As we begin the new year, many people are taking time to reflect on the past and think about the future. While, as a whole, the future is out of our control, (The COVID-19 pandemic is a prime example of that) our individual futures are surprisingly controllable. Most people however, live in a state of reacting to whatever life throws at them and are therefore drug along through life... But some have learned the power of being proactive. By being proactive, you can control the leash of life and lead yourself wherever you want to go!
The first step of being proactive is setting goals. According to a Harvard business study, individuals who set goals were 10x more successful than those who did not... and those who wrote them down were 3x more success than that! (30x more successful than those who did not set goals)
So, let's set your goals for 2022!
What do you want?
The most effective way of setting meaningful and inspiring goals is to start with the big picture and then progressively work your way smaller. Like this...
Using this method makes setting goals easier because, once you've decided what you want to accomplish in your lifetime it's fairly simple to work your way backward to what you must do today to make progress on that goal.
So take out a pen and paper, or start a document on your phone/pc/whatever, and answer this question:
"What do you want to be said about you at your funeral?"
I hope you really took time to ponder that question, because it's extremely powerful and important. We start with this question because you'll repeat your lifetime goal(s) to yourself whenever times get tough. When you want to give up because it seems too hard, or action items just feel like they aren't worth it. Being proactive is HARD. It takes determination and resilience, so you need something to motivate and inspire you to rise to the occasion and overcome discouragement and disappointment. So if you glazed over that question to continue reading... stop. Really think about it and answer it before continuing.
Interestingly, you probably didn't write down something like "He/she had a ton of money and a lot of stuff. He lived in a huge house by the ocean, with a fancy yacht, and took lavish vacations all the time. He was really rich." And yet, that is how many people live their life. As if that is the eulogy they want to promote with their day-to-day actions. The reality is, what really matters in life, is our reputation amongst family, friends, and our community. Beyond that, the good we do for others with the wealth and influence we create through our career.
People are not remembered for the things they possessed, but for being a loving parent, a true friend, and benefactors of the world.
Now that you've decided what you want to accomplish in life you have a reference point for creating the rest of your goals. So next, answer these questions:
To accomplish your lifetime goal(s) where do you need to be by;
Age 30? (If you've passed any of these, just remove it.)
When answering these questions, write them in the present tense, in story format. This will force you to imagine yourself actually being there. For example: "At age 60, I am financially independent and own a farm. So I spend my weekdays working on projects around the property, and my weekends visiting with family and playing with my grandkids." For brevity, I kept it pretty simple, but I want you to be as detailed as possible! Paint your world until it feels real. Expound upon the story of your future until you believe it and want it to become reality. Once you feel satisfied with your vision, repeat the exercise with the next youngest age until you are within 15 years of the present.
Now that you've established your vision, you need to think about what that actually translates into from a data standpoint. You need something to aim for.
Don't aim for average
A quick note before we get to setting mile marker and action item goals:
Don't aim for average. Set goals that are big enough to inspire you, so that you rise to the occasion and achieve them.
By not setting goals, you're going to naturally gravitate to being average, so there's no point in setting goals that are "reasonable". Reasonable goals are boring. You want to set big, inspiring goals that scare you a little bit! You want to find the sweet spot between boring and impossible. You want it to feel just the right amount of crazy! But, you also want to believe that you can totally achieve the goal, if you really commit and put in the work.
It's more art than science, but when you've found the sweet spot, you'll know.
Here's why this is important: When you set your goals high enough, you start to think bigger. You realize that what you're currently doing isn't going to get you where want to be and you'll need to learn bigger and better ways of doing things to accomplish your big and crazy goal. It'll motivate you to think outside your box and do things that are uncomfortable. Because you'll have to to reach your goal.
Now that you have a vision for what you want, what are the actual targets you need to hit? To follow our example from earlier, if your vision is to have a farm by age 60, be financially independent, and have grandkids, what will it take to make that a reality?
Buy a farm... Okay, how much will that cost? $500,000.
Be financially independent by age 60... Okay, how long will you likely live? And how much will you need in income to sustain your lifestyle?
Have grandkids... Well, are you married? Do you have kids?
Setting targets will take your somewhat abstract vision and turn it into something actionable.
From goals to actions
Next you need to create an action plan for how to get from where you are, to where you want to be. So to start, follow the same "start big and work your way smaller" method and answer this question:
What must you have accomplished by the end of the year to make progress on your targets?
Have saved $24,000 in a "farm fund".
Have saved $12,000 in retirement accounts.
Get a raise.
Next break that down into months:
$2,000 saved in the "farm fund".
$1,000 saved in retirement accounts.
Met/exceeded work requirements.
$500 saved in the "farm fund".
$250 save in retirement accounts.
Asked boss how to get a raise.
And finally daily:
Make coffee at home instead of going to a café.
Show up to work early.
Bring lunch to work.
Don't make an unnecessary purchase online.
Having big goals to keep you focused and motivated, knowing exactly where you want to be by intervals in the future, then turning them into actionable steps and plans to accomplish today makes accomplishing your goals attainable. And the beautiful thing is, once you've done the up-front work, the ongoing maintenance is minimal. It only takes a few minutes to write down your daily goals at the beginning of the day, and a few more minutes to review your weekly goals on Monday, a few more minutes to review your monthly goals on the 1st, etc.
Once you get this ball rolling and stick with it for a while, it'll become just as second nature as brushing your teeth everyday. You'll even start to feel uncomfortable when you haven't written out your daily action items.
Goals change your life
If you implement what you've learned from this article, I firmly believe that your trajectory in life will dramatically improve. So from time to time, maybe next year, take a moment to reflect on how far you've come and appreciate the value of goals in your life. Then teach what you've learned to someone else so they can benefit as well.
The difference between successful people and everyone else is their willingness to do things that others will not. Setting goals and relentlessly working toward them are one of those things. I have put the information in this article into practice in my own life, to great success. So I hope you will as well. You'll enjoy bountiful rewards and a more fulfilling life!