12/08/2014 14:30 BST | Updated 11/10/2014 06:59 BST

A Packing List For The Future

In my 10x Program workshops, I've been doing an exercise I call "The Quick Thinker." You can do it in just five minutes, yet it's proving to be a really helpful form of mental calisthenics that leads to some great insights.

There are just three parts to this exercise: First, choose the future you want. Then, you decide what gets to come along from the past. And finally, given these other two factors, you figure out what you could be doing right now to maximize your progress.

This deceptively simple exercise contains some important distinctions. The first is the difference between choosing and deciding. People use these words interchangeably, but this leads to confused thinking, because they actually mean very different things.

Choosing is always related to the future. It comes from inside, from your imagination. You create a possibility out of your passion to experience a bigger and better future--usually in terms of having greater freedom with your time, money, relationships, and purpose.

Deciding, on the other hand, is based on the past. Once you've chosen the particular future you want, defined it, described it, and written it down, it throws a light on your past, and in that light you can immediately see which parts of of your past don't qualify for your future and which parts would be useful there.

What kinds of things are we talking about? It all falls into three categories: Things, people, and thoughts.

For instance, in terms of things, there may be systems or practices you've been using in your business, products you've brought to market, or possessions you own that just don't fit with where you're headed. There's no multiplier to them, so there's no point in bringing them into the future simply because they were part of your past. Other things, however, might have a potential you haven't explored yet.

Likewise, there will be some people in your life who challenge and excite you, who are going places you'd like to go, but there will also be the "batteries not included" kind who deplete your energy and don't contribute anything positive. Like the proverbial crabs in a pot, they feel compelled to pull down anyone who climbs too high.

You can outgrow thoughts, too. Some ideas brought you to your current level of success, but cut off bigger possibilities. Many entrepreneurs succeed beyond the achievements of their parents, siblings, or peers and have to adjust their thinking to understand that success is only a good thing and not something to feel guilty for or ashamed of. Conversely, there are unique insights you had early on that may well serve you the rest of your life.

The point of this exercise is simplicity. As you grow more and more successful, things from your past can accumulate around you, weighing you down and making your life complicated. By stopping to choose the future you want, then decide what from the past gets to come along, you vastly simplify what you have to think about in the present--and have the confidence of knowing exactly what you need to do now in order to get where you want to go.