Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Leapfrog with a rear view mirror.

I tend to make resolutions rather than set goals. When I do set goals, they are often random, timeless wishes that I make no concrete path toward achieving. Or, if I do have some sort of yellow brick road in my mind to get to my goal, I make no plans for sustainability.

And then I wonder why I fail, burn out, or forget.

Today I learned a new word: backcasting. Backcasting is a reframing technique that changes the way one makes plans. It's similar to plain old goal setting except that it turns the process upside down. It's like when you're putting together a puzzle and you walk around to the other side of the table. Same puzzle. Same pieces, but the new perspective can unlock your mind and get you moving.

It starts the same way every other tedious goal-setting relationship-building communication training seminar ever starts: Begin with the end in mind.

But not just a goal, a sentence, a note on a list. Imagine your future. As a creative writer, this appeals to me. It means I stop. I shut my eyes and I fantasize about what I want. I imagine myself in the moment, living the future I want. This is not a resolution like "I will lose forty pounds by March." Instead I shut my eyes and picture myself at my sister's upcoming wedding in March. I create the scene, my siblings (some of whom I haven't seen in 9 years) around me. I picture the dress I wear, my hair. I allow myself to create this future and experience it mentally. I see myself lighter and healthier, spending time with my family.

I don't start with frustration and despair at where I'm at. I begin by reveling in where I am going. I am motivated and inspired, rather than starting with failure chained to my ankles.

Then I work, step by step backward toward today. I plan out each fundamental change that has to happen in reverse order, rewinding from my happy actualized self back toward the me I am today. These can be baby concrete steps, as well as principles. It's like a logic puzzle, working from effect to cause, effect to cause, all the way back to square one.

Hindsight is 20/20, right? So role play yourself into a vantage point where you can see what you should have done, with the amazing opportunity to actually do it.

The trick though, is to make sure that your steps lead toward sustainability, that your vision of that fulfilling future includes the amazing freedom and joy that comes from knowing you can stay this way. Imagine a future where your goal is permanent, where you are maintaining your dream, and then build the steps to make that vision real.

Next post: backcasting my way to laundry sustainability.


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