My daughter is reading A Christmas Carol in class and I chaperoned her school trip to see the play recently, so this Dickens classic has been on my mind. It never fails to make me tear up a little when Scrooge flings open his window on Christmas morning and realizes he is still alive and still has time to change and be a better person. Although I didn’t realize it while writing my book, it is set up in much the same way. I am not saying anyone here is a real-life Ebenezer Scrooge, but most of us, especially at this time of year, feel the urge to “do better”.
Similar to Scrooge’s journey, Ten Thousand Choices starts with an exploration of choices – and taking responsibility for choices, good and bad. Then, through three stages, past, present and future, it presents tools and techniques to think through how your choices at each of these stages has and will determine your life’s path (and success).
So, in the spirit of A Christmas Carol – from depressing doom and gloom to uplifting redemption and positive change – here is a little thinking exercise for your holiday introspection. Write your own personal story, as described by the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come.
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Okay, it’s 1:00am and the Ghost of Christmas Past has come a-knockin’. Scrooge was asked to revisit his past and take a deep dive into his personal history.
"I told you these were shadows of the things that have been," said the Ghost. "That they are what they are, do not blame me!"
Why think about the past? Because before you can harness the power of your choices to change your life, you first need to understand the choices you have made in the past—and what choices you’re likely to keep making if you continue on the current path.
Answer the following – and I suggest jotting down your answers on paper. Writing your thoughts down will enable you to see them more clearly, analyze them and accept the meaning these memories have.
What are some of your earliest memories? How have they shaped your life?
What are some significant choices you have made regarding your family, finances, health and career?
What are your biggest regrets?
What are some things from your past that you would change if you could?
What are some bad habits and tendencies you need to change?
What are some of your biggest decisions in the past year? In the past five years? Ten years?
The next ghost is Christmas Present. Here, Scrooge was faced with the life he had created, as was it was on that day.
"Spirit," said Scrooge submissively, "conduct me where you will. I went forth last night on compulsion, and I learned a lesson which is working now. Tonight, if you have aught to teach me, let me profit by it."
For you, that’s today. Look around. Do you like what you see? Before you can start working on solutions, plans and actions to change your future, it is important to look around and get a clear understanding of your current reality.
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Write down your thoughts:
What are the primary roles and responsibilities and commitments in your life right now?
How do you describe yourself to others?
What are your strengths?
What opportunities are out there for the taking?
What are some limitations and problems that you face?
What are the most important things in your life (e.g., friends, family, career, finances, etc.)?
Christmas Yet to Come
This is where the rubber meets the road. The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come (aka THE FUTURE) is about to show Scrooge the rest of his life. At this point in the story, he is ready to change.
"Ghost of the Future!", he exclaimed, "I fear you more than any other specter I have seen. But as I know your purpose is to do me good, and I hope to live to be another man from what I was, I am prepared to bear your company and do it with a thankful heart."
How about your future? Does does your story end well? Do you look back on a life well-lived, or one full of regrets and what-ifs? Like good old Ebenezer, you still have a chance to change it – what will you do?
You owe it to yourself to think this through, and there is no time like the end of one year and beginning of the next to get a person thinking.
Visualize your future self – maybe 10 and 20 years out – what are you like? How do you feel? How do you look? Where are you? Who are you with? What are you doing? What are you most proud of at that point in your life?
Do you like what you see? Do you want something different?
Do you have a guiding vision for your life? If not, it's time to write one.
Photo by David Beale on Unsplash
If you like what you see, stay on this path! Put some plans in place to ensure you continue to work toward your dreams throughout your life.
If your future self doesn’t look quite like you want, change it. Create a new path for yourself, starting right now. Set goals for the new year and beyond and put a plan in place for achieving them. It is never too late to start making better choices for your future.
If you want to take a deeper dive into writing your personal vision, setting goals and getting stuff done, check out my book, Ten Thousand Choices. The path is laid out for you in three phases (yep, you guessed it - past, present and future) that contain tools and tips to create your personal life plan.
Quotes from Dickens, Charles. A Christmas Carol. London: Chapman and Hall, 1843.