Start with the End in Mind

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For someone who writes about happiness and well-being, this article may be a bit unusual.
Maybe also not everyone’s cup of tea. But quite effective if you immerse yourself.

The title of my article today is a quote from Stephen R. Covey. It came back to my mind in the last few days when I was thinking about who and what we give how much space and time in our lives.

During my little break the other day I also passed a cemetery and just sat down on a bench for a while. There were many graves of people who had been given 80 years and more by life. But there was also one of two brothers who had died at the age of 17 and 18.
Spontaneously I had the thought that we often live as if we live forever.
And that we do not like to deal with our finiteness. But how can I have a “good finish” if I suppress the fact that at some point the chequered flag will fly?

That immediately brought up the next questions:
What would be a “good finish” for me?
What if the flag were to fly tomorrow?
Or in a year’s time?
What would have to have happened or still be happening for me to be able to say that I can go in peace, I had a good life?

And – how much of it is happening in my life right now or have I already taken it into my own hands?
Too quickly our days, weeks and years are “full”. Professional and private commitments, all kinds of activities … Some of these we choose consciously, some we have no choice and then there are the many little things that sneak in so secretly.

After some thought, it was clear to me that I would like to have as little “if I only had” as possible left at the end.
The question is: at the end of the day, week, year, have we given enough attention and time to the people and activities that are really important to us?

Do you know what is important to you?

To set the right focus for the “good life”, clarity can help in the following four aspects:

1. What is important to me? – Do you know your values?
Your values are the best way to find out what is important to you. Values are closely linked to your convictions, ideals, needs and inner attitude. They are important for making the right decisions according to your definition and provide you with motivation and orientation. Imagine them as guiding stars in the sky. Always there – even if there is a cloud in front of them from time to time. When we succeed in living in harmony with our values, it feels right, flawless and good. Values can also change in the course of life due to experiences or new priorities (such as parenthood). That is why it is good to review them from time to time.
It is best to take a blank piece of paper and write down a maximum of 10 values that come to your mind. Then delete 5 of them in the next step and 2 again in another step.

Alternatively, here is another way to discover your most important values:

2. How do I live what is important to me? – How can you recognise that you live your values?
Once you have determined your most important values, you are already there half way. Now, values on paper are not more than big words. But the question is, what do they mean in everyday life? How are they lived?
If you ask 5 people how they define honesty, for example, you will probably get 5 different answers. Does honesty mean always saying everything – no matter what the consequences? On the other hand, does not saying something mean to be dishonest?
Here it is important that you find your definition.
How do you recognise that you live your values? Which behaviours and actions mirror your values? With whom or what and how would you have to spend time if you put the focus on them? Write down a definition and at least three behaviours / actions for each of your values.

3. Where do I stand at the moment? – Hand on your heart!
Now taking your definitions of point 2 – to what extend do the match what’s already happening in your life? Now this step it is especially important that you are honest with yourself – even if there are some sobering insights at one point or another … These insights are important to initiate changes with step four.

4. What is to be done? – Set sails!
With a view to steps 2 and 3, it should now be easy to change your course – if necessary – so that you come a little closer to your “good life” in the coming days, weeks, months. What do you want to change? Who or what do you want to devote more time to? What do you want to do differently?

Starting with the end in mind may be a pretty strong approach – but the forces that pull at us every day are not to be underestimated either. And only when we are really clear about what is important to us and are aware that we do not have eternal time, do we get into action – and into action in the sense of what each of us defines as a good life.

Have a VALUEd week!

Yours, Birgit

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