Creating the future: part II

In my last post I was talking about getting inspired to work on future planning. I always end up focusing at strange points when I get in to visioning and planning: either very granular and what-do-I-need-to-do-today or totally random fantasy visioning. I wanted to spend some focused time thinking about all the different aspects of my life and where I want to be in five years, to give me something to work backwards from.

I will be 47 in five years time. That feels horribly close to – well, just close to being dead. I don’t know why 47 sounds so freaking old compared to 45 and whilst I did think about doing a three year plan just so I could feel better about it, it was a good moment to face my fears and remember that aging is such a privilege. My kids will be 17 and 13: and parenting teenagers, preparing them for this world of ours, is a whole other thing. But it’s also a phase I want to be present for to support them – and enjoy their company – as they get ready to fly.

Yeah baby. Photo by Randy Tarampi on Unsplash

So I wanted to start with the vision. I organised my thinking into nine key areas: health, career, money, family, relationships, social, spiritual, home and service. I then spent my journalling time this week just thinking about these nine areas, and letting my imagination take me wherever. I found this quite challenging as I think I have a very clear vision, but I have clarity on a few random bits and lots of missing pieces.

For about 10 years I’ve had the same vision. It is literally a snapshot image of my future – I don’t know where it came from but it simply and neatly encapsulates all of the aspects. I am in my house in Nairobi, walking to the front door to welcome some friends coming for dinner. I’m so comfortable in my body – wearing a fairly simple grey dress but it really shows off my figure; my heels are comfortable (this is how we know it’s a fantasy) and my hair is up. I’m walking through to the hallway and noticing how much my home feels like me: the beautiful fabrics, the light, happy family photos and collected paintings on the wall. I’m looking forward to an evening with great company, there’s delicious food to enjoy together with my friend and my kids. There’s a palpable sense of peace. As I get to the hallway, my partner stops me briefly, kisses my neck and smiles.

And that’s it. But I find that vision of my future so completely compelling that I feel like I’ve been making moves towards it for more than a decade. Sometimes it feels too little to hope for, and sometimes it feels too much. But either way, it is more likely to come true if I have a more focused approach to getting there.

This is Arijiju aka the most fabulous place in Kenya, but since this is my fantasy let’s pretend this is my house

So – more specifically, where do I want to be? I worked through the nine areas and really thought about where I want to be in five years. And I came up with the following. Again – I don’t know if it’s to want too little or too much, but for now, this feels like me. The only hard one was relationships because there’s something about expressing a desire to have a partner which makes me really squeamish. Partly there’s something needy about it – we aren’t supposed to want these things, just to hang around looking pretty and disinterested until someone chooses us and we swoon. But also partly because I am really happy single, and wanting something else feels like a diminishment of this. Enough caveats though: let me just say it’s something I would like, and I am not embarrassed about that. Shame is for amateurs.

The five year goal setting

Health
Healthy and well, taking care of myself
Happy and comfortable in my body
Fit and confident in my movements and physique
Well dressed and put together but confident enough to not have to do this all the time
Starting midlife proud of how I look and feel, in a good mental health space
Money
Taking home $15,000 per month based on either employment, passive income, business or consultancies
UK mortgage paid off and generating passive income
Guaranteed £40,000 per annum pension income on retirement even if I don’t contribute more
Able to cashflow all needs or receive benefits to same amount
Career
Doing work which builds on my existing skills, gives me fresh challenges, and creates positive impact
If in an organization, senior enough to make a difference to the culture
If in business/self-employed, passionate and capable enough to be building toward scale and impact
Inspiring and motivating others in the sector
Environment/home
Be living in Kenya, preferably in a house I have bought somewhere near the city but that feels like the country
Be comfortable at home, have a calm environment where there are always people around the kitchen table
Spend time in nature
Relationships
Be with a partner with the same level of aspiration, ambition and care that I have for my life (including my sex life)
Feel secure and cherished, without fear
Family Connect fully with family including moving past previous issues where relevant
Be raising healthy, happy, conscious children who are a force for good in the world and growing towards independence but secure at home and in their sense of self
Social
Stay connected to my core friendship group, making an effort with those people who live far
Spend my social time mindfully in a way which nourishes me and lives my values
Spiritual/wellbeing
Living life from a place of gratitude including through prayer, meditation etc
Make spiritual connections / community, whatever that looks like
Service
Actively engage in service around community issues which are meaningful to me
Ensure strong family care
Care about and engage in politics, whilst not drowning in it
Where do I want to be in five years?

It was a really interesting exercise. I don’t think any of the aspects were surprising, but I liked how congruent they felt – and how much they gave me a sense of calm focus.

Next week I plan to work on money and career, and start mapping out a bit more in terms of shorter goals and steps. Aluta continua!

What will you do with your one wild and precious life? Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash

Creating the future: part I

I love setting goals. There is a real sense of purpose that comes with thinking about goals, and a feeling that you are creating a meaningful future.

I also love goal setting because it’s free (woohoo) and feels great. Whilst it’s crucial to have a vision and targets, for myself I know I can use thinking about goals as a way of staring off into the middle-distance whilst feeling like I am achieving something.

The last few weeks for me have been around looking at my life with a real focus on creating a plan. Abe Lincoln said “The best way to predict the future is to create it” and right now I’m so inspired by the future I’m predicting that actually starting to go deep into the detail feels like a joy.

Planning for the future with this stunning view in Kampala. Lucky girl!

One aspect of this shift in focus has been consciously trying to engage more with postive energy. Mr Giver-Of-Stars and I had a few days in Kampala and the amount of positive motivation and the influence that has had on my current thinking is immense. It’s obvious, but if you’re feeling stuck then having a fresh persepctive – especially from someone you admire – can get you back on track.

The first thing has been going back to get clarity on my goals. And yes this involved a bit more middle-distance-staring, but if you’re overlooking Lake Victoria then that’s no bad thing. One difference this time was considering HARD goals (as opposed to SMART goals which might be useful but just make me think of poorly-run office retreats). HARD goals focus on more existentialist concerns, and invite you to consider four facets of your goals, the extent to which they are Heartfelt, Animated, Required, Difficult.

There is a lot of evidence that people are more motivated by goals which are difficult: that the challenge is the thing that pushes us to move ahead. Conversely, the challenges have to be achievable otherwise the mountain is too steep. For me, aiming to become an Olympic gymnast for example, is probably a few steps (or a few twirly-ribboned dance moves) too far. But pushing yourself is exhilarating, so set your boundaries as wide as possible and go for it.

Keep going: the sun will rise again

The last two years though have shown how much things can change. As such, the idea of setting goals which are heartfelt and make you feel animated. A deep connection to your goal means that you are more likely not just to reach it but to be able to nimbly react to changing circumstances and continue to work towards it. This malleability also means you can flex your approach as needed: whilst the plan absolutely matters, the attachment is to achieving the results.

So this week I am planning to take all that motivation and energy and head back over to my five-year plan. See you on the flip side!

Happy New Year #1. Intentions

Woohoo, it’s here! After 2020 lasting for what felt like 91 years, 2021 has rolled in.

Truthfully though, in reviewing my 2020 I feel extremely blessed by how much I managed to drive forward on most of my goals. I fully recognise and appreciate how much of this was down to luck – to being in a stable job, to having found FIRE and got myself set up with an emergency fund which took the edge of the panic, and to being in a country where the approach to managing COVID was fast and easily understood.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

But I’m still excited about 2021 even though I absolutely hope that it is better for most people – and for humanity and for the planet. This is part one of two New Year blogs: this one covering intention setting, and the next one outlining specific FIRE goals for next year.

So where to start. A recent New York Times article suggested that people should aim small for 2021. Lots of commentators agrees that small is beautiful – in an interview with Glennon Doyle she talks about how small goals are easier to work toward, and easier to build into your life with grace ad confidence rather than creating new ways to beat yourself up about. Around 80% of people don’t stick to their New Year’s resolutions, so it’s clear that another approach is needed.

Focus on intentions before goals

So before getting to goals I want to focus on intentions. Goals are future focused, and brilliant for laying out a vision and planning how to get there. That’s a really important task, and with the small-and-kindly mantra above, it really works for me. But setting intentions are about mindfully living in the now. It’s the idea of setting out how you want to behave, to feel and to approach situations which you can come back to easily and often if you feel you’re veering away from your true north.

Photo by S O C I A L . C U T on Unsplash

Intentions are simpler to come up with than goals since they are a heartfelt statement about who is your authentic self. Who is the real and brightest version of you? How would you need to show up each and every time to be that wonderful true self? Intentions are ways of nudging yourself gently back into that space. The fact that this is the space from which you are more likely to be able to achieve your goals is also great news!

And as I’ve written about before, so much of the FIRE movement is about mindfulness and living with intention. By taking time to think about who you are and what you want, the decisions you make are part of actively engaging with every aspect of your life.

Intentions 2021

So, what are my intentions for this year? I have focused on areas where I feel that I don’t ‘live my truth’ – where I get narky, stubborn, or downright unhelpful. These are all things which make me feel worse too, and where I spend valuable time and energy stressing about how I should have done things better. I’ve written these all in the present tense so they are immediately real and actionable at any moment.

  1. I treat myself with compassion and forgiveness, gently recognising and letting go of any shame.
  2. I nourish myself and others, my community, and the planet, by proactively being an active participant.
  3. I value and am grateful for the past that got me here, but I know I don’t live there any more: I am free to move beyond my past, with love.
  4. I easily and graciously give and receive love.
  5. I take each situation and each day with openness, courage and kindness, and amplify others doing the same.
  6. I take time to be and express gratitude and to celebrate myself and others, remembering that ALL of this is a miracle.

So – what do you think, is it worth setting intentions? And if so, what are yours?