Follow your breadcrumbsHansel and Gretel were smarter than they are given credit for.  True, breadcrumbs were not the best option to mark a trail in their situation, but they had the foresight to know they would need to mark their route in order to get home.

The term breadcrumbs is now used in Internet browsing.  It allows users to see how they arrived at a certain page (aka navigation) and allows for quick return to previous pages.

Which leads me to why breadcrumbs are so important for your future.

In fact, before I work with anyone, I have them do a version of the following exercise.  The reason is simple.

In order to move forward, it’s important to find patterns in what came before.

A guided and more detailed Breadcrumb Exercise is part of the upcoming FREE 21 day Inner Spark Ignite e-course. Register here – launches Jan 31, 2014.

This isn’t a walk down memory lane so you can beat yourself up about what didn’t work.

No matter what happened, you always learn something from the experience.

This is a really useful exercise whenever you are looking at the future and asking yourself “What’s next?”

The Breadcrumb Exercise

1 – Choose the Change

Like a lighthouse guides ships in to safety, you need to have a general idea of the direction you are going in.  Maybe you are really clear: I want to start a business in 6 months.  Maybe you are just feeling things out: I want a new job, but I’m not sure what I want to do.  Either way is fine, just as long as you have one thing in mind each time you do this exercise.

2 – Set the time frame

Depending on the size of change you want in your life, you may have to adjust the time frame of this exercise.  For example, to launch a business or start a new career, you will most likely have to look further back, e.g. 5+ yrs.  To start a new diet, though, you might only have to reflect on the last 1-2 years. It’s different for everyone and every situation.

3 – Write your story in bullets

Keeping your desired change (forward) and time frame (backward) in mind, think about your actions and decisions that brought you to today (current).  Answer the following questions:

(a)  What happened that made me realize something needed to change?  (EVENT)

(b)  What did I do? (ACTION)

(c)  Why was this important?  (IMPACT)

To get you started, think about any geographic, educational, and career changes and events in your life. Maybe you changed your major in college.  Maybe you accepted a new job in a new industry to push your skills.  Write them down as they come to mind.

Now, as a warning, this isn’t about you rehashing every single little decision you made in your chosen time frame.  You wanted the red car – fine.  But did that decision really shift focus in your life?  You alone know the answer.

4 – Choose 3-4

Out of that list, what are the top 3-4 events that really stand out?  These can be big or small, but once you took action on these specific events, there was a definite shift in your life.  Choose ones where there is a very clear answer for “Why was this important?”

Since we’re on this topic, let me remind you again that this is in your past.  This is not about you throwing a pity party.  No matter what happened, you learned something from the experience, which makes the future so much more appealing.

5 – Paste it together

You have now the breadcrumbs to your story.  This is just the prologue to your future.

Event 1  >  Event 2  >  Event 3

Event 1 = Event (3a)  >  Action (3b)  >  Impact (3b)

 

The Breadcrumb Exercise is a really great way for you find some guidance in defining your desires and goals.

Please share any takeaways and ask any questions in the comments below.  I love to hear from you, and I personally read every single entry.