New Year’s resolutions tend to be broken after an average of 24 days*. Interesting, that. Could their short shelf-life be anything to do with the state of mind we’re in when we make them? Bleary-eyed, over-indulged… to put it simply, no big decisions should be made on January 1st. Ever.
So, whatever the time of year, how do you reach the ultimate mindset to make some truly meaningful life goals? These visions you have for the future aren’t like your practical daily achievements and shouldn’t be embarked upon lightly – the task of setting them is just as important as implementing them. But how is this marathon-mentality achieved?
Let’s start by clarifying what a goal is not…
A goal is not a daydream or fantasy. These rarely get past the ‘mulling over’ stage and certainly don’t produce tangible results. Goals shouldn’t be ego-driven or fear-based; you should thrive from each step you take towards fulfilling them and they should add real meaning and depth to your life.
Close your eyes and imagine the outcome
When thinking of a life goal, take a moment to imagine how you’d feel after achieving it. Imagine telling your parents or children, not “We’re thinking of doing xxx” but rather “We’ve done xxx”. It should evoke a powerful emotional response within you. Hairs on your arms standing on end? If not, the motivation is likely to wear off pretty quickly. Focus on the things that really matter most to you in your life – family, career, health – and remember it’s all about the quality of goals, not quantity.
False hope syndrome
Be kind to yourself in these beginning stages. While lots of us have an ambitious streak and want to challenge ourselves, setting unrealistic goals – those that are virtually unattainable – can lead to false hope.
In fact, false hope syndrome*is actually a thing; a phrase coined by the University of Toronto. They noted the importance of distinguishing between “potentially feasible” and “impossible” goals in order to “avoid overconfidence and false hopes, leading to eventual failure and distress”.
That’s not to say you can’t think big, but just be sure to break your ultimate vision down into smaller goals right from the very start.
Of course, setting goals that are too easy is just as much of a pointless task, and can be a little tedious… even demeaning. The art, it seems, is finding the balance, and that’s where parameters come in…
You’re not thinking small enough
Really? Shouldn’t I go big or go home?
Not necessarily. Although your goals can be as big as you like – an around-the-world trip, a house to retire to in the country, setting up your own company – they all need to be broken down into realistically achievable chunks. We like to call this process chunking. Yes, chunking.
By chunking and creating mini goals along the way, you start to build up momentum, as well as a sense of achievement. When you work backwards from your end goal and chunk it into tasks, you can create a visual map, complete with structure and timelines.
Let’s say your goal is to buy a big house in the country in 10 years’ time. First you need to think about the bite-sized goals you’d need to achieve in order to get there: saving a certain amount per month, a job promotion, cutting back on spending, for example. Then take these smaller goals and break them down further into micro-steps with deadlines next to each and you will be on track to reach that ultimate goal.
When 2 become 1
Two people – one goal. A shared goal is truly special; it’s something that you can work towards together, achieve together, and then feel as proud as punch about… together.
Sit down with your partner, pour a glass of wine (optional) and make a list of your goals. Once you’ve compared notes, you’ll be able to prioritise your top three. There’s likely to be a front-runner – one that makes you both feel like you’re really progressing towards the life you envisage for the future.
Just do it
Don’t wait for the “right time” to sit down and discuss your goals, and don’t underestimate the power of positivity. Take the bull by the horns and charge into the future you dream of together…
Enjoy the ride – your exits are here, here and here…
Finally, think about the direction your goals will take you in and set ones that will create a meaningful, exciting, compelling journey. Some people get so hung up on their vision, such as reaching a senior job position, that they forget they have the power to change their direction if they want to. A goal should shape your life in a positive way, rather than enslave you.
Are you mentally prepared to set life goals?
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