One Quick Exercise for Planning Your Life

My friend, designer Ayse Birsel, recently taught me an incredibly powerful way to plan for a successful life. I believe that success is defined by each individual differently – because we have different values. Success could be a new job, a better relationship with your spouse, a great school for your kids, a bigger salary, or all of the above. Everyone is unique. This exercise will work for anyone! For me, success is achieving my mission: helping successful people get even better.

According to Ayse, our point of view informs how we think about something. Last year I had a great year as a professional. As a coach and executive educator, I try help successful leaders become even more successful. As an author, I try to help my readers achieve positive, lasting change in behavior.

Ayse suggested that I try a little exercise to expand my point of view, to look at myself and what I do and see differently. Since I am a fan of hers, I did as she asked. The results have been phenomenal!

Why don’t you try this exercise now? (This exercise is adapted from Design the Life You Love: A Step-by-Step Guide to Building a Meaningful Futureby Ayse Birsel, published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House.)

Ayse says, “Here inspiration is a key tool. When designing your life, inspiration takes the form of other people. I call them heroes—real or fictional—people we know personally or know of.”

“Just write your hero’s name, draw an icon for them, and list their qualities. You can have one or many heroes—list as many as you’d like and continue to add as new heroes come to mind. These heroes tell us something about our values, beliefs, and the kind of life we aspire to live. Many things can change in life but our values are a constant. They are the foundation of our life design.”

Now cross out your heroes’ names and put in your own name. To the degree possible, be a leader, manager, coach, person just like that, and you will be more successful!

In doing this exercise myself, I found that all of my heroes are generous teachers, like Buddha, Frances Hesselbein (former Girl Scout CEO), Alan Mulally (former Ford CEO), Peter Drucker (Father of Modern Management), and Paul Hersey (Co-creator of Situational Leadership®). Reflecting on what I learned from my heroes, I made a decision. I decided that just like my many teachers before me, I will give to others what has been so freely given to me.

How will I do this? With my new project 15 Coaches. 15 Coaches is my legacy project. I am going to teach 15 people everything I know, for free! This is my chance to honor the many wonderful teachers and heroes that I have had over the years and to give to others as they gave to me. If you would like more details, please go to

This little exercise changed my life in a very positive way! I hope that it does the same for you!

Dear Friends,

Thank you so much for your incredibly positive response to my 15 Coaches – Pay It Forward project. So far over 10,000 people have applied. I have received thousands of positive notes. I have one hope for you. Do the same thing when you get older. It is worth it!

Triggers is a #1 New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-seller! Order it at Amazon. See The Marshall Goldsmith Thinkers50 Video Blog for more of this video series.

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