Here we are June 25 2013, the last week of the second quarter! Miraculously the world didn’t come to an end last year as some had predicted. Sure there have been changes, but that’s a part of life. This morning I sit in my kitchen with a great cup of coffee … you all know how much I love my coffee excited to open an email I wrote to myself December 31 2012 with my goals for the New Year. I set yearly and long term goals with objectives and even broke them down into quarterly milestones and then wrote myself a mid and end of year email!
Fifteen years ago I began my journey of personal development after picking up my first self-help book. I didn’t advertise that I was reading such a book in fear of ridicule from my friends. Today I look around me as I write this and I see bookshelves full of such books. Who would have known? In high school I hated reading anything beyond rodeo and running news and magazines.
In my years of reading and utilizing personal development techniques to better my life and the lives of everyone I have a chance to speak to and coach, one of the most common yet often overlooked aspects of personal development is proper goal setting. Like it or not, goal setting is as important to the success of your life as an architectural floor plan is to building your house. Notice I didn’t say that it was mandatory; I just said it was important. Why is goal setting important to enjoying a successful life? The reason is very simple. If you don’t have a plan for your life, then your life will be planned by those around you. That may seem like an easy path to take, but it is not going to be a fulfilling path.
Before I share with you what I consider the most effective form of goal setting, let me assure you I’ve heard and thought of all the reasons not to do goal setting already. Here are a few of my favorites:
Let me share with you my philosophy on goal setting and how it transcends all of these excuses and any other ones you've been thinking. Firstly, let’s quickly get past the whole terminology issue. I’m going to call this process goal setting. I realize that some of you (and sometimes I do the same)may say that it should be called something else like creating a vision, setting intentions, determining your outcomes or milestones, imagining you ideal scene or whatever other name you want to call this process. You may call it what you wish. Just to keep things simple today, I’ll call it goal setting, but you may refer to it any way you wish, ok?
Ok, so what is my philosophy on goal setting? Well, it’s actually very simple. Let’s go through it right now and you’ll see how easy and effective it can be in your life.
Firstly, what I do is I take my life and I break it down into these categories:
Ok, now all you do is you fire up your pc, or grab six pieces of paper, or just grab a notebook and start with the first category. On top, you simply write: “Health and Fitness”. Below that, you write the words: “Vision:” Now what you do is you just close your eyes and you think forward into the future a bit. It doesn't really matter how many years into the future you look, but think somewhere between three and ten years into the future. Basically an amount of time you would consider “a long time”. Let’s say that’s five years from now for you. So think five years into the future and imagine that everything in your life between today and that day went absolutely perfectly in that category. So with “Health and Fitness” perhaps you finally had the self discipline to stick to that diet plan, or to finally make the progress at the gym that you hoped for. Perhaps you achieved the things you wanted in certain sports you play or activities you’re involved in. Think about being in the future five years from now and imagine that in this category of your life, everything fell into place, all the stars aligned and you were able to get to a point here where you are very happy and content with yourself.
Now take that vision, and write it out in as much detail as you can using colors, images, symbols, drawings, etc..be creative! Remember not to judge it, not to worry about how realistic it is. It is only important to capture what you would like to happen in that period of time, not what you’re guessing will happen. It’s not about making accurate predictions of the future. It’s about writing a story of what could happen if everything went perfectly in your life somehow.
Remember to capture any specific details that are important to you, but don’t focus on them too much if you’re not concerned by them. Meaning, for some people it might be very exciting for them to write out a specific statement like “I now weight 175lbs…” while others might be more excited by a more generic statement such as “I feel healthy and light and have completely overcome my addiction to junk food…” Whatever is important to you is what you should write. Don’t try to go into specifics if they are not important to you, but don’t leave them out if they are important to you.
So what’s next? Next you move onto the next category and follow the exact same procedure. You write the name of the category on top, and you write your vision of that category below that. You make the assumption that everything went perfectly in your life in that category while you envision it and then you capture what you see in writing. It’s really that simple. Do this with all six ( or 7 or 8 ) categories.
Now what? Here’s what I would suggest you do next. If you wrote your categories out on paper, go and make a photocopy of the pages. If you wrote it out in a word processor, print out a copy of each of the six category pages. Then, grab a regular sized white envelope and put a copy of the six pieces of paper in the envelope and seal it. On the front put “DO NOT OPEN UNTIL _____,__, 20__” filling in today’s date 5 years from now. Now take that envelope and store it safely somewhere where it won’t get lost in the next five years. For example you could stick it in your high school yearbook. You probably don’t look at it more then once every five years anyways. Or you could store it in your wedding album, or any other place you keep important documents.
What is this for? It’s basically a time-capsule that allows your future self to see what your vision of the future was five years ago. The reason why this is so powerful is because your subconscious mind now knows you’re serious. About 5 years ago I did something like this. I wrote out 30 goals I wanted to accomplish in life as part of a goal setting workshop I did at the time and we were encouraged to write out goals that we would consider amazing even if they seemed totally unachievable at the time. Last week I was cleaning out some files and I found the notebook and read it. I was totally amazed at my list. I have already accomplished and reached 26 out of the 30 goals I wrote out and the other 4 are no longer desirable for me. I was amazed at how many of the goals I achieved and how specific some of them actually were. For example I wrote out that I wanted a house with a large kitchen. The funny thing is when we bought our house 2 years ago and laid out the plans for the wonderfully large kitchen I didn't even remember that I had written it on my list of goals a few years back. We just had the space in the house to make a dream kitchen and decided to do. I didn't realize that I was checking off an item off of a 5 year old goal list. The kitchen was one of the minor items on my list but it’s still cool to see how the subconscious mind didn't forget about it.
It was really cool and inspirational to read my goal list from 5 years ago. It really made me feel grateful for what I've been able to accomplish in my life since then. I invite you to do the same. Set some goals and then seal them for your future self to read one day. Not only will it be inspiring for you to see them in the future, but also your subconscious mind will go to work for you to create and attract your dreams whether you’re conscious of it or not. That is why I also write myself notes and emails in shorter periods (6 months and 1 year) to keep my subconscious working harder for me and the pure excitement of seeing how far I’ve come in the last 2 quarters.
Let’s assume you've done this now. You've written a vision for each of your life categories and you've sealed a copy of them into an envelope to be opened five years from now. What now? Well, you keep one copy for yourself in this moment and you read it over from time to time whenever you feel inspired to do so.
It’s also important to create a “TODO” list of action steps to reach some of the goals you set. You should do this right away so you begin laying out the road map to reaching your goals. Keep this list handy, maybe use a new cool app for being reminded of what you need to do daily.
I do believe it is important to plan and take necessary action daily towards your goals but don’t allow yourself become a slave to your goals and miss other opportunities in your life. We must remain free, flexible and open to other unique and rare opportunities to present themselves.
Here are some additional questions you may have:
“Are you saying I shouldn't have a formal goal/action step planning process?”
Yes and No. You should take your visions/goals for each category and break them down into specific action steps and milestones so that you can begin taking the action towards their achievement. I believe that is essential but realize that in certain parts of your life you may not want to be so regimented with your plans. Or maybe you may feel motivated to be very detailed in one category, and leave yourself open to be spontaneous in others. You may want to totally plan out your finances and health categories but leave your fun and relationship categories totally open with just your future vision to guide you. That’s perfectly fine.
“Why do we need to mark the envelope 5 years into the future then?”
The envelope just holds your visions of the future. It doesn’t mean any of those visions have to be totally reached by then. It simply shows you what you were thinking five years ago, because we are VERY forgetful with such things. I have an excellent memory and I can tell you that I totally did not remember writing down “large dream kitchen” 5 years ago on my list. It was a total surprise for me to see that on there. But granted this is an exception. I am a very goal oriented person and know from experience that it does take alot of work and daily action to make most dreams a reality... for example one of my goals is to run faster. You and I both know this goal can not just miraculously happen in my life if I am not conscious with my training.
If you are like me the path to self improvement is a work in progress and we are continuing to learn more about ourselves and the vision we have for our life everyday. However you choose to plan and set goals is totally your choice. There is no right or wrong way but what is important is that you do set goals and create a vision for your life.
Have a wonderful day and I wish you all the best this next quarter of 2013!
I BELIEVE IN YOU
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