We all have goals we would like to reach one day, but sometimes those goals are more dreams than actual targets. We would like to workout four times a week, to run a half marathon, to write a novel, to start a blog, to travel to the other side of the globe, to change career… Those are all items characterizing our fantasized improved future self. So why don’t we take action to reach those objectives ?
Improving ourselves is essential to moving closer to achieving success, whatever the definition of success might be for you. However, past January 1st, our resolutions to be more active, to get into writing, learn italian or to stop smoking can seem impossible to achieve. They are big words, scary, impressive ideas. You know you want to get there, but you cannot seem to be able to. Looking at those big objectives can be intimidating.
You are lost, you do not know where to start, so you let it go and think next year will be different. But it will probably not, because if you have been serious about thinking about what you want to be and what you want to do, it seems unlikely that those desires will go away. Uncovering your purpose is not an easy think, but once it is done, it rarely goes away. In fact, your true calling is even stronger than before. So how do you get unstuck from your daily grind and move forward ?
“Setting Goals In Life Is The First Step In Turning The Invisible Into The Visible.”
— Tony Robbins
Write it down.
The first step to actually start your transformation process is to have a support on which you can write your goals. I like to have them both on a notepad that I carry everywhere with me, and in a word document on my computer for easier editing and visualization. Sit down, and take 30 minutes to really think about what you want, and what you want to be. Don’t refrain from writing something because it sounds silly. If you want to be an actor, write a book, compose a song, travel all around the world, write it.
When you look at you list of goals, do not just read it. Really think about it, immerse yourself in it. Visualizing yourself as your improved version has been proven to boost your confidence, productivity and motivation to help you work towards your intentions. Envisioning the impacts your new lifestyle will have can also help. For instance if one of your goal is to start exercising 4 times a week, this will improve your overall health, makes you fitter, more energetic, more positive, help with your concentration etc.
Break it down.
To make sure you will not abandon half way through, take each items on your list, and break it down into precise milestones. Then break hose milestones down again into daily or weekly habits that will help you work towards them.
For instance if your goal is to travel to Australia next summer, some of the milestones will be : (1) Save up X amount of money ; (2) Get information and take care of my VISA ; (3) Get information about any vaccines I have to do ; (4) Establish an itinerary with the hotels I will be staying in. The list can go on. Once you have your milestones, you break them down too : in order to save the amount of money you allocated to your trip, calculate how much you need to save up enough each month, each week, each day to be sure to have the sum you need next summer. For the VISA and vaccines, set a day to do some researches online, then book an appointment to the consulate and doctor. For the itinerary, first look for the places you want to visit, then for the hotels in those towns ; read opinions online, then book them.
Once you split up your objectives, they instantly become more approachable and you feel less anxious to tackle them, which in turn makes you less likely to abandon them.
This is part of the breaking down process, but it is really important so I am putting an emphasis on it. When breaking down your goals, you need to be very specific : never word a goal with vague terms like “some” or “a little bit”, or “more” because those vague expressions are the open door to idleness. Numbers usually work well : write the exact amount of money you need to save, write how many kilos you want to lose… This will stimulate the visualization process and help you be aware of the progress that you have made.
Schedule and dedicate time.
Having your list of daily tasks and milestones to reach your goals is good. Having specific, quantitative objectives is even better. But the problem we often face when trying to make changes is that we set a deadline, but not a schedule. So even though you see more clearly how to achieve your dreams, be sure to know when you will actually do it. Take out your calendar, and start make appointments and time for your future self. Actually give yourself time to get there. You can read more about the scheduling technique in James Clear’s blog post.
Having a written support constantly with you with your goals, and looking at it regularly (every morning for instance) will help you commit to the changes you want to make. It will stimulate your brain. In addition, breaking down each on of your goals into smaller, more manageable tasks will help you to make good decisions daily. It will remind you that each choice, each of your actions of the day should be oriented in the direction of your objectives.
Track your progress and celebrate.
Committing daily to your goals will help you track your progress which will make you more motivated. Indeed, seeing results fast can encourage you to continue in the same directions. So be sure to notice them : your first 100€, or 1000€ saved up on your bank account, the first article you’re able to read in the language you have been learning, the first chapter of the book you are writing… Being mindful of your choices and actions will make you more aware of your daily success. Celebrate and enjoy them ! These are your little victories.
Identify and deal with obstacles.
Sometimes, things do not go as smoothly as planned. You can be sick, and unable to workout for two weeks. You might break your computer, and loose half of your novel (always have a back up people !). You may need to spend a lot of money because your car broke down. That’s life. Learn to embrace the unexpected, and turn bad situations around. Keep positive, and find solutions to your problems. If you have less money than expected for you trip, either go somewhere else, or delay it to the year after. If you did not work out because you were ill, don’t go all out once you’re better or you will hurt yourself. Just accept that things happen.
Share it !
It can be hard to get involved in a long-term change all by yourself. So in order to avoid letting go, tell your friends and family what you are up to so they can keep you accountable. You will probably be more likely to keep following your goals if you know others are going to ask you questions about it and encourage you.