An Exercise In Alignment

“To begin with the end in mind means to start with a clear understanding of your destination. It means to know where you’re going so that you better understand where you are now and so that the steps you take are always in the right direction.” – Stephen Covey

One of my favorite things to do when I first sit down with someone I don’t know is to discover, and help them put in to words, the story they were made for. I do this by getting them to draw a nine box grid on a piece of paper, in their journal…or even on a napkin. This is an exercise in alignment. Are you living today in a way that leads to the legacy you want to build? After all, today is all you’ve got.

I wanted to share that exercise with you, and I hope it adds value in your life.

I’ve provided a sheet you can print out here, but if you journal, it will be much more helpful to you there. Number the boxes 1-9 starting at the top and going left to right like the image below.

The top row is all about who you honestly and earnestly want to become. Get in the really fun “end of life” mindset! I won’t ask you to write your eulogy, but honestly, embracing our mortality helps us live differently…so seriously…get uncomfortable and give yourself real answers. This isn’t homework that you will turn in. This is for you to start or keep going in the right direction.

Title Box #1 “Legacy”. In this box, write who and what you want to be remembered for when you’re gone. If it’s simple, write that. If your legacy is kindness…that’s awesome! If it’s to create a billion dollar company…that’s awesome! There is no small legacy except for one that isn’t left. As an example, my box says “Abiding in Christ. A good husband and dad (and hopefully grandpa). A man of strong character and conviction. Making the business world more human.”

Title Box #2 “Mentor To”. In this box, write down the people, by specific names or by type (eg. business leaders), that your legacy will intentionally impact the most. Again, this is your legacy. It doesn’t belong to anyone else. Be real with the desires of your heart. As an example, my box says “My sons (by name), my grandkids (none yet), business leaders, and young men who want to abide in Christ.”

Title Box #3 “Attributes”. Write down what attributes these people will grow in by being mentored, led, and poured in to by you. For example, my box says “Faith, Discipline, Willing To Dream Big, Willing To Risk Big, More Invested In People Than Things.”

Next, let’s move down to the middle row. On this row you’re going to focus on creating a tangible and measurable future. After all, what good is a dream without a clear vision?

Title Box #4 “5-Year Vision”. You may not be able to fit everything in to this box, and that’s okay. Use a whole page in your journal and summarize in the box if you need to. I want you to think about the different areas of your legacy from Box #1, and clearly create what your life in 5 years will need to look like to be on track. As an example, for me “Abiding in Christ = Discipling 5 men and being discipled by 2. A good husband and dad = Having the financial freedom to have them as my #1 time and energy priority (there is a specific number attached to that). Etc.” Take each area and create a measurable vision.

Title Box #5 “Who I Need To Be”. Looking at your 5-year vision, and ultimately your legacy, and write down the attributes, character traits, and skills/abilities you will need to posses to achieve your vision. Some of these will mirror Box #3 and some won’t, but they will all lead to you successfully living your 5-year vision and building your legacy. For example, “I will need discipline, faith, character, humility, relationships, and the ability to connect with the right people to Disciple 5 men and be discipled by 2. I will need discipline, drive, stronger knowledge, wisdom, and budgeting skills to have the financial freedom to have my family as my #1 time and energy priority.”

Title Box #6 “Mentors Needed To Get There”. Thinking about who you need to become to reach your 5-year vision, what areas do you need to be mentored in? Does that mentorship need to start now? Or does it need to start in 3-4 years. Come at this from two perspectives. Who do you know that is 10 steps ahead of you that you can pursue to mentor you? Who do you need to find? Describe them. Do your values align beyond the skills they have? Do you want to be like them “when you grow up”? Start identifying them now, even if you won’t be ready to pursue them for a while. And, for the mentors you need now, reach out. The worst thing that can happen is they say no or don’t reply.

Finally, move to the bottom row and focus on the next 12 months.

Title Box #7 “1-Year Plan”. Take your 5-year vision and create SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time Bound) for where you need to be 1 year from today to be on track. It may be financial goals, relationship, etc. It may not be every area of your 5-year vision. It probably isn’t. It’s probably a small number of big things. Again, you’ll probably need a separate page to get everything. I like writing SMART vertically to make sure that goals are good. If you can’t make a goal SMART you probably won’t achieve it.

Title Box #8 “Habits I Need”. Success is achieved by walking with purpose. Looking at only your 1-year plan, what habits and rituals do you need to start putting in place? Decision making takes focus and energy, so our brains rely on our sub-conscious to make decisions based on experience…which form…wait for it….habits. So, instead of your habits controlling your life, control your habits. Be intentional. What can you start doing every day that will be hard work for a time, but the payoff will be enormous? Are you willing? As an example, “To have financial freedom to put make my family my #1 time and energy commitment, I need to start: tracking money with a better system, schedule weekly dates, and put my phone down when I get home for the night.” They aren’t big things…but they’re important things, and they won’t happen unless I start them.

Title Box #9 “Influences”. In this box, write down the type of people you need to be around, the books you need to read, and the people you need to follow to achieve your 1-year plan and move towards your 5-year vision. You may have to do some research. Ask questions on social media to get book ideas. Don’t pursue influences outside of your goals and plan. There are plenty of great distractions, but they’re distractions.

Building the legacy you want to build will take intentionality. And, alter this, change this, whatever. But do something like this exercise every year so you can update it and keep moving forward. Otherwise you’ll reach your 5-year and stop. Keep going! You’ve got this.

I hope this is helpful to you, and safe travels on your journey.

Grace and Peace,
Brad O’Hara – LIFEdrive Coach