2 min read

Working backwards

Working backwards

Most of us have an idea of what we would like our life to look like. We have an idea of what we would like to be able to do in the future, what kind of person we would like to be, and probably even have an idea of how we would like to imagine the best version of ourselves.

Forecasting is easy to do. Unfortunately, we tend to be like weathermen when it comes to the accuracy of our forecasts.

Forecasting is hard because it doesn't really give us anything to do right now. We want to have a healthy body and mind when we are older, but right now we are just trying to decide what to eat for dinner.

We can use forecasting to imagine what we would like our life to look like, but then we need to work backwards to identify decisions and actions that will increase the likelihood of that future being possible. This is called backcasting.

Start with the End State Goals

First, make a list of specific future descriptions. Mine might look like this:

  1. Meet adversity with readiness.
  2. Be present for loved ones.
  3. Have mental clarity when I am in my 80's and 90's.
  4. Be thoughtful, kind, and generous.
  5. Have a healthy body and mind.
  6. Approach death and dying with dignity.
  7. On a daily basis, be free from strong negative emotions or feelings of overwhelm.
  8. Be a conscious, active contributor to my community.
  9. Accompany others on their journey through this life.

Of course the list could go on, but start with a list of ten things and then pick a couple that really stand out. Then, work backwards.

Be present for loved ones.

Being present for our loved ones demands several things:

  1. Attention, not being distracted
  2. Listening
  3. Curiosity into their situation
  4. Empathy for what they are going through
  5. Willingness to sit through discomfort and impatience
  6. Time

You can see that the goal of being present for our loved ones starts to take a more tangible form. I can start to notice when I am distracted by my own priorities and turn my attention to them. I can recognize listening as a form of engagement that I should value because it leads me to where I want to go. When my loved one expresses something, I should curiously engage them, asking them to share more.

We end up with a list of things that we can practice.

Take some time this weekend to come up with your own list of End State goals. Then try to do some backcasting and see if you can come up with some elements that you can start acting on and incorporating into your daily practice.

Then, when you sit down to meditation in mindful presence, you can appreciate that you are training yourself for that which is truly meaningful and important. You are practicing to live the life you imagine, only instead of it being projected into the future, you are embodying it in the present.