How would you like your life to look ten years from now? If you’re like most people, you’d like greater wealth, more free time, and deeper connections with the people you love. As we ring in 2010, we’re not only launching into a new year but a new decade. This is the perfect opportunity for you to create the life you desire.
Most everyone has heard about practical steps for setting goals. Yet, there is a lot more than a plan to achieve success. Read on to find out how you can create inspired goals that result in the life of your dreams.
Dream a Little
Before you even begin on a goal, you first must determine what you really want in life. Make sure that your goal is something that you want to achieve. This is your opportunity to dream a little. Put aside your mind’s logical list and let your heart and imagination inspire creative thinking. You might be musical and have always wanted to play guitar. Maybe you are passionate about horses and would find great fulfillment in working with them. Your passion might be real estate, and maybe you have always desired to learn about investing.
Write all of these ideas down on a sheet of paper. You may find yourself wondering, how can I ever do this? Don’t worry about the “how” right now; just focus on the what. For now, keep these ideas to yourself. You don’t want to be swayed by what others think you should do. Your only work is to dream a little. Believe in yourself and in your unlimited possibilities.
After your dreaming exercise, you may have a list of a few items or you may have a list of 100 items. It’s fine either way. Your next step is to prioritize your goals. If you could only do one thing, what would you do? Go on down the line until you’ve ranked each goal in order of importance. This is critical because you won’t likely achieve success at any goal if you try to do everything at once.
To start, you will only work on your top three goals. You have the list of the other goals, so keep them somewhere so you can review them later.
Now that you have your maximum of three goals, it’s time to work on measures. For each of these goals, what will success look like? For example, if your goal is to become a runner, success might be finishing a 10K race. If you want to go to school, success might mean obtaining a college degree with a specific GPA. Decide what these are for each of your goals.
Once you know what success looks like, you’ll want to determine the “when.” How long will it take you to work up to running a 10k or completing a degree? Everyone’s timing is different, so you’ll really need to determine how this will fit in with all of the other activities and priorities in your life.
What if you don’t know how long something should take? That’s OK – just determine the next milestone you can figure out. Let’s use the running example. Maybe you’ve never run, and you’re not sure how many weeks you will have to train to run that distance. Perhaps you do know that your first goal is to run a mile. So figure out how long it will take to run that far. Another option is to find expert resources. In any endeavor, there are people who have completed what you want to do. You can shorten your learning curve by asking others or finding resources for help.
With the outcomes and timing assessed, you now can figure out what you need to complete each day, week, month and year to accomplish your outcome. For example, if you want to complete college in four years, you may need to take sixteen credits each semester. Each class will have specific requirements which will go into your daily and weekly goals. Write all of these details down. If you are familiar with spreadsheets, this is probably the easiest way to track your to dos.
Getting specific is much more of a left brain activity. This provides the opportunity to engage your mind in its task list. Equally important is activating your right brain. Your more creative side responds to visualization and affirmation techniques.
There are many methods for visualization. The key is to picture yourself having achieved your goal. What does it look like? How does it feel? How does this change your life? You can focus on visualizing in your mind or you can create a vision board in which you record pictures or images of your desired outcomes. Go through magazines and clip out photos that capture what your end looks like. Or if you are artistic, use your own drawings and photos to tell your story. Put these images on a poster board.
Another powerful strategy is affirmations. These are statements in the present tense that state your goal as already having been achieved. Start by writing these down. For example, I am a college graduate with a 3.5 GPA. Then spend time every morning when you awake and every night before you go to sleep reading these affirmations to yourself. You may find yourself saying, this isn’t true. But stick with it. You will find that after a while, your mind relaxes and the affirmations won’t bring about objections.
A final method is to act “as if.” If you were a published author, for example, how would you act? You might do public readings, develop a web site, or write articles on your topic. Start doing these things now. Just like in the affirmation exercise, your mind might object. That’s fine. Keep on track, and eventually, your mind will yield.
Striving for something new in your life may seem daunting. Along the way, you will need some support. Find like minded people to be your cheerleaders. Befriend people who have achieved what you would like to achieve. You may decide you need a coach to keep you on task. At the very least, share your goal with people who will support you. When you are feeling discouraged, reach out to those who can buoy your spirits.
Equally important: avoid those people in your life who will dismiss your goals. Even people you love can be unsupportive when it comes to changes in your life. If you find this to be true, don’t talk about your goals with them. It may cause you to doubt yourself.
The Home Stretch
If you’ve done all of the exercises listed, you will be well on your way to achieving your goals. The next decade can be a time of great fulfillment by reaching for your dreams. You just need the courage to take the next step toward goal setting.