A few years ago an assistant principal with whom I worked was accepted into Harvard’s education leadership PhD program. It was pretty surprising to hear her share her story of exploring and preparing to apply to this program ten years prior. I quite honestly left that conversation feeling like a major underachiever.

I have never planned my life 10 years in advance. I don’t know if it’s because of being a military spouse or if I’m just being lazy at times. For some unknown reason, I simply could never see this far into the future. Heck, I’ve struggled with planning our family vacations each year.

Planning out my life!?

Some questions I asked myself after that conversation included: What was I planning 10 years ago? Have I ever made plans I didn’t think I could achieve? And finally: Am I brave enough to set goals 10 years in advance-even if I feel I won’t meet them?

You see it became clear to me that this woman had looked ahead to her life 10 years from the present and began to draw out a road map with intentionality. To this day I have yet to meet a more strategic individual. I fondly call her the “master strategist”. 

In education we refer many times to a well known term called “Backwards planning”.  It means to look at the end before the beginning of a new learning unit. This is typically how we plan a new topic, unit and major assessments. I’ve come to realize that the vision for my future is intertwined in the backwards planning point.

Lately I’ve been thinking: What if I tried backwards planning in general? What if I backwards planned my day? What do I want to feel accomplish and internalize by the end of each day, week, month, year? Ok, if you’re overwhelmed by the thought of that, then I’m right there along with you. What I’ve come to realize, however, is that backward planning a thing really is a strategy and judging from my former supervisor’s string of successes-it works.

Backward Planning begins with a vision.

I believe it all begins with a vision. If you’re going to become the successful architect of your own life then you’ll need a vision, inspiration and a good dose of courage to go after it.  So as we approach the holiday season with all its hopes, dreams and festivities I’m challenging myself to look ahead. Not way ahead like 10 years. What if I just looked ahead to the end of tomorrow? This week? Next month? Before I tackle something as intimidating as next year, I think I’ll start with tomorrow. I’ll architect a vision of my life by the end of the week. I’ll push forward to next month. In time I might just be optimistic enough to believe I can find the courage and determination to create a ten year plan.

In the midst of it all, I know one thing for sure, I will begin to separate dreaming and developing a plan to achieve my dreams. I can divide the truth from the reality of the effort required of me. Most importantly, I will have a first step that leads me to the last leap. So here’s to me and anyone who wants to join me to backwards plan starting simply with tomorrow. 

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