I guess it was a divorce, many years ago, that made me take a closer look at my priorities. I had several realizations. Not least of all that I was paying too much attention to managing my time at the expense of leading my life. I cannot say I was unhappy or that I was not experiencing some special moments but when I critically reflected I was mostly like a hamster on a wheel. I felt caught up in a confined life of being employed by another. In addition, I concluded I was deferring much of my excitement and happiness to weekends, annual holidays and ultimately retirement.

I started reflecting on what I was passionate about and what I wanted from my future. I penned a personal strategy that correlated with these reflections. My strategy focused on living my life on my own terms which meant creating a lifestyle without the traditional workplace expectations. I wanted a lifestyle where my daily time utilization, my input versus output ratio, and holiday time allocation wasn’t determined by an employer. Sure, I had to consider what resources I may need to plan for in my twilight years but retirement wasn’t going to be my intention.

My passion was to lead a life involving fitness and learning. I wanted my income to be derived from a process that included continuous improvement of mind and body. My personal strategy was therefore built around creating income streams around these preferences.

Do it – now

That was then; this is now. I have decided that I want to pay more attention to seizing spontaneous opportunities that are presented for experiencing special moments. This means I need to recognize that many of these present outside the boundaries of my strategy and grab them.

I am an optimist, there’s not much point being anything else

We know that plans are inaccurate and as we project further into the future they will become more so. However, without one, it is easy to lose the passion to continue moving forward.

I want to clarify a possible misperception that I am simplistically claiming that if you have passion and purpose, interpreted into a personal strategy, you will be successful.  There is no simple definition, answer, nor secret to success.

Things are never that simple, but what I can guarantee is that you are more likely to achieve what you are passionate about if you plan for it, prepare for it and allocate resources such as energy towards achieving it.

You also need to be aware that your plan for the future is in competition with many other people’s plans, and may also clash with random unanticipated events or extenuating circumstances. However, if you want to achieve something close to your ideal future, you need to increase your influence and control over the events and circumstances in your future. This is where mental toughness comes into play.

Most of us mentally approximate what our future will be like based on our past and present experiences. We estimate the future in a similar way a business does when it projects its sales figures and finances. Business executives know they cannot be assured of future sales, and therefore, their financial position. We have the same lack of assurance about our future achievements. It’s the concern that the future may fall short of our positive expectations, that becomes fertile ground for increased anxiety. Few will mind achieving a future that exceeds their expectations.

You could leave the future to fate, or any other perceived power outside of your influence, or you could introduce a process that will help you to co-create your future. The steps in this process that are generally used for a business also work at an individual level. The first step is to get in touch with what you are passionate about and what you value most. Then, develop an optimistic vision of a future state which is linked to greater issues. Past and present experiences are used as positive scaffolds to access the significant heights associated with an optimistic future. The next steps are to engage in planning and implementation over a given time period. These enable you to build and maximize the resources that will create the conditions for bringing the vision into reality. The associated benefits from participating in this optimistic process are an increased desire for the future and reduced anxiety about an uncertain future.

Dr Steve Harris. Motivational speaker, team building, conference speaker, keynote speaker