of quitting but never do.

When was the last time you think to yourself, I’m going to be doing this or working this job for the next 5 years and by the end of these 5 years, I want to have achieved these targets or goals. Afterward, I will move on to another job or role and tackle these different challenges.

So why are we surprised when 5 years later, nothing changed, nothing happened, and we’re still stuck at more or less where we were 5 years ago? I’m almost 5 years into my job and it’s sad to feel that way, especially when I could’ve done so much more.

I could still start now, and perhaps the lesson is to begin with the end in mind. All good (and bad) things must come to an end, have you thought about what kind of ending you would prefer? Or are you just blindly charging ahead, one day at a time, with no regard to how everything will play out in the end?

Cheat days and cheating yourself

“It’s okay, no one will find out.”

But it’s not okay, because you’re cheating yourself.

It’s fine to have cheat days if you’re intentional and strict about it. But the moment you start having random cheat days, you’re just cheating yourself.

Think about it for a bit, why do you need cheat days? What is it but an excuse for you to take a break and not do the work or not put in the effort to achieve that thing you’ve always wanted to achieve?

It’s okay to take breaks and cheat a little, but once you start cheating a bit more and can’t control yourself, you might as well not bother with whatever your goal is because it’s probably not gonna happen.

Do you really need cheat days? Or are you just running away from what you should be doing? Use them wisely.

Towards a new decade

We humans always have this soft spot for specific numbers we find meaningful. Midnight, 00:00, marks the beginning of a new day, January 1st, 01/01, marks the beginning of a new year, and next year, 2020, marks the beginning of a new decade.

Have you ever wondered who invented all this? This brilliant way of standardizing time so we all know when to excuse ourselves and start fresh on a new day/year/decade?

So you overslept and missed school today, big deal. You can always try again tomorrow, so go back to sleep. So you botched all your goals and accomplished nothing in particular this year, big deal. There’s always next year, so why not give up trying and start fresh with next year’s goals and resolutions?

And now, as we are approaching the start of a new decade, can’t you just feel the excitement in the air? Look back and reflect on what you’ve done or achieved in the past 10 years. How do you feel? Don’t you feel excited that you can start fresh again the next decade? Just think of what you can achieve in the next 10 years!

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Chances are, if you give up today and use tomorrow as an excuse to start fresh, you will likely give up this year and use next year as an excuse to start fresh. But interestingly, when you look back at the past 10 years, you will probably be surprised by how much you’ve accomplished.

You might have graduated school, started working, got married, have kids, bought your own house, received a promotion, defeated a life-threatening disease, and so on. Because a decade is indeed a long time, and impressive as they may be, these are the things that will eventually happen to most people.

And regardless of how long a decade is, look what happened to the previous decade. Gone, just like that. When was 2010 and see how fast it flew by? Are you satisfied with your achievements to time taken ratio? It took you a decade and that’s all you managed? Why couldn’t you do it in 6 months instead?

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Now that you’ve looked back at the past 10 years, what do you think will, or can, happen in the next 10 years? Bear in mind that you might not last that long, are you going to keep doing what you’ve been doing, or are you going to try something different next decade?

What’s next?

You have a goal, multiple goals even, and you’re working hard to achieve it. It gives you something to strive for in life, it adds a sense of meaning and purpose to what you’re trying to do.

That’s great and all, but what’s next? What’s your plan after achieving that goal? A bigger goal? More goals? Or nothingness? Haven’t thought that far out yet? You’ll decide when you get there?

Is what you’re pursuing a means to an end, or is it the end itself? If it’s a means to an end, are there any other ways around it? What is it that you ultimately want and are you sure there’s no other way to get there?

Too often, we make the mistake of thinking that working towards A will lead us to B, which would ultimately lead us to C, which is what we really want. That if only we have A, we would eventually have C.

Won’t you just end up with a lot of A’s if your goal is to get to A? Why not just get to the point and work towards C? Find out what you really need to get to C and work towards that.

Make your goal an end goal, something that’s worth pursuing your whole life. Something you do because it’s what you really want, not because you’re chasing after something else.

The million dollar question

Do you know what you want?

At first glance, it’s a simple question but nothing could be further from the truth.

Suppose you want to fight for a cause, you want to make a difference in the world. You want to start, or work for, a charity and help people. You say that’s what you want, but is it really?

How would you answer if I ask for the specifics? What are you fighting? Poverty? Malaria? Access to clean water? Education? Animal abuse? How would you answer? You can’t just say you want to make the world a better place and not choose which are to work on.

Suppose you want to fight poverty. Where? Your home country? Some underdeveloped nation somewhere? How will you fight it? By donating your own money? By raising awareness? By organizing a charity run? By joining the volunteers who bring food/clothing/resources to the needy?

What exactly do you want to achieve? To provide temporary relief to those suffering from poverty? Or do you want to come up with a more permanent solution to the problem?

What is your end goal? What has to happen for you to say, “I did it!” and consider what you have done to be a success?

You only truly know what you want when you can paint a picture of an outcome. An outcome that describes exactly what you want to achieve. Without it, you don’t really know what you want.