Belated because as you may know, I’ve been flat hunting, working, organising a move as well as celebrating my birthday. I am however, determined to finish this series by the end of the week!
This series is for anyone who perhaps hasn’t got off on the best foot at the beginning of the year. If you’re like me, this is your right foot, which is half a size smaller than my other one, and the one I can’t kick a football with.
Last time, we looked at getting stuck on the starting block and how you can ease yourself into achieving your goals.
Today, we’re looking at:
Ignoring Great Goals, Setting Dumb Ones…And How To Stop This
I like goals, but I haven’t always been great at setting them.
My biggest problem has been making lists of fantastic goals and then promptly ignoring them for other goals which I thought I “needed” to achieve.
Goal from 1990 – 1997
Goal: “Get Rich”
Surprisingly, despite my consistency in this goal occurring every New Year’s Day from being about 7, and a few ventures in entrepreneurism, this never happened exactly as I planned.
Problem: There was no plan, or even a specific goal. I had no idea how much was enough, how I wanted to achieve it, and when I wanted to achieve it by. It simply remained a source of anxiety with every New Year.
This wasn’t so much as an actual list of goals, but a two and a half paged typed stream of consciousness mission statement. It was whilst I was at university and felt very much as though life was passing me by. Delving into this piece I can pick out my main dreams that I felt I wanted to achieve:
- Make enough money to not worry about bills
- Sing regularly in public
- Write for a living
- Be happy in love
These goals are much more in line with what I wanted to do, which is probably why they came out in a moment of free writing, rather than sitting down and consciously thinking what my goals “should be”
Problem: I ignored all of them.
Instead of trying to achieve what I knew I desperately wanted, I filed away this dream list and continued with getting my degree, working in Canada and coming back to get a job in England. Which brings us to…
I’d been back from working in Toronto, and spent a year working in Brighton when I decided to craft a “10 month plan” of things I wanted to achieve. On that list were the following goals:
- Work my way up in the company
- Sing regularly
- Get a mortgage
- Brainstorm ideas for your own company
- Research the property industry and estate agency industry
- Get short story published
- Develop a script for a series
- Join a dance group
In bold are the things I actually wanted to do.
The rest are what I thought I “should” be doing in order to be successful.
Problem: I ignored the things in bold
Fast forward to 2009:
I’d left my job to work for myself and decided that what I really wanted to achieve was:
- Make enough money to not worry about bills
- Sing regularly in public
- Write for a living
- Get a short story published
They bear an uncanny resemblance to my dreams of 2003, only this time I decided to listen to them, and focus on only them.
In 2009 I managed to:
- Support myself comfortably writing for a living and didn’t worry about bills (too much)
- Joined the best Brighton Based Bluegrass Band and played more than 50 gigs
- Had my first short story published
It was no coincidence that once I started applying my energy directly to my goals I started to achieve more of what I wanted. I’d been very busy over the previous years and quite “successful”, but it wasn’t my version of “success” and more and more I had this sneaking suspicion that there was more to life than what I had.
I still have a long way to go, and plenty more goals on my list to try and attain, but I feel as though I’ve learned a bit more about setting the right goals for me.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s a lot scarier going for the things you really love rather than following tried and tested methods of what people tell you you should do. There’s always the chance you don’t quite get there, but we are only here one time round and it frightens me more to think these dreams are still within me and I’m ignoring them.
Here are the things I learned that helped put me on the path I wanted to be on, rather than the one I thought I should be on.
Write About your Goals Without Thinking About Your Goals
I was surprised when I found the list of dreams from 2003 because in 2009 I still wanted the same things; it was almost as though I could have written it the day before. Though I ignored it the first time round, seeing it on paper in 2009 made me realise that I wasn’t pursuing the things I really loved.
Take 20 minutes, sit down with a pen and paper, or type at your computer and try to unlock those hidden (or not so hidden) desires.
Don’t think of it as a list of goals, or you might be tempted to edit it into “should dos”. This is just for you, it’s private and non-binding, so don’t worry about putting down the wrong thing. Try to write continuously without too much thought about picking the perfect words, just write down the first things that come to your head. Do this exercise and you might just surprise yourself about what it is you want.
What Do You Do Every Day (Or What Do You Want To Be Doing)?
I’m not talking about breathing, eating or sleeping, I’m talking about those little activities that you consciously or sub-consciously are drawn to do.
The activities which don’t feel like a chore, the ones that you would do regardless of your day job or living situation.
For me, it’s singing, writing and trying to improve myself. I’ve always done those things, even when there’s been no outlet for them, I can’t stop writing, or singing and there’s usually a self-help book on the go. I had always thought that they were just things that I enjoyed but it wasn’t until I put a lot more focus into those things that I realised just how much more enjoyable (and profitable) they could be.
Don’t ignore your natural tendency to pursue certain activities over others. You may decide to only keep them as hobbies, or you may discover that you actually want to invest more time into your natural passions, perhaps even professionally.
Spend a week consciously taking note of these activities and get scribbling.
Listen To Your Day Dreams
The more you think about something and really take time to visualise it, the more likely you are to translate those thoughts into actions which take you towards your goal. I love day dreaming, it encourages me to remove the barriers I might put in place if I was simply making a list of goals. Most people have little day dreams about things, what are yours?
Do you dream about a big house in the country? Completing a marathon? Getting a book deal or getting more rewarding clients?
Indulge in your day dreams, don’t worry about setting realistic goals. At this stage it’s all about tuning in to the things that light the fire in your belly and make you smile.
Jot down these joy-inducing dreams no matter how farfetched (you think) they might be.
If This Was Your Last Year
Without wanting to sound morbid, if this was your last year, what would you want to achieve? There may be things on that list that it just doesn’t make sense waiting for any more. You probably wouldn’t be able to fit everything in if it really was your last year, but if you’ve always wanted to travel the world, or sell a book, or have a successful blog, then why not work towards those now?
That’s not to say you have to achieve those things within the year, but if you only had a handful of activities that you could complete, what would they be? That gives you a really good indication to what is important to you.
Write these down.
Keep Changing Your List (As Needed)
Just as there is no right or wrong in the above exercise, there is also no “definitive” list of goals. You don’t just have one shot to write down what you want to achieve at the beginning of the year and then stick to that list for the rest of the year.
That doesn’t mean that you spend months trying to become an astronaut, and then spend the next few months trying to be an accountant only to then decide that you really want to be a super hero (although I wouldn’t necessarily say you were wrong to do so).
Things change. You change, circumstances change, and in the UK the weather changes so much it’s become a mathematical random constant…
If you’ve tried the previous exercises, chances are you have a good idea about the things that inspire and excite you.
However, you may have a goal written down that you eventually decide just isn’t for you, perhaps it’s something that you’re forgetting to work towards, or isn’t making you happy.
To stop pursuing a goal that you’re not enjoying is not a failure. Just because you wrote it down, does not mean you HAVE to achieve it. This series is about identifying what it is you really want to do so that you’re more likely to work towards it. There is no shame in starting something, realising it doesn’t tick your boxes and then stopping. That’s not to say you should give up at the first hurdle, but if you’re working towards your true passions, you won’t want to give up. If you want to stop working towards something, it’s probably just not the right goal for you.
In essence, set reminders in your calendar to keep coming back to your list of goals and tweaking them as necessary.
Take some time, don’t rush this but try to tune in to the things you really really want. Once you do that, and start thinking about them more in a practical sense, you should start feeling those wheels inching forward on your wonderful life’s journey.
Coming up in: Goals…. (Goals)!…Always believe in your soul…
Day Three: Translating Goals Into Action
Day Four: Don’t Go Changing… (Overnight)
Day Five: Don’t Miss The Gold For The Goal…
Day Six: Kick Ass Goal Achieving Resources