It is easy to lose perspective of the big picture of our lives, because we tend to get caught up in the day to day roller coaster of events, emotions, challenges and problems that have to be dealt with. Therefore, every so often, it’s useful to stand back and evaluate how your life is going in the overall big picture.
I personally do this exercise twice a year. Once around January 1, and the other time around my birthday in October. It’s a way to make sure I am holding myself accountable for meeting my own personal goals and for accomplishing what I want. It keeps me focused and gives me a way of measuring how I am doing.
Here is the exercise, which I would recommend you try. Be extremely specific and thorough—and write your answers down. (You’ll forget them if you don’t.)
- What have I accomplished or experienced in the past year that I am proud of or grateful for?
- What regenerates or revitalizes me?
- In which ways am I living my dream?
- Use the following categories in answering the above questions: love, work, money/savings/financial goals, home, relationship with my children/parents, relationship with extended family, relationship with friends, health/body, travel, adventure, exercise, diet and nutrition, weight, appearance, creative expression, play/fun, romance, sex, career goals, personal enrichment and overall sense of well-being.
- What do I want to accomplish or experience in this next year?
- If I were to take responsibility for my life turning out the way I want it to, what would I do? What would I quit doing, or do differently?
Why is it important to do this? To give yourself a reality check, and to figure out whether you are frittering away your time focusing on too many short-term feel-good pleasures and on things that are not really important—or on pursuits that actually matter to your life. Two well-known authors have written about this:
“In the absence of clearly defined goals, we become strangely loyal to performing daily trivia until ultimately we become enslaved by it.” Robert Heinlein
“This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being throughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish selfish clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.” George Bernard Shaw
Plain and simple, this is one way to avoid having major regrets later on in life, when you are more likely to focus on what you desired but didn’t pursue. I’m not saying that short-term pleasures are not important, but rather that you will be happier if you are keeping your eye on the ball and not losing sight of the bigger picture of your life.