How to work backward from happy

How to work backward from happy

Goals are not my thing.

In my brain, goals = rules, and rules = stupid-crap-I-go-out-of-my-way-to-ignore.

But this interesting thing happened recently:

I realized that I accidentally managed to find myself with a goal [picture me with the sour-lemon-face while saying that].

Visual aid:


To explain, I have to tell a little story…

A few years back, when I was just getting started, and I was making zero money, and totally freaking out as a result, a marketing colleague/friend of mine walked me through a guided meditation-like-thingy to help me calm the hell down.

My confession: I thought it was lame.

But I tried to go with it… because she seemed pretty certain it would make me feel better.

I totally don’t recall the details [because I was trying really hard to not pay attention], but I think it involved crossing a river a bunch of times and carrying some things and describing what I saw and thought and felt at every stage.

It was all about helping me see myself five years in the future.

And right this second, several years later, as I write this post, I am thinking about the place I ended up in during that exercise. And this isn’t the only minute that it has filled my thoughts. I think about it all. the. damn. time.

It bugs me that I think about it. Because it means there might actually be something to this whole vision-board-see-your-success thing. 

I did my little five-years-from-now-vision-quest-river-walk three and a half years ago. And every time I have a moment of success, I see myself in that moment. The moment five years from now [well, actually a year and a half from now], there I am. Happy. Healthy. Making a difference.

When I did the vision thing originally, it seemed about as far away as the moon. Now it feels like the house I saw myself in will be the next house we’ll live in – the next big splash in my business – the next thing. As in the thing right after this thing. The time right after now. Not quite tomorrow, but soon enough, soon enough it will be tomorrow.

And a funny thing has happened.

I’m following the only kind of goal that ever actually works for me. Not a number of subscribers or a magical dollar sign. I’m following the only thing that has ever really, truly motivated me – happiness.

how much is happiness worth

While I was just going about my days, months, weeks – thinking I was building my business, I was actually pointed towards something bigger, something couldn’t stop thinking about. It nibbled at the back corners of my brain – a tiny tickle. A simple thing – a comfortable chair – a great view – the sound of a happy family in another room – a feeling of ease and contentment from the cool satisfaction that I did good stuff for good people.

Engineers and designers call it backcasting or reverse engineering. It’s where you start with something that’s complete and work backwards. For example, if the finish line is a house on the ocean, the the step before that might be the search for the perfect spot, and the one before that would be doing a budget for moving… deciding where to move…. determining what needs to happen to make that possible… etc…

Take enough steps backward from happy and you’ll wind up where you are right now with a clear map forward. [tweet]

Follow it. One step at a time and the light at the end of the tunnel will get clearer and brighter with every inch forward. [tweet]

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