“To be nobody but yourself in a world that is night and day trying to make you just like everybody else means to fight the hardest fight any human being can fight, and never stop fighting.” e.e.cummings
There’s a wonderful song by the “Talking Heads” titled “Once In A Lifetime” (from their “Remain In Light” CD) where David Byrne sings the lyrics:
And you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack
And you may find yourself in another part of the world
And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile
And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife
And you may ask yourself – well… how did I get Here?
Well let me tell you I’ve lived in that shotgun shack and I’ve found myself in another part of the world and I really did ask myself “How did I get here?” Growing up in the wild and crazy time of the sixties with the breaking free from the social constraints of the fifties was an exuberant and sometimes frightening time to come of age in America. I remember that long-range life planning wasn’t something that my friends ever talked about as it seemed that with the ‘Nam war and the Cuban missile crisis threatening the annihilation of the planet that there wasn’t much point to figuring out what we wanted to do for the rest of our lives since there was high probability that we wouldn’t be around that long to have had made long-term plans be pretty much an exercise in futility. It’s unlikely that there wasn’t even the concept of “life planning” in existence during that time; most kids coming of age simply either found a job, went to college, got married, or went into the military. Not a lot to think about in those days.
Well the world didn’t come to an end and I didn’t have to go to Vietnam and I still ask myself sometimes “How did I get here?” I didn’t start making plans for what I wanted to do with my life until I was close to middle age and in my late thirties. I’d drifted from job to job, college to college, and one adventure to another for most of life up until then that I figured that if I didn’t come up with some kind of planning method for figuring out what I wanted to do with my life that I’d just continue to drift and if I was lucky I’d fall into something eventually. There’s so many cliches that come to mind after reading that last sentence that I won’t bore myself except with this one exception: luck usually only shows up for those who are prepared to recognize her when she does show up. I suppose luck did show up as I stumbled across a book that turned out to be exactly what I was looking for even though I didn’t recognize it until a number of years later. The book was “How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life” by Alan Lakein (I’ll have an Amazon link for it at the end of the article). A small slim volume of only 160 pages, it was remarkably powerful for helping me identify what I wanted to accomplish in my life and it described a fairly painless method for achieving whatever someone identified as their most important goals.
Mr. Lakein puts forth a number of very simple exercises that are easy and quick to accomplish. I’ll describe them here from memory as its been so long since I’ve had a copy of my own of the book since I repeatedly buy a copy for myself and end up giving it away to a friend who needs it way more than I do.
First grab a few sheets of paper and pen or pencil. The first exercise is to make a list of all the things you’d like to do if you knew you were never going to die and would LIVE FOREVER. Write them down, take as long as you need, and refrain from self-censoring yourself, and be sure to write everything you can imagine you’d like to do.
Next, on a clean sheet of paper, write down all the things that you’d do if you knew you only had FIVE YEARS TO LIVE. Again no self-censoring and let your imagination roam free. Be certain to write down everything you can think of that you’d like to do given the time constraint of six months.
The third exercise continues with another clean sheet of paper and you writing down everything you’d do if you only had SIX MONTHS TO LIVE. Same caveats as before: no self-censoring, write everything down, give your imagination free reign.
The last exercise is one that I got from another source yet fits in nicely with the above from Mr. Lakein’s book. Again on another clean sheet of paper write down everything that you’d do if you were the RICHEST PERSON IN THE WORLD.
So now you’ve got at least four sheets of paper containing everything you’d like to accomplish with no time constraints, some time constraints, and no financial constraints. These are very important points which I’ll get back to later on.
The last part of the exercise is to carefully look over each list that you’ve made and highlight or underline all the things that you’d like to that appear on all four lists! Write these down on a separate sheet of paper because you’ve now identified all the things that are most important for you to accomplish in your lifetime.
These exercises are very simple yet almost deceptively powerful. “How so?” you may be thinking to yourself. Well first of all you’re getting all the things you’d like to do out of the abstract form of the fleeting thoughts in your mind. Never underestimate the power of writing things down, especially when it comes to things you’d like to do or accomplish. The act of writing something down gives your thoughts substance and a power that they otherwise will never have if they remain merely in your mind. Next, the exercises remove all the constraints that we impose on ourselves: “Well yes I’d like to do that but I’ll never have enough time…” or “I couldn’t possibly ever afford to do anything like that…” Removing these self-constructed constraints frees our mind to get down to the core of our being and identify the most true desires of what we honestly want to accomplish with our lives.
The remainder of the book describes a system for prioritizing all the these goals and accomplishments that you’ve identified and the tasks that one needs to do on a day by day, week by week, month by month, and year by year timeline to ensure that you’ll be constantly working towards achieving all or most of the things you’ve set out to do with your life. If you were to combine this system with David Allen’s “Getting Things Done”, you would be so far ahead of most of the people on the planet that you’ll astound yourself and those close to you with the power you’ll have in not only identifying your dreams but achieving them as well.
So in closing, I’ll paraphrase that genius Albert Einstein, when he said that “nothing happens until something moves.” Take some action to identify your dreams and the steps to achieve them or else you’ll find yourself singing along with the Talking Heads at some point in your life:
Letting the days go by/let the water hold me down
Letting the days go by/water flowing underground
Into the blue again/after the moneys gone
Once in a lifetime/water flowing underground.
Same as it ever was … same as it ever was … same as it ever was …
Same as it ever was … same as it ever was … same as it ever was …
Same as it ever was … same as it ever was …
B.L. Walther is an entrepeneur and author and publisher of Success Digest. Please visit Success Digest for timely news, information and articles on health, fitness, personal development and tips and tools you can use for successful living.