It’s possible that when you read the title of this article, you thought “well that’s quite morbid!” particularly if you’re reading this close to Christmas and the new year, but it’s an absolutely pivotal question in terms of goal setting. As a wealth strategist, I try to go beyond simple goal setting with my clients. If I’m encouraging you to write your goals, that’s one thing. If I’m helping you to make a plan for what you want to do before you die, it all of a sudden has a lot more meaning and will be more motivating for you if I ask the question: are you prepared to die?
Really – let’s try it. What if yesterday were your last day on Earth? How would you feel after the shock wore off? Of course, this is just a mental exercise. You might be a bit sad to leave others behind, but let’s focus on how you feel about your life as a whole. Would you feel proud? Would you feel accomplished or would you feel that you had lived a life that was lacking something and you are full of regret? Take your time coming up with your honest answer. Sit with it for a moment and think about what it means for you and your life.
I have found both as a coach and in my personal life that asking the question, “are you prepared to die?” is essentially a more interesting way of getting people to select and write their goals, and to create a plan for the year ahead. It is far more compelling than if I simply said to you, “okay, this is going to be an article about goal setting,” you might say “oh, I’ve heard that so many times! I don’t want to do goal setting. Goal setting never works!”
If that’s what you would say, you might be right. For many people, goal setting doesn’t work unless you’re like me, and you create a spreadsheet that you fill in on a daily basis to map your outgoings and your activity against your goals and your targets, and look at where the gap is, which will then tell you what you need to do tomorrow. Most people don’t approach goal setting in this way, and so truly making progress can fail either because achieving the goal is daunting, or because it slips one’s mind altogether.
What I’ve got for you today is an exercise – and it’s not going to be about goal setting. What would be the happiest moments you could share with me and why do they make you happy? What are you most proud of and why? Is there something that you did? Is there something that you created? Is there something that somebody else has done that you are proud of? And let me also ask you a partner question: what are your greatest successes? What have you achieved. There are all very positive things to recall and to focus on. We must draw from these things clues that point us in the direction of a purposeful and joyful life. What do we want more of in our lives so that we feel good?
You can take those happy memories, you can take all of those successes that you’ve had in the past, create a list and plan to do more of that. So now, what can you plan to achieve moving forward that will make your life more happy, more successful, and more financially secure, particularly now that you didn’t die yesterday?
What you want for your life could also be about doing what matters most to you with those you love, or doing what you love with those that matter most. You can interchange it, but it’s about whether you love it or not, whether it matters to you. It’s the same thing, isn’t it? If it mattered to you, you would love it.
The flip side of this is that I’m then going to ask you: what are your biggest regrets? This means about yourself and your personal life; what you’ve achieved or not achieved, and what you’ve lost along the way. What you’ve not acquired, failed to achieve or failed to succeed at. From here we draw lessons about what doesn’t work, about how to overcome challenges or failures, and about how we do not want to feel. We learn what is valuable through having lost it.
If you have trouble identifying your regrets, try to recall where you have found yourself saying “I wish I’d done something about it. I don’t feel successful. I don’t feel I’ve achieved anything. I wish I had done x and not y.” These are clues about what you are missing or regretting. When you get to the real end – and I hope that it is a long time in the future – unless you have taken steps to mitigate your regrets, you will feel them acutely. That is why I recommend starting today by asking “what if yesterday was my last day alive?”
Now, the focus of the exercise is on the positive. I want you to feel positive and to be pulled forward by feelings of warmth and happiness. Spend most of your time on your happy memories and achievements. Maybe as you start to build that list of all the things that you’ve been successful at, you’ll change your own beliefs and recognize that you are in fact a very successful person creating a wealthy life where you get to do what do you love with those that matter to you most and do what matters to you most with those you love. Make your list and live each day as I it could be your last.
If you are interested in learning more about thought experiments like this one, make sure you listen to my podcast A Wealthy Life, and look at the free resources I offer like the Readiness to Retire Wealthy Audit. Yesterday was not your last day, but I hope you live like every day is a special opportunity to succeed and be happy. For more impactful wealthy life tips, please visit my website www.vickiwusche.com, listen to my podcast here and here, or schedule a free call with me.