I’ve recently become aware of just how many people lack any kind of goals for the future. I have always been fairly goal driven so I have never considered that there are lots of other people who are not. They may or may not be happy with their current circumstances but they just don’t know what they want to do with the rest of their lives. With the proliferation of self-help and motivation books, blogs and seminars, the idea of “goals” has become somewhat derogatory. It often conjures up images of over-hyped get-rich quick schemes, multi-level marketing or even the diet fads that are everywhere all of a sudden and then disappear just as fast.
Setting and achieving goals should be a rewarding and energizing experience. Don’t be fooled by the hucksters and sham artists. You don’t need expensive programs and materials to get your life on a better track. All you need to a pencil, paper and sometime for reflection on what you really want to do with your life.
There are many different ways to discover the pursuits and accomplishments that will be most meaningful to you. All have validity and different methods are likely to resonate with different people in different ways. Try them all and see which has the greatest impact. I think a key factor is to get things down in writing so that you can refer back to them. The act of writing and reviewing your goals may be more important than knowing what your goals are in the first place. It is that constant review and adjustment that will propel you forward. Goals without action and follow up are just wishes. Wishes are useless.
Here are some common ways to discover what is important in your life. Try them all and try them often. Wrestle with the ideas that are important to you. That is the only way you are going to improve.
Your Ideal Day
What do you imagine your ideal day would be like? Really try to visualize the entire day with all the details. What time do you wake up? How do you wake up? (Alarm clock, sunrise, dog, etc.) What do you eat? Where do you live? What is the view from the window? Where do you work? What do you do? How many hours do you work? What do you do on your breaks? What do you do after work? Who are your friends? What do you do together? What is your family like? How do you spend time with the ones you love?
I like this exercise because I am often reminded that I have pretty much everything I need right now to be happy and fulfilled. More money, more things and higher status are not what create happiness. Great relationships with great people are what life is about.
Imagine you have passed away and you are witness to your own funeral. What is it that you want people to be saying about you? What do you want written on your grave stone? “Watched 30 hours of TV a week for 60 years.” or maybe “Lived every moment to its full potential.” Are people crying at your funeral? Does anyone bother to come? What do you think your regrets will be?
You have 6 months to Live
Old age and death are very powerful motivators to help people recognize and focus on what is important in life. Would you continue in the same job you have now if you know you are going to die? Will you spend that time watching TV? Will you carry on old feuds and petty bickering with your loved ones? Will you try to leave something behind for the world to remember you by? It is unfortunate that it takes imminent death to bring out the best in people. Step back and realize that we are all going to die; some slower than others, but death is certain for all of us. Why can’t we live our entire lives with the same urgency as if it were only going to last another 6 months?
In the History Books
What will you leave behind decades after you are gone? Perhaps grandchildren who still remember your kindness, generosity and humor. Maybe it was a book that shaped the ideas of people for a short or long time. Maybe it was a company that employed people in meaningful work for years. Maybe you planted 100 trees that reached the skies. Every person regardless of status or accomplishments leaves some legacy behind, what will ours be?
You are Rich!
What would you do if money or skills were not an issue? Eliminate most of the objections you are going to fabricate immediately. If money and skills were not a barrier, how would you spend the rest of your time. What would you do to challenge yourself and improve. What would bring you the most fulfillment and enjoyment? If you can find that one thing that you would do under perfect conditions, you are likely to discover that maybe you don’t need to be a genius tycoon to get started. Dream occupations can often be started inexpensively while maintaining a regular job. Starting and living your life goals are far more important than money and ability. Just do it!
Your Bucket List
Write a list of all the things you want to do before you die, or kick the bucket, and a quick summary about why each is important. Look at the list everyday and try to complete each item every opportunity you get. Do you want to climb Mount Everest? Visit China? Watch a live sumo tournament? Think about what experiences are important to you and why. This will definitely shape how you spend your free time.
How would you change your life if you could start over? Imagine you go back to a point in time that had a huge impact on the future direction of your life. What would you do differently if you had another chance. Would you change careers? Would you go back to school? Would you start a business? Would you learn to play the piano or maybe write a book? With increased life expectancies, 55 is the new 40 and 40 years old can be just like your twenties again, only with less hair. For most of us, there is more than enough time to make up for all of those lost years. You have a chance to do it all again, plus you have the added advantage of extra years of experience and maybe even some money in the bank.
Remember that goals are fluid, they are meant to be adjusted, changed, and abandoned. The act of deciding on your life goals is not what is important. The constant reflection, contemplation and action on those goals is what will make you a better person and a more fulfilled individual. Think about the future, but live for now.