Mastering the backward pass

  • Step by step: find a way of making it possible to earn an income while you are caring for an elderly relative at home (Photograph submitted)

    Step by step: find a way of making it possible to earn an income while you are caring for an elderly relative at home (Photograph submitted)

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”

— Thomas A. Edison

Last week we chatted about short-term planning and the advantages of breaking large or complex tasks into a series of small, manageable steps.

This is all well and good as long as you are proceeding at a comfortable pace through familiar territory, but what do you do when you encounter a situation or an obstacle that is blocking your path?

Even when the situation seems hopeless, there is usually a way to proceed — if only we could realise what it was.

But, try as we might to come up with an answer, nothing comes because frustration and stress are preventing us from seeing what to do.

So, how do you cross from a current state of inertia to a desired future state when you do not know how to traverse the gap between the two points?

Sometimes the best thing to do is to stop focusing on “the gap” (and all the unsolvable problems that accompany it) and instead find a way to visualise yourself as having already solved the problem in as much detail as possible.

Then work your way backwards, step by step in your mind, until you connect the dots to your current point in time or circumstances.

This might seem a little far-fetched if this is not your current method of problem-solving, so consider the following hypothetical situation (or substitute a personal real-life situation if you prefer):

You need to find a way to earn extra money, but you also need to stay home to care for your elderly mother.

First, and hardest of all, allow yourself to imagine that a future point in time really does exist when you are happily working at home and earning income at the same time that you are caring for a relative.

Now imagine answers to all of the following questions and as many others as you can think of that are relevant to this situation.

Note, there are no bad questions at a time like this.

Sometimes, it is more helpful to figure out what the questions are first, because if you can come up with the question, then you can challenge yourself to imagine an answer.

• What room of the house are you working in?

• What hours of the day are you working?

• How many days a week are you working?

• What are you wearing while you are working?

• Are people coming to the house while you are working?

• What equipment are you using?

• What tasks are you doing?

• What supplies do you need?

• Where are you getting these supplies from?

• How much do items that you are making cost?

• What do you charge for the service you are providing?

• Who is buying what you are making (or paying you for what you are doing)?

• How are they finding out about your product or service?

• Where can you sell the item you are making?

• Will you need to deliver it (and if so, how will you get it there)?

• Who will you need to ask to assist you with what you are doing?

• And lastly, what is preventing you from starting this moneymaking idea today?

Robin Trimingham is an author and thought leader in the field of retirement who specialises in helping corporate groups and individuals understand and prepare for a new life beyond work. Contact her at, 538-8937 or

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Published Jan 14, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated Jan 14, 2020 at 8:03 am)

Mastering the backward pass

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