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Realistic Reflection: A Unique Goal Setting Exercise for Clarity

Every year seems to get more difficult.

In different ways, but still difficult. I would reflect on the end of every year, and wonder if I would ever get an easy year.

Maybe not easy, but just a year that wasn’t progressively more difficult.

I began to wonder just how many more years I would survive. If each year gets more difficult, then I logically won’t get out alive at some point.

Truth is, no one escapes life alive.

So I began doing a mental exercise at the end of the year, usually around New Year’s. I’ll make a list of questions, and then go through just answering them. They’re not your usual questions about what you’d rather do more, or the meaning of life, or what you believe. It’s simply to help you think about what you want if you had run out of time to live.

31 Heart-Centered Questions to Guide Your Goals

I’d like to imagine myself at peace with the end of my life. No one gets out alive, and there is never enough time. I know I’ll have regrets, but I’d like to think I also lived out my life to the fullest.

Living and Learning

Assuming this is the end (or near the end), where would you go? What would you do? Where do you wish you had gone? What do you wish you had done? What do you wish you had learned? And what do you want more time for?

A lot of people have bucket list ideas, from climbing the Great Wall and seeing the Great Pyramids to driving Route 66. Then there are the little things we wish we had done and learned, such as learning our grandmother’s secret recipe. I love learning languages, and that will always be my biggest regret and most impossible feat: that there isn’t enough time to learn every language.

But a lot of us have ideas and things we want to do.

Life just has a tendency to get in the way. That’s understandable and expected, but try not to ignore what you really want to do. Make time to cook that recipe with your grandmother. Put fifteen minutes aside every day to learn that musical instrument.

Just try not to have a lingering regret that’ll leave you wishing for more time at the end.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Regret comes from not making time for what you wish you would have done when you had the chance.” quote=”Regret comes from not making time for what you wish you would have done when you had the chance.”]

People and Relationships

Who would you want to spend your last days with? Is something left unsaid with anyone? Or anyone you want to forgive or tell off before you go? Or even someone you want to profess love to?

I don’t know about you, but there usually tends to be people I want to tell off. Especially at the hypothetical end of your life, it’s a lot easier knowing that you don’t have to see them the next day (but this is hypothetical, don’t actually tell them off).

But my answers usually surprise me.

The ones that I think I would tell off usually don’t get listed. In reality, they are so irrelevant in my life at the hypothetical end that I don’t even care to waste my time telling them how they’ve hurt me or how they are ignorant people.

In the end, I just want to spend time with the people I listed that I want with me at the end.

Because they’re the only ones that matter at that point.

Lessons and Legacy

I feel like older and more seasoned individuals tend to talk a lot more.

But I’ve reasoned that when life takes your health and your youthfulness, all you have left is a lifetime of experiences and wisdom. All you can do is share them and hope that someone will listen.

What would you want to say? In your wisdom of either a handful of years or more than most can count, what do you want to say? What would you say to your younger self? Or your parents that may outlive you? Or your significant other or children that you may have? How do you want people to remember you? What do you wish people knew about you?

We don’t get to choose our legacy. Not everyone will listen.

And that’s okay.

The most we can all do is live to the best of our abilities, and hope that we inspire everyone the way we want to.

Remember that this exercise is hypothetical. For those of us that are healthy, we have a lot more years to live. For those of us that are older, it may be a reminder that time is finite. And for all of us, I hope this exercise reminds us of what we really want and what is truly important to us in life.

So whether you are towards the end of your life or just getting started, you’re not gone yet.

Go live your life with whatever time you have left.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Not sure what your goals are? Try this exercise to dig deep and find out what really matters to you:” quote=”Not sure what your goals are? Try this exercise to dig deep and find out what really matters to you:”]

About the Author

Lindsey Zawila

Lindsey graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2015 with a B.A. in Global Studies and Communications. She studied abroad in Austria (Summer 2013), Switzerland (Spring 2014), and India (Winter 2014). Her previous internships include the World YWCA in Geneva, Switzerland, the Foreign Service Institute at the U.S State Department in Washington, D.C., and CNN International in Atlanta, GA. In her free time, you'll find her reading, writing, making jewelry or friendship bracelets, sewing or refining her photography skills.