Do you ever find yourself “stuck in the weeds” of daily life, not sure where to go next? If so, read more and try this simple but powerful exercise.
I’ve really struggled the past couple of weeks. I wish it weren’t so, because I’m such a perfectionist. Perfect people don’t struggle, right?
Of course, you and I both know that this is a ridiculous way to think. Struggling is part of living your life as a human being.
I had become frustrated enough with myself yesterday that I decided to step out for a bit and take a walk around my neighborhood. After just a few minutes of fresh air and sunlight, it dawned on me what I had been doing wrong. I had stopped looking at the bigger picture of why I’m doing all of the things I’m doing these days. I had gotten stuck in the day-to-day thrum of tasks and work.
I’m so glad I had this revelation, because it motivated me to do what I did next. I made a chart.
I know, I know. This is such a nerdy thing to do. But it really helps. Let me show you.
Before you begin, write today’s date at the top of the page. This will be the basis for your calculations for future dates, which are very important.
I also find it helpful to note what date it will be five years from now, how old I will be, and the ages of my family members. This really adds perspective about how LONG of a time five years is.
First Column: Growth Categories
These are the aspects of your life you are most concerned about, the ones that make the biggest difference in your happiness over the long term. For me, there are five categories, but you can modify these to suit your preference.
- Lifestyle. How do I want to improve my schedule and my finances to create space for what is most important to me?
- Health and Body. In what ways do I feel less than optimally healthy today? What can I do to improve this?
- Relationships. What can I do to strengthen my most important relationships? How can I let go of relationships that aren’t worth the time or effort?
- Career and Business. In what ways can I improve upon what I deliver to the world through my gifts and talents?
- Spirituality. How can I nurture my relationship with God (or otherwise grow my faith)? How can I cultivate new sources of meaning in my life?
Second Column: 5-Year Vision
Name two or three specific, measurable goals you want to achieve by five years from today’s date. For example, a 5-year vision for the Health and Body category might be “bench press 150% of my body weight.”
Third Column: 6-Month Goals
This is where the magic happens. It’s where vision becomes real and concrete. Take each 5-year vision and convert it to actionable steps you can take in the next six months. Using the previous example, “bench press 150% of my body weight” translates into “gain at least ten pounds in conjunction with strength training by [six months from now].”
Fourth Column: Barriers and Fears
It’s critical to name the things that stand in your way so that you can come up with ways to confront them. For example, using the Health and Body example, a fear might be “taking time away from other important things.” You might address this fear by coming up with productive things to do during your workout. For example, you could process email while you’re resting between sets, that way you’ll be able to jump right in with replies when you get to your desk. Or you could listen to career-related audiobooks while you work out. I’m not trying to argue that working out is unproductive on its own, but many people do find it helpful to incorporate activities other than the exercises themselves into their gym time.
This exercise took me less than an hour to complete, and that’s with a level of detail that not everyone will need. The time it cost me is nothing compared to the benefits:
- It helped me find gratitude for what I already have. I realized how much I’m already doing, in line with my five-year vision. This alone is enough to justify doing the Five Mile View exercise. We all tend to focus a bit too much on our wishes, and focus too little on our blessings. I realized that I’m already pretty close to my ideal life in many ways.
- It helped me find new motivation. This exercise helped me reconnect my daily actions with a long-term plan for what I want my life to be. No more slogging through each day, wondering when the barrage of tasks will end. (It won’t, but at least it’s connected to the profound power of “why.”)
- It helped me course-correct for longer-term projects. Some things never seem important enough to take care of today. But many of the truly important things like building new relationships, nurturing professional connections, and finding new opportunities take time. I realized I had begun to neglect the not-urgent-but-important.
So the next time you’re feeling overwhelmed by the day-to-day, try “zooming out” for an hour. I think you’ll agree it’s worth the trouble.
I hope you found this helpful. If you did, please share!