I wasn’t going to write on goals because it can get pretty controversial. There’s thousands of books on the topic. Money usually comes up too, when goals come up. And physical fitness. All sensitive stuff.
But here I am, writing about goals, sharing a bit of my story and what has worked for me…
2011 is the year I actually started setting goals. Before then I didn’t really bother.
I hadn’t yet figured out how to actually move forward yet in my design career. I was basically broke, and had never had a single promotion in my life. I was still working on not being socially awkward too, since I had been homeschooled all the way until I entered community college years prior. I hadn’t read a book in years.
But at the direction of a mentor, I did something I felt pretty silly about at the time. I started writing 5-year goals down. I built a specific vision for my life. I felt silly at the time because I didn’t really know how I was going to achieve my goals. While the perceived difficulty and size of a goal are relative to each person, the goals I was writing down were HUGE to me. They basically painted the picture of my dream life.
After writing my goals down for awhile I actually got serious about them. My wife and I drove through neighborhoods and even toured open houses that were way outside of our ability to afford. We sat in cars we couldn’t buy. We sat in furniture at furniture stores we couldn’t buy. We dreamed. And I still didn’t know at the time how I’d ever achieve those goals. (Note: I don’t necessarily recommend doing these activities with your spouse since it can do more harm than good—Just sharing my story).
I started listening to audiobooks. I adjusted my schedule to allow more focused time for productive things that would move me forward. I learned. I committed.
Here’s the crazy part. I not only met most of those “HUGE” goals from 2011 within five years, I went on to exceed most of them.
Sure, at this point it’s been nine years since I wrote those goals down, but I’m writing this post from the office of my dream house which I bought earlier this year. It’s located in our dream neighborhood in our favorite city. I’ve had three promotions since 2013. I’ve gone from being a designer to leading teams of designers.
I would have laughed in 2011 if you had told me this is where I’d be nine years later from the original goals I wrote down.
No, it hasn’t been only rainbows and unicorns. Some stuff hasn’t happened (yet). Not everything on my original list has been achieved. There’s been plenty of setbacks and disappointments along the way. But I can tell you with certainty I wouldn’t be where I am now without writing the goals down, having a vision for my life, and thinking bigger than my comfort zone.
I’d rather live with the disappointment of not reaching a particular goal than the regret of not having even tried.
I’m not sharing any of this to brag. That’s not the point. I’m sharing this to explain why I think everyone should set goals. I think you should set goals.
It’s a new year and a new decade. If you’ve procrastinated on your goals, it’s time to step up and set some. If not now, then when?
“Could it be that you are living a tiny slice of your potential?”
– Bob Proctor
How to set a 5-year vision for your life
1. Dream big
Screw realistic. Think big. Forget the “how” behind this vision and let yourself dream. Silence your inner critic.
If you don’t feel silly writing down the goal it probably isn’t big enough. And yes, this recommendation of tossing realistic out the window goes against the conventional corporate thinking behind S.M.A.R.T goals used at many companies. However, this isn’t a corporation, this is your life.
You only get one shot at life here on earth. Might as well dream big.
If you dream big you might get all of the way there. You might get some of the way there. But you probably won’t get anywhere near there if you don’t start with a big dream.
“Being realistic is the most common path to mediocrity”
– Will Smith
2. Be Specific
Make your goals specific. You can’t hit a target you don’t aim at.
Authors don’t accidentally write books. People don’t accidentally finish marathons. I didn’t accidentally radically improve areas of my life. I knew where I wanted to go.
Without making your goals specific, you won’t be able to chart your course or find the answers down the road. The what and the how can’t come unless you know where your destination is that you’re going. You can’t effectively travel toward a destination without knowing specifically where you want to go.
“The number one reason most people don’t get what they want is that they don’t know what they want.”
– T. Harv Eker
3. Write the goals down
Write your goals down everyday. I’ll admit I’ve slipped on this particular technique here and there, but I standby it, and I’m currently back on it.
Seems repetitive, doesn’t it? Yes, it sure is. So is brushing your teeth.
Writing your goals down everyday brings focus to your goals and your life. If you write your goals down everyday it will constantly remind you of what you want your life to look like. It will help keep you accountable to yourself and build your confidence when you see yourself taking action consistent with your vision.
It starts to change you. It starts to remind you of what you should be saying “no” to if you actually want to move toward your goals.
“Rewrite your major goals everyday in the present tense. Rewrite them as though they already existed. Write ‘I earn X dollars.’ ‘I have a net worth of X.’ ‘I weigh a certain number of pounds.’ This exercise of writing and rewriting your goals everyday is one of the most powerful you will ever learn.”
– Brian Tracy
4. Not just stuff
Don’t limit your goals to only stuff. There’s so much more to life than money and possessions.
God. Health. Family. Contribution. Relationships. Learning. Hobbies. Parenting. Mindfulness. Travel.
In 2011 my goals were limited to pretty much only career and material possessions. I still tend to focus on those two topics, but over the years I have thankfully grown to embrace goal setting with other topics too.
“All those, within the grip of the will to fail, act as if they had 1,000 years before them… They spend their precious hours as if the store of them were inexhaustible.”
– Dorothea Brande
5. Not just what, but who
The goals we achieve are a bi-product of who we become. However, the ultimate prize of achieving goals is often who we ultimately become and what contributions we make to the world.
It’s not just about you. It’a about your community. Your Church. Your kids. Your legacy.
So get specific about who you want to become, not just what you want to achieve.
If you were to meet the ideal you 5 years from now, what would they be like?
Would you be more generous? Would you be healthier? Would you be patient with your kids? What bad habit would be gone?
“What if the only thing between you and your greatness is you going after it obsessively, as if your life depended on it. Well, it does.”
– Grant Cardone
6. Take the first step
If you set your 5-year vision big enough, you naturally won’t have all of the answers on how to get there. That’s ok. That’s the point. If you knew exactly what to do and had all of the knowledge and experience to execute every step on the path to your goal, then your 5-year goals wouldn’t be big enough.
In her classic book Wake up and Live, Dorothea Brande lays out the argument that we should act as if it were impossible to fail. She credits this with her personal transformation and success.
The point with this step is to do something that gets you closer to your goals. Take some kind of action.
What would you do if you did know what to do? What audiobook would you buy and listen to? What time-wasting habit would you cut? What new skill would you learn?
Pick something and set a deadline. Commit.
I don’t know all of the steps to get to the goals I currently have. But I know the next step, and I know my deadline for the next step. I know where I want to be in 2025.
You won’t have all of the answers today. You won’t have all of the answers after a year either. It’s a journey.
“If you really want to be transformed you have to live an intentional life. Most people don’t lead their life, they accept their life. When you accept your life you are living things that are not worthy of your time and effort.”
– John Maxwell