I’m coaching a client who has reached an excellent level of success in his career. And he called me to sit down and talk through his decision-making process around what he wants to do next. Some of his thoughts:
- “Hey, you know, if I, if I work really hard, I could potentially take on this leadership position at XYZ Company, and it would be financially a much, much bigger opportunity.”
- “But it would be extremely demanding. I’d be working weekends, I’d be working nights, and I have a family.”
- “I have this opportunity to grow into my bigger version of myself.”
- “But I’m in this very great position right now. I love who I work for. I love the organization I work for. I make great money, and I’m very successful right now. So, should I coast? Should I just ride it out for a while longer?”
- Have you ever been in a position and thought similar thoughts?
His opportunity and ensuing questions got us into a considerable discussion about making decisions like these. Yet, at the same time, it took me back to when I was twenty-two, a first-week intern at Chrysler, and sitting in a Franklin Covey course.
The facilitator walks into the room and says, “pull out a sheet of paper and a pen. I want you to write your obituary.” I remember thinking, “Oh my God. My obituary?” I felt like he was staring back at me, thinking, “yeah, what is your obituary going to read?”
If you have ever had the experience of doing this, you know; your palms are sweating, and it’s a very mind-numbing experience. It makes you think.
You picture that funeral home—the smell of dust and flowers. The family gathered around the casket, trading stories about your life, with pictures on display around the room. In my imagination, I picture this scene playing out when I’m at a ripe old age.
That said, a good friend of mine lost his wife two years ago. It was eye-opening. She was in her early forties, was diagnosed with a lethal form of cancer, and despite every effort on her part, months later, she passed away. It was a tough thing to see. Many of us who knew her would reflect. Were we living our lives to their fullest?
I’ve found that just the experience of writing your obituary sometimes isn’t enough. Knowing that our time on earth is unpromised and unpredictable, we can’t assume we’ll all live to a healthy, ripe old age.
Knowing all of this, how do we make meaningful life and career decisions?
What if we had to look at our life, career and ambitions through a more 3-dimensional lens? What if we had to plan for three obituaries?
Inspired by this thought, I have designed what I like to call a “3-3-30” exploration:
3, 3 & 30 Approach:
- 3 Months: What would you do if you had 3-months to live? Write down the date three months from now. If you knew that this was your last day on earth, how would you spend these three months? What would you prioritize? What would you stop doing? What would you stop worrying about? What would you start worrying about?
- 3 Years: What would you do if you had three years to live? Write down the date three years from now. If you knew that this was your last day on earth, how would you spend these three months? What would you prioritize? What would you stop doing? What would you stop worrying about? What would you start worrying about?
- 30 Years: What would you do if you had 30 years to live? Write down the date 30 years from now. If you knew that this was your last day on earth, how would you spend these three months? What would you prioritize? What would you stop doing? What would you stop worrying about? What would you start worrying about?
You know, what would I focus on in the next three months, right? Like most people, I would quit my job and spend time with kids and family.
But then if I go three years out, all of a sudden I’m thinking, well, I can’t spend every minute with my kids. So, what would I do that would be meaningful? Maybe I would write that book I haven’t written; perhaps I would go on that vacation I never took, or possibly do other things. But I would also be trying to figure out financially how to make sure that I can keep things afloat and make sure I can leave an impact.
And then if I go to 30 years from now, if I knew that was the “date,” I notice that I start to think more about my legacy such as “Leading that company” or “starting that small business” or making a big impact on a problem in the world.
And so, this process I’m sharing is less about helping a client find the correct answer. It’s more about helping him see that being the CEO of that company and having that big job and all of that is more of a legacy to his 30-year obituary. And he has to strike a balance with his three-month obituary and his three-year obituary, too. So, those things need to play into the factors, right?
You can lay it out like these three situations or very differently, but pretend you’re negotiating with all three to create one game plan. But take the time to lay something out. For example, take a moment and imagine how the conversation or discussion would go if you had a 3-3-30 with your spouse or partner.
It could be a really cool conversation that could be had with anybody to gain some insight about what’s important today versus what’s important in 30 years. So try it and let me know how it goes.