How To Simplify Planning Using the Merlin Principle

Sometimes we find ourselves with a specific goal we would like to achieve, but feel confused and overwhelmed on knowing the process for achieving it. We’re clear about where we want to go, but lack a roadmap to get us there.

So how do we go about creating such a roadmap? A technique I have been using a lot this year is often referred to as the Merlin Principle. In T. H. White’s book, The Once and Future King, Merlin was the legendary magician who helped King Arthur. Merlin was born at the wrong end of time, and had to live backwards from in front, instead of living forwards from behind. In other words, he could remember the future, without having any knowledge of what’s in the past.

Planning Backwards

Instead of starting at the beginning and attempting to identify all the steps I need to reach my goal, I now project myself forward and “Remember” when I got there. I imagine myself having achieved the goal first, and then begin identifying steps as I move backwards through time.

What is the Very Last Thing I Will Do?

I ask myself, “Right before I achieve my goal, what is the very last thing I will do?” What was the last step I took right before achieving my goal? Something had to be done and I want to identify what that was.

After I answer that question, I ask it again. I repeat this process and keep going backwards through time working my way back to the present. As I go through this process I end up writing down each step until I have a roadmap sitting in front of me. Now all I have to do is trace the steps back to the beginning.

Achieve Faster Results

Since putting the Merlin Principle into practice, I have noticed some immediate benefits. In addition to helping me identify how something will get done, what it will cost, and what equipment or resources I will need, I have found this process has helped me achieve goals faster than I thought possible.

I used to establish a goal completion date based on a timeframe I felt was realistic. Since I have been using the Merlin Principle, and identify the steps working backwards, I have found many of my assumptions to be false. It often doesn’t take me near as long to complete some of the steps and reach the goal. I really am amazed at how this simple process has changed my perspective and beliefs about what is possible.

Using the Merlin Principle

1. Choose your specific goal you want to achieve.
2. “Remember” the future. See yourself achieving the goal.
3. When seeing yourself achieving your goal, ask yourself “Right before the goal is achieved, what is the very last thing I will do?”
4. Repeat step 3 for each step until you are exactly where you are sitting right now.
5. Trace your steps back in the reverse direction and you now have your roadmap.
This process, while seemingly simple, is a very powerful planning tool. Once you know the steps to take, reaching your goal becomes much easier. I’ve found the Merlin Principle to be a useful way to help with the challenging process of developing a roadmap to a goal. See what it can do for you.


Daryl Murrow

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