Updated: Feb 4
Last year when I started doing some research to become a time-management Coach, it came to my attention that most people did not know how to approach GOALS - and by goals, I actually mean 'life projects'.
They can be short-term, mid-term or long-term: they are not defined by the time you will require to complete them, or the importance they have. They are defined by the type of result you will get once you reach the finishing line: changing your life, by mostly improving it. And it doesn't have to be a radical change, even the slightest improvement counts.
This post mainly focuses on HOW to find your goals in the first-place and then gives you some insights to help you manage them. If that sounds interesting, keep on reading!
So here you are, at the dawn of a new chapter in your life, wanting to achieve new things and either pick back up some long-term goals of yours, or finding new ones.
No matter how old you are, what stage of your life you're in, whether you are still a student, or already a full-time or part-time worker, a freelancer, or retired. No matter whether you have children or you don't, whether you are caring for other people or not.
It all starts with you wanting to do more with your time, and with your life in general. And here is an example of roadmap you can follow.
STEP 1: Recenter on yourself and know your intentions
The first step you should take is to recenter on yourself and identify what your life goals aren't.
How easy it is to dive straight into goals that are not ours, but have been imposed on us by social pressure. Our family, our friends, our teachers, our bosses. Even if they may mean well, ultimately your time belongs to you alone and what you decide to do with it is entirely your decision. Take some time to make sure the goals you have TODAY are yours, and not someone else's.
Similarly, how easy it is to dive straight into goals that others are striving towards but which we don't actually want to achieve ourselves. It is a common behaviour of the human species to want to "do like your neighbour". I am not saying this is an entirely negative behaviour though: we tend to reproduce what others around us are doing, mostly because it takes away the fear of going into the unknown. Others have done it before us, or are doing it with us, so we are not alone in the effort and can gain insights from others' experiences, which ends up being a plus.
However, we all must make sure to pause the natural current of things every now and then, to make sure they are still going in the right direction and that we are not simply following footsteps of others or being driven by jealousy or competition. I wrote another blog post about knowing your intentions and making sure you do regular check-ups to ensure you are going into the direction that is right for YOU.
So here you go, that's the first step: Knowing your intentions. Sounds easy right? Well, it isn't as easy as it seems. And the level of introspection you can go into while carrying this step through will actually determine how good of an alignment you will have later on.
Always keep in mind that motivation and drive are the biggest contributing factors to achieving goals. It either takes dedication, hard work, or perseverance, or all of them at the same time. It therefore follows logic that if you are trying to achieve goals which you don't actually want to achieve, you will either struggle vainly or even give up.
Example: STEP 1: I want 'sharing with others' to become a big part of my life.
STEP 2: Identify your goals
Alright now onto the big part of the job: identifying your goals.
Step 2 is about knowing what you want to achieve, what the finishing line is, based on the intentions you have or have established at step 1. This step requires 2 things:
Courage: Letting go of any fear: fear of failure, general anxiety, lack of self-confidence, self-doubt... letting go of our primary feelings and reactions is not an easy exercise at all. Yet everyone is telling you to do it. Why? Because when you let fear and anxiety express themselves, you believe in your incapability. The "anything is possible" mindset only appears once you let go of these fears and doubts, and you start focusing what is objectively possible. Take some time to meditate this: how many times in your life have you stopped yourself from trying anything, just because you were afraid?
Vision: Envisioning yourself succeeding: just like the previous step, this takes some self-control, since most people either don't want to jinx themselves or pouring too much of themselves in it, just in case they don't reach the actual goal. But you need to break free of that pattern, since not envisioning yourself reaching the finishing line is in fact holding you back, and lets your subconscious believe you are not capable of reaching that goal in the first place. On the contrary, even if you don't have much self-confidence, you want to do this exercise of envisioning yourself "winning", to trick your subconscious into thinking that you are indeed capable and that soon you will become this successful person you have envisioned.
Once you've let go of any fear and self-doubt, and you've managed to envision yourself into the future you want, that's when your goals will start taking shape. Grab them - identify them clearly and write them down, anywhere for you to see. Can be a post-it on your wall, a note on your phone wallpaper, a reminder in your digital calendar... what matters is you keep it around you. And now will be the time for action.
Example: STEP 1: I want 'sharing with others' to become a big part of my life. STEP 2: To be able to share with others, I want to become a writer. If possible, before I become a parent.
STEP 3: Plan out your goals... backwards
Now that you've identified your goals, aligned with your intentions, it is the time to plan them out... backwards.
Take your goals one by one. First identify whether you have external deadlines to reach it. If not, then identify what would be your internal deadline, i.e. the time by which you want to reach that goal. For example, you may want to write a book before your turn 30, yet no one is pressuring you to get it done. This would be an internal deadline.
Now envision yourself on the finishing line, once you will have reached that goal (because as I said, let go of any self-doubt or fear: you WILL reach that goal). And ask yourself these questions:
What do you need to get there?
What do you have to put in place TODAY to reach that goal?
How many steps will you need to take and when? Put a deadline on each of them.
Do you need the validation of any third party to reach that goal? (i.e. certification, review, diploma, examination etc.)
How many obstacles will you need to overcome? What are they?
Once you have answered these questions, you should have 3 things in your possession:
A life direction, aligned with YOUR life values
GOALS, aligned with this direction
Specific STEPS for you to take within a specific timeframe, to be able to reach your goals on or even before your deadline
This approach may sound counter-intuitive and over-simple, and yet it works. Instead of starting from step zero when planning your goals, start from the end: the finish line itself.
Example: STEP 1: I want 'sharing with others' to become a big part of my life. STEP 2: To be able to share with others, I want to become a writer. If possible, before I become a parent. STEP 3: To become a writer I need to write a book. To write a book, I need to find an idea (2 weeks), actually carry it through (2/3 months), find an editor (1 day) and revise my draft (2 weeks), find a publisher (a few weeks) and publish my book (2 months), and market my book (a few months).
STEP 4: Break your goals down
Having big goals and big steps only is not going to get you anywhere. It is now time to roll up your sleeves and identify actionable items to get on with it and start acting TODAY.
For this step, you need to take the goals steps you've identified at Step 3, and understand what actions you now need to take to reach each of these smaller finishing lines. Identifying these actions won't be enough either: you will need to attach an expected duration to them (is it something you can do in one hour, one day or one month?) and whether they are internal processes or external processes:
Internal process: a process involving you alone.
External process: a process involving other people.
The idea is that when a process is external and involves other people (i) it will likely take more time than if you were alone (ii) you won't be able to control every aspect and (iii) you might have imposed deadlines. When a process is internal and involves only you, the challenge will precisely be the fact that you can control every aspect.
At the end of the day, reaching goals takes time and effort, yes, but also revolves a lot around mindset and the insights you have.
When it comes to big goals, big life projects, what often determines our ability to reach the finishing line is perseverance, and how we manage obstacles. No path is easy, yet no finishing line is too far. I will argue that it is, yet again, all about balance.
With experience, you will come to know and understand a few things:
Your focus and motivation patterns
Whether you are a sprinter or marathon runner
Whether you prefer working alone or in teams
How much time you will need to set aside to work on your goals
What are the obstacles you will likely encounter and how to overcome them
You never know unless you try it, so how about today?
Example: STEP 1: I want 'sharing with others' to become a big part of my life. STEP 2: To be able to share with others, I want to become a writer. If possible, before I become a parent. STEP 3: To become a writer I need to write a book. To write a book, I need to find an idea (2 weeks), actually carry it through (2/3 months), find an editor (1 day) and revise my draft (2 weeks), find a publisher (a few weeks) and publish my book (2 months), and market my book (a few months). STEP 4: Finding a book idea: (mostly internal process) involves brainstorming with myself and/or others, trying out a few outlines and seeing what could work. Actually writing it: (internal process) involves me sitting at my desk for 2 hours every morning for 3 months, in an environment suitable for focusing. Finding an editor and revising the manuscript: (mostly external process) involves doing some research to find a professional editor, mandating that editor, getting a feedback, revising the manuscript together. Finding a publisher and publishing the book: (external process) involves doing some research to find a publisher, contacting a few until getting a positive answer. Before publishing there will be another round of revision of the book. Marketing my book: (internal or external process) involves either engaging a professional marketer or marketing my book myself, and possibly doing research about it.
STEP 5: READY, SET, GO
If you've gone as far as this step, it means you're ready to go. Now there are 3 things to keep in mind:
You really need to set time aside, over the long term: intentionally creating time in your schedule to work on your goals is required. You cannot take on any new endeavours without having enough time and energy to dedicate to it. Take a look at your existing schedule and for example identify at least 2 hours per week that you can take off of everything else (the duration and frequency of course depends on your goal).
You will encounter obstacles, but it is how you react when you do that is important: there is no doubt about it, the path won't be easy and you WILL encounter obstacles. Sometimes even reach dead ends. What is important is how you overcome them, how you modify your original plan to go about them to still reach the finishing line. Flexibility is the master word here!
Use any means necessary: you can't focus at home? Go to a cafe. Your family keeps disturbing you? Sit down with them to explain that for 2 hours a week, your door will be shut. You need to work on your goal whenever you have inspiration? Then go with the flow, and instead of setting time aside, make sure you log each sessions so that you know where you're at and when it is time to put in more efforts or take a break.
And always remember that with every step you take, no matter how small, the finishing line gets closer. And that if you keep going, you WILL reach it.
What if this year you could set out CLEAR intentions & goals, and you actually... achieved them all? 🤩🤯 Need more guidance? I have been privately coaching people since 2021. Take a look at my services and book a 1:1 session with me!