I've been fascinated with goal setting since I was in high school. One of the most memorable lessons I learned from my high school football coach was the difference between a dream and a goal. A dream is something you wish you could have. A goal is something you deeply believe you will have. I'll never forget listening to his speech on this topic. I went straight to his office after the speech and told him that my goal was to play D1 football.
Fast forward 3 years later and I had a full ride scholarship to a Division 1 school in Colorado. Whether he believed in me at the time or not, he convinced me to make up my mind to set a goal instead of a dream. I've been hooked on setting goals ever since. Over the past several years, I've refined my process to get crystal clear on what goals I want to achieve. In this article, I'll share with you the current process I use for getting crystal clear on my "ideal life goals" along with an actionable plan to begin achieving.
At the end of every year, I always make it a point to carve out some time to get clear on where I want to go. This isn't always 100% ideal because the holidays are a busy time.If you're working during this time and have a day job, take a day off of work. If you're an entrepreneur, get your work done early or ask someone else to cover your responsibilities. Find somewhere quiet where you won't be distracted. Remember, nobody else is going to set your goals for you. If you don't have a clear path paved, how will you know where to go?
Begin by turning your phone completely off. Not airplane mode, not muted notifications, simply hold the power button and swipe right. Next, mute any slack or email notifications on your laptop as I recommend using Google Docs or Notion for this process. Apple Notes will work too.
There's multiple ways to do this but I've found simple breathing exercises to be helpful in focusing my thoughts. Don't make this too complicated, just take a couple deep breaths. I've become fond of breathing exercises over the past several years as it seems to calm my mind and help me focus better on the task at hand. I know it may sound "woo - woo," but a lot of the world's most successful people are using these tools to perform at a high level under stressful situations. Try it for the sake of this goal setting exercise.
Close your eyes and think back to what you were doing this morning. Think back to what you were doing yesterday. And then last week. And finally, last month. Continue thinking back to each month one by one until you get to the beginning of January. Don't rush this process. Notice what thoughts and emotions come up as you look back on each month. If something exciting comes up, focus on feeling the joy as long as you can.Ask yourself, why was this event joyful?
If something uncomfortable comes up, focus on sitting with the uncomfortable feeling. Ask yourself, why was this time uncomfortable? Take mental note of where your brain goes when you ask yourself these questions.
Open up a blank Google Doc and start writing what you're feeling and thinking. Think about the joyful times. Think about the uncomfortable or sad times. Write it all down.As you're writing, think through the questions you were asking yourself earlier. Why was the certain event joyful?
Why was the other event uncomfortable? Continue writing. Let your brain dump its thoughts and emotions. Don't think about punctuation or grammar, just write and brain dump. Don't put a time limit on this. Write until you have absolutely nothing left to write about.
If this is the first time doing this, you'll more than likely experience some sort of feeling at this point. The first time I ever did this, I felt like a thousand pound weight was lifted off of my shoulders. I felt as clear headed as I had ever been. On the opposite hand, such as this year, I felt a huge emptiness associated with the brutal self honesty I gave to myself. Don't freak out. Each side of the spectrum is helpful and necessary for personal growth.
Take some time to read over what you wrote in the Google Doc. Read it over two or three times. Take mental note of what you're reading. If you continue this process year after year, you'll likely start to notice patterns associated with your feelings or emotions at certain times of the year. This allows you to learn more about yourself. After you've read through your brain dump, spend some time to refocus your mind. Repeat Step #3 and take 10 deep breaths at a minimum.
This is the fun part. This is where you get to choose your ideal life situation. Start by asking yourself, "in a 100% ideal world, what would I be doing with my day?" Allow yourself to dream here. Get as creative as you'd like. Don't hold anything back. Remember, YOU get to choose during this exercise. Picture yourself waking up in the morning. What does your ideal bed and bedroom look like? What's the first thing you do when you get out of bed? What do you spend the next hour doing? Do you have coffee with your significant other? Eat breakfast with your kids? Go to the gym? Read in your favorite chair? Surf? Go fishing?
Disregard when the thought of what you "should" be doing pops into your head. Choose what you "want" to be doing. Remember, it's just an exercise. Picture yourself walking out of your front door. Where is your house located? What country, state, or city are you living in? What kind of vehicle are you starting in your garage? Where are you driving to? Are you going into your office to a startup you've built from the ground up? Are you showing up to an overseas mission to help kids in a 3rd world country gain access to clean water? Are you walking into a 20th floor office on Wall Street? Are you guiding paddle board trips in Thailand? Writing a book in a coffee shop?
You get to choose here. Choose what you want. What do you spend the rest of the day doing? Do you take two hours in the middle of the day to exercise? Meet a friend or family member for lunch? Go skiing? Get as creative as you'd like.
Start the writing process again. Write down whatever naturally came to mind during the questions above. Go into as much detail as you'd like. Write down what you're seeing, feeling, hearing, and what emotions you're experiencing as you answer the questions. Be as honest with yourself as you can. The more honest you are, the more clear your goals will be.
This is often the hardest part. It's not hard to let our brains dream. What's hard is to identify your dreams and turn them into a SMART goal. If you're not familiar with SMART goals, read this article quickly. In a nutshell, you'll want to set a goal you can easily measure and track. For me, that often means putting a number to the goal so that I can break the goal down into a yearly, quarterly, monthly, and weekly timeline. My ideal life consists of waking up at my ranch, having coffee with my wife, looking out of the large picture window at a herd of elk, deer, and moose feeding in a hay meadow along 5 miles of our private river. I would then grab my fly rod and spend the morning casting dry flies to hungry rising brown trout...
Wait, I'm catching myself before I continue down dream mode. Time to set a measurable goal. Open Chrome. Pull up Zillow. Set the search parameters for your ideal location. Boom, there it is. 150 acres with a 2500 sq. ft. house located on a hay meadow with a private river. 1 million dollars. Perfect, now I have a measurable goal I can go after.
This may sound daunting to some, but all comes back to one word. Belief. Believe you can, and you'll achieve. If you still find yourself subconsciously telling yourself you'll never be able to achieve the goal you come up with, ask yourself the following question for the sake of this exercise: "If my life depended on me achieving this goal, how would I go about doing it?"
Let your brain go wherever it wants to. Not to say your life will depend on you achieving your goal, it's just a way to challenge your brain. More than likely, you're opening up a new pathways in your brain simply by asking yourself this question. When you convince yourself you can do something, your brain automatically begins to put a plan together. So in this case, I've asked myself the same question. "How would I go about purchasing this million dollar ranch?Let's break it down and start at the top.
It takes 20% down to obtain a conventional loan, therefore I would need $200k for a down payment. .2 x $1,000,000 = $200k. l like to set my goals higher than needed so I give myself a buffer. Let's add 10k and call the total $210k
In my personal opinion, I believe that I can obtain my dream life in 3 years. Anything longer than that seems like procrastination. Now it becomes a math equation. I'll start with my target goal and then divide by 3 to get the yearly amount needed. 210k / 3 = 70k
There's my yearly goal. I need to save 70k each year in order to buy the ranch. After this, I'll break it out into quarterly milestones. 70k / 4 = 17.5k
17.5k is my quarterly milestone. Lastly, I want to know my monthly target. 17.5k / 3 = 5.83k
$5,830 is my monthly savings goal in order to purchase the ranch in 3 years. You can use this same formula to put a plan together to achieve your goals. I'd challenge you to think of your life goals in 3 year increments and no longer than 5. Parkinson's law states, "Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion." In layman's terms this means you'll achieve your desired goal in whatever time you allocate to it.
I've noticed that my goals seem much easier to chase after if there's a measurable component to them. This is obviously my personal way of setting goals, and it's taken years of refinement. I used to set open ended goals such as, "I enjoy owning a successful coworking space." Well, that one actually came to fruition. I do own a profitable coworking space now, but sometimes I wonder to this day if I actually own a successful coworking space. Why do I still ask this? Because I never defined what "successful" meant in the beginning. This has motivated me to get even more clear with my goals in 2020. This year, I'm challenging you to do the same. Get clear with your goals. Crystal clear. And then put an actionable plan together to go achieve your goals.
If you decide to go through this process, let me know what you think after completing the process on Twitter.
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