Happy Sunday Educators! You are likely familiar with the idea of backwards mapping. Get crystal clear about the outcome, the desired end, your North Star and begin to plan your strategy to land there. When we plan in this way, we typically land much closer to the intended outcome simply because it guides the process as we plan and implement. We reference the outcome with each planning strategy and seek to answer the question, “Will this planned segment get me closer or further from my goal?” What does this have to do with living the life you’ve imagined? What question should you be asking? I thought you’d never ask!
“How do I want my life to look and why?”
About 2 years ago I decided my life wasn’t on the correct course (for more details, be sure to reference my first post). I knew I wasn’t spending the quality time I wanted to spend with my son, my head and emotional space weren’t as grounded, and my overall vibe of life was off. So I started asking the question, “How do I want my life to look and why?” And not just in my career, but how did I want my relationship with my son to look, my finances, my emotional state, my physical health, my time with my family, my sense of peace and joy, etc. Once I had a picture of my ideal life, I then asked the question that holds it altogether…why is this important? What is “my why” behind this ideal life vision that I created? Now…before you detach and say, “oh lord…this question again…I already know my why,” I want to invite you to go through a process that has recently supported me in getting to the heart of my life motivation.
A few months ago, I learned about a strategy called, 7 Levels Deep. It pushed me to dig into and discover the foundational driver for my current discontent and where I needed to stay focused. The strategy starts with the basic question of, “What is important to you about this ideal life you’ve imagined?” Once I had my response, I moved on to answer, “Why is it important to you to (fill in the answer from the previous answer)?” Then I took the next response and answered another level deeper, “Why is it important to you to ____?” I continued this process of asking “Why is it important to you to …?”, and inserting the previous answer until I was looking at my core driving value and motivation. This was my North Star.
I will tell you that when I started asking why, I began with answers such as, “I want more time with my son” or “I want to be fully present when I’m with my family” or “ I want to know that I’m making a difference…”. Engaging in the 7 Levels Deep process led me to a more meaningful and complete answer: “I want the freedom and flexibility to direct my life and determine how my life will look at any given moment.” This answer has immense implications on the choices I make in my career, my social circle, my personal life, financial decisions, etc. As life continues to present options, I can use my final “why” as the backdrop and determine if it aligns with what I say is most important. If the answer is yes…proceed! If it’s no…move no further. If it’s a maybe…gather a bit more understanding so I can get to a solid yes or no. Absolute game changer for me!
When was the last time you’ve taken a moment to dream and imagine an ideal life? No matter how long it's been, take the time to do it now!
So…I want to ask you…when was the last time you’ve taken a moment to dream and imagine an ideal life? Whether it’s been a while or not, I want to challenge you to take some time to do this now! How would this vision of your life look across the different areas…career, relationships, parenting, finances, health, etc.? Then ask yourself, “What is most important to me about this ideal life?” Then move to asking why your answer is important. Continue to ask a “why” of your response 7 times and see where you land.
It can be challenging to complete an exercise like this because you may feel like there is no additional “why” but I’d push you to dig and see if you can get to the bottom of your why. Once you have it, you can begin to more easily answer some of life’s constant choices with certainty. When you’re faced with a career decision, examine how it aligns with your ultimate why. When determining if you should make a significant purchase, check the alignment. When making choices on the job, whether it is how you respond to a student, a parent, an administrator, a colleague…check your alignment. Your bottom-line why is always there whether you’ve discovered and named it or not. When you continue to heap on decisions and choices which don’t align, you begin to feel and live the discomfort of the misalignment.
So…what is your bottom line why? Does your current life situation support it? Can there be alignment with a few shifts and adjustments? Are they shifts that are in your locus of control or does it require someone else to shift or adjust? Keep in mind that focusing on changing someone else to shift your life situation can be futile and it may serve you better to place your energy elsewhere.
Alright…what do you think of this strategy and post? Does it resonate? If you try the 7 Levels Deep strategy, I’d love to hear how it went and if you had a new discovery! So, as you enter another week of making a difference in education, I leave you with this quote from Henry David Thoreau…
“If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”
Start dreaming and imagining (again) and then…move towards your North Star.
In love and solidarity,