Clearly defining your goals is what turns a dream into a reality. Unlike dreams, goals are measurable, achievable and inspire us to action.
Here are some ideas for how to define your goals and draw up a plan of action that will bring them to fruition.
We all have dreams and aspirations for the future, it’s one of the defining features of our species. Yet, most of these dreams and aspirations will remain exactly that, meaning that what we really all have a lot of are fantasies. To create a new reality, you need more than just dreams and good intentions. In fact, you need quite a few things – hard work, dedication, knowledge, possibly some startup capital and often at least a little bit of luck. However, there is one thing that is even more fundamental than any of these. Clearly defining your goals and making step-by-step plans for how to achieve them is the only way you will ever turn a dream into a lived reality.
So, what’s the difference between a dream and a goal? For starters, goals are measurable. They’re also achievable, meaning they’re within the realms of physical possibility, which gives you a lot of wiggle room but unfortunately rules out some of the fun stuff like faster than light travel and going back in time. Most importantly, however, goals are a something you are actively trying to achieve rather than passively dreaming about or hoping for. Without clearly defined objectives, we are forever doomed to chasing shadows.
Setting and achieving goals
Dreaming is a fundamentally creative process. Setting and defining your goals, on the other hand, is a wholly practical endeavor that requires logic, planning and organization. It’s also the single most important piece of the puzzle when it comes to getting things done. We tend to think of success as something that requires attributes such as talent, intelligence, advanced skills and an exceptional understanding of the world around us. These are all admirable qualities that will certainly help. Yet, not everyone who has achieved something grand possessed all or even any of these qualities. What these people all have in common, however, is a form of single-mindedness that allows them to focus on their goals and block out all distractions. This is the true key to success and the mentality that must be cultivated in order to achieve it. In order to do so, it’s vital to have a clear idea of what you need to focus on, which means clearly defining your goals and creating a plan to achieve them. This process starts with just a few simple questions:
What do I want to achieve?
If you can’t sum it up in one or two sentences, your goal is not clearly defined and you’ll never achieve liftoff, never mind reach your destination. Examples of clearly defined goals include: “I want to create an Amazon affiliate business selling sustainable children’s toys and generate $10 000 profit a month within one year of launch” or “I want to complete the 2022 Ironman Hawaii in under 6 hours”. As you can see, these are specific, measurable and achievable goals. This overarching ambition is the foundation on which you will build. It provides a destination and a direction of travel. Importantly, it’s also something you can visualize clearly in your mind’s eye.
Can I break it down into smaller sub-goals?
While clearly defining your goal is important, it can also be intimidating. Big goals can seem far away and impossible to achieve. That’s why it’s important to break your goal down into smaller sub-goals or milestones. If your goal is create an Amazon affiliate business, you’ll need to do market & product research, create a blog or website to drive traffic, create an Amazon affiliate account, etc.
All of these tasks can be done individually and are a lot less intimidating than the idea of creating an entire business. Once you’ve broken your goal down into these milestones, you can start to tackle them one-by-one.
How long will it take?
Once you have identified your milestones, the next step is to create a timeline that will help you to stay on track and achieve maximum efficiency. You don’t have do each task consecutively or only concentrate on one at a time (unless it’s impossible to move on without completing one or more of them first). If you’re training for an Ironman, you wouldn’t swim every day for a third of the year, then move on to running every day for the next third and spend the last portion of the year cycling. By the time the event arrived, you would already have lost a great deal of your swimming and running fitness.
Try to set deadlines that are both realistic yet also challenging. Trying to move too fast will just demotivate you while giving yourself too much time will encourage laziness.
How will I measure my progress?
As we’ve already discussed, it’s important that your goals are measurable. Simply “losing weight” or “being more financially secure” is not enough. Abstract goals like this leave far too much room for interpretation, excuses and kicking the can down the road. If you can’t measure your progress through metrics or some kind of objective criteria, finding motivation will be a constant struggle and you’ll likely give up before the job is done. If your goal is to earn $10 000 within a year of launch, where do you want to be after 3, 6 or 9 months? If you’re going to complete the Ironman in under 6 hours, what kinds of times do you need to be doing for each discipline at various points in your training regime?
What obstacles could stand in my way?
Next, you need to consider the challenges you may face. While you can’t account for everything, having some idea of what might stand in the way of you achieving your goals will help immensely. This could be anything from financial or time constraints to your own personality, a political situation or coming changes to regulations, technology, etc. While you may not be able to prevent a problem just by knowing it exists, you can plan around it and minimize your chances of being unexpectedly derailed. However, analyzing challenges isn’t a once off exercise. You’ll need to do this sporadically throughout the process of pursuing a goal to avoid being blindsided. Finally, always expect the unexpected. There are very few things in life that go exactly to plan. Coming to terms with this will help you to stay light on your feet and react effectively when unexpected challenges inevitably arrive.
What do I need in order to make it happen?
Now that you have defined your goal and you have a clear idea of how you’re going to get there, the final step is figuring out what resources, tools, skills, knowledge or outside expertise might be required to make it happen. Some things may be essential, while others could be considered ‘nice to haves’. You can’t train for the cycling leg of the iron man without a bicycle, but you don’t necessarily need a professional coach. Equally, you can’t start a website for your affiliate business without paying for hosting, but you don’t necessarily need a web-designer to create your site if you’re willing to put the time and effort into to learning how to do this yourself. That said, having a coach or designer would substantially increase your odds of achieving your goal. Ultimately, it’s up to you to weigh up what resources you have at your disposal and how best to use them. Talking of which…
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