In January 2015 a smart and high-achiever friend sent me an article which I was immediately interested because I am a big dreamer and sometimes bringing visions to reality can be overwhelming and daunting. Therefore any help is always welcomed!
Ximena Vengoechea Life Audit experience went viral and has helped thousands of people to transform their lives.
If you are like me, you will enjoy the process of projecting your reality into colorful post-its. Even more fun will be revisiting your goals next year and see how magically things can shift if you have a pretty picture constantly reminding you to live an awesomely inspired life and to where to direct your focus and energy.
Differently to what suggested by goal setting guru, I divided my Life Audit board by professional, personal, short-term and long term.
There is not right or wrong, it’s your journey, so chose the path that is more natural to you. Take the time to connect with your inner genius and mostly importantly have fun!
Without further delay, following a short version of the famous article with instructions:
“Life has a funny way of getting in its own way: we get so busy, sometimes we forget to look up.That’s why every now and then it’s important to take a step back and check in: How are we doing? Where are we going? What’s important now that perhaps wasn’t before?Last weekend, I decided to carve out an afternoon to do a life audit and find out.
Life audit (n, origin unknown): An exercise in self-reflection that helps you clear the cobwebs of noisy, external goals and current distractions, and revisit or uncover the real themes & core values that drive & inspire you. Also known as: spring-cleaning for the soul.
(Who doesn’t want that?)
I think everyone can benefit from a life audit, so I’m sharing my learnings and notes on my process here.
In the hopes that you’re inspired to run your own life audit, here goes. Grab some tea, a pen and paper, and make yourself at home. Architecting a life takes time, after all.
The process:100 post-its, 5 activities, 5 people, 1 afternoon.
1.100 post-its in 1 hour (Okay, 121)
The first part of my audit was originally inspired by a “100 wishes” exercise a couple undertook to “pair design” their relationship. I adapted the exercise for my life audit, and added several rounds of analysis along the way.
The first step is simple: take 100 post-its and write a single wish on every one. These can be any kind of wish or goal you’d like: no wish is too big or too small. Brainstorm until you reach 100 or run out of wishes.
It turns out that most people will stop at 30-40 post-its: they run out of things they’d like to do, and are relieved to find that’s the case. The smaller the number of goals, the more within reach, or so I’m told the thinking goes.
2. Mapping wishes
Initial brainstorm complete, I started phase two and began my card sort, grouping my wishes into themes. Three categories emerged during my first sort: Personal, Professional, and Creative.
The original 100 wishes exercise I’d read about stopped there, but I wasn’t ready to stop just yet. Having a birds-eye view of my priorities was proving to be strangely exhilarating: with the first round of sorting, I felt a rush of clarity and adrenaline as I put together a picture of my life’s priorities.
3. Plotting wishes by time (all wishes are not made equal)
I looked at my well-oiled wish list. I had a clear view of what was important to me, and there was a lot. Where to begin? I noticed that every post-it could be further sorted into “a spectrum of when,” no matter what theme it fit into. Some skewed heavily toward the future, others toward the immediate present. Many were more simply ideals and values for how to live my day-to-day (with intention, empathy, and awareness). I thought of these as mantras or intentions to carry with me daily.
I assigned each post-it one of three timeframes:
Now/Soon: For wishes that were immediately actionable but in need of next steps and prioritization. i.e. “To publish a podcast series.”
Someday: Milestone moments/long-term goal-posts. i.e. “To be spry at 80.”
Always/Every day: Deliberate intentions/mantras to live by every day. i.e. “To share what I’ve learned, in life and professionally.”
I looked at each theme again through this new lens, and classified each post-it once more, marking each by timeframe. I drew an arrow for my Nows, a star for my Somedays, and pinned a heart to my Mantras.
Once I did that, I could see more clearly all the things that I could do now but hadn’t prioritized, those I wanted to do at some point, and those I wanted to take on every day.
4. Five Activities
The first thing I did to evaluate my “pointless to purposeful ratio” was to quickly jot down the five activities I spend the most time on.
As expected, work took up a large portion of my time. That was the problem with this chart: it didn’t give me a full picture of how I choose to spend my time, outside of the office.
I removed work to see what my free time spent looked like, and evaluated. There were some areas I wanted to tweak (less Internet, more exercise), but overall, the exercise confirmed I was prioritizing the right activities. I’m already fairly diligent about making time for the things that matter outside of work: I just had to rebalance a little.
I had charted my values and aspirations, and I had my activities more or less in line with getting there. But there was still one area missing from my life audit: the people.
5. Five People
The law of averages says that your success is determined by the five people you spend the most time with.
If I was really going to take this audit seriously, I was going to have to do some thinking. Did I have the right people on my personal team to help me realize those 120+ goals, aspirations, and intentions?
Now, I’m not talking about “help” in terms of having someone in your network who can introduce you to someone who might offer you your next job. Those people are nice and obviously useful, but transactional if that’s the only reason you keep them around.
No, I’m talking about the people who inspire and motivate you to go after that thing that you’ve been thinking, talking, and dreaming about — every day. I’m talking about the people who challenge your ideas and push you to do better: the ones who help you when you’re stuck, who offer advice and act as a sounding board for whatever you’re working on at any given time. They are part role model, part mentor, part co-conspirator in creative endeavors.
They are the friends and peer mentors where help given is mutual and thoughtful. Conversations are energizing and you each learn something new every time. Each contributes to the other’s happiness and wellbeing: you grow as they grow.
Takeaways and to do’s
There were three action items that came from my life audit.
One: to shift my time and focus my energy on the gems in my life — the people who inspire me most—and to work on inspiring them, too.
Secondly: to find more gems and build a community around them. At the end of my life audit, having a community of creative collaborators and inspiring, motivated minds to meld with was the area that felt weakest.
Last, but certainly not least: I felt compelled to share what I learned and encourage others to try out this exercise. If you’ve made it this far, I hope you feel inspired. There is so much you can learn about yourself in a single Saturday afternoon.
Happy life auditing. Let me know how yours goes.
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