“You learn something out of everything, and you come to realize more than ever that we're all here for a certain space of time, and, and then it's going to be over, and you better make this count.”
- Nancy Reagan
Some of the companies I consult with bring up past failures that they’ve had previous to working with me and they dive into what they’ve learned from them. Although learning from past experiences is key, I haven’t really had many companies take the time to work on things that could go wrong before they go wrong.
You’ve probably heard of Postmortem, but I’m not sure you’ve heard of Premortem. What typically happens during the planning stage for most of us is that we have reservations that we push out of our minds and focus only on what could go right. The very first time I heard the term was in a book by Daniel Pink called “When: The Scientific Secrets Of Perfect Timing.” and as I dug a little deeper I found that there had been some research done on this very topic.
In fact, there was research conducted in 1989 by Deborah J. Mitchell, of the Wharton School; Jay Russo, of Cornell; and Nancy Pennington, of the University of Colorado, found that prospective hindsight—imagining that an event has already occurred—increases the ability to correctly identify reasons for future outcomes by 30%. We have used prospective hindsight to devise a method called a Premortem, which helps project teams identify risks at the outset.
In summary, a Premortem process is going through a process either with your team or by yourself in which you imagine that the project or goal failed and you go through each possible main reason that it failed. When you're done with that process you go through what you could have done about it or what could have been done differently. This is a great way to identify weaknesses in future goals and projects, but I want us to apply it to our lives.
When the research team envisioned this they didn’t take the time to apply this to each of their lives. They didn’t dive deep and take themselves through the process of being dead and looking back to see where they failed or where they felt remorse for.
Being faced with death is an interesting thing. The passengers of flight 1549 that landed safely in Hudson back on January 15, 2009, were interviewed and the majority of them thought they were going to die, that they weren’t going to survive the “crash”. In those few seconds before landing in the river they thought about what they were never going to be able to do, they thought about the lives that they could have lived, the regrets, the people they should have been closer to! Those feelings must have been terrible!
Here’s the thing though, you don’t need to be faced with death to get into the right perspective about your life. You just need to do a Premortem check. I’ve simplified it for you so you can do it. You've got to take it seriously and you've got to take time to close your eyes and envision each of the moments below.
1. Imagine you are dead.
2. Your loved ones.
3. What you could have done.
4. What to do now.
In business and in life it’s easy to get distracted and focus on things that don’t matter. Things that are a waste of time in the long run. You only have one life, you have one body, one mind, and it’s your job to take care of yourself and those you love.
What are you doing today to not have regrets tomorrow?