“All our dreams come true if we have the courage to pursue them.” – Walt Disney
I have read a lot of books that talk about how to write and achieve goals. I have kept goals on 3 x 5 index cards and on 8 1/2 x 11 printer paper in a 3-ring binder. Once again, one of the biggest limiting factors for me has been having a portable list of goals.
A 3-ring binder is just not practical for me to carry around everywhere I go. A small stack of 3 x 5 index cards can be handy, but what if you have 15 goals and then an additional 15 affirmations to carry around? I always liked the idea of giving each goal its own 3 x 5 card or notebook-sized sheet of paper. I liked the space that giving a goal its own sheet of paper creates. I didn’t want to just cram all my goals onto one or a few sheets of paper. I wanted them to be able to breathe.
Then there is the issue of categorizing goals and having goals for different areas of life. The best book I have read that talks about how to write goals is How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be by Jack Canfield. He recommends determining your major life categories first, and then deciding what your goals will be in each life area.
Major Life Categories & Core Values
Within the past year I went through Tina Su’s eBook Discover You Now, which is filled with reflective exercises to help you figure out what you want to do with your life and who you want to be. From the exercises in this book, I came up with five core values which I have come to think of as my life categories within which I now think of my personal goals. Here are the life categories I decided matter to me:
I think of these categories in this order because this is how they are prioritized for me. I have always known that health is a major priority for me. My thinking is that health is the number one most important thing in life, because everything else is better when you are in good health. Good health is good life.
Love is next. Love and health really are both very high priority on the list, but health is first because it fuels everything else in my life. You can only love others when you love yourself, and I am happiest when I am healthy. This category encompasses my relationships.
Abundance is not only about having financial independence and freedom, but also an abundance of good things in life and the world. It is about hope and feeling that things will turn out good.
Inner peace is where I keep my goals about being organized. Having organized surroundings and tasks, being on time places, and getting things done early all make me feel peaceful, whereas the alternatives make me feel hectic and stressed. I have no interest in feeling hectic or stressed.
Finally, time freedom is a phrase that I learned while reading through Discover You Now. I have always known this was something I wanted for myself, but didn’t know what to call it. I felt a little guilty even making this one of my major life categories at first, but then I decided that this is my life and if I want my time to be my own then I am going to go for it.
After I decided on my core values and thought about them for a while, I decided that they would also double nicely as my major life categories. I like that there are only five of them. I can easily count them on my hand whenever I want to focus on my life goals, and I often simply run through this list if I only have a few minutes to meditate that day.
The Makings of a Goals List
I have struggled for a long time with what my goals should be. I wasn’t sure how many I should have or how many each category should have. Within the past year, I decided that I wanted to aim to have 3 goals per major life category, for a total of 15 goals. I wanted to have a list that was short enough that I could read through it quickly each day, and also to strike a balance so that each category is getting the attention it deserves.
The Timing of Goals
Very recently I have started to think of my life in seasons. Traditionally we make New Year’s resolutions that may or may not ever get accomplished over many years, let alone one year. From what I have read, it seems that a goal that takes 3 months to accomplish is just the right amount of challenge: not too long that it causes you to lose interest, and not so short that it is not something worth working towards.
Of course not every goal needs to take 3 months to accomplish, but even large goals that might take 6 months or a year to accomplish can be broken down into 3 month chunks. I also like the idea of getting the chance to reset every 3 months, taking the opportunity to review what worked and what didn’t work in the previous season, and taking the time to set new, fresh goals for a new season. Waiting a whole year to set new goals seems boring to me.
My Goals List
Ok, so I actually decided to rename my goals list to “Dreams”. I am big on dreams, and having dreams seems more fun to me than having goals. I have heard a lot of negative, discouraging comments about having dreams, but I decided that going after a dream that everyone else thinks is unattainable is much more fun than just trying to accomplish a regular old goal.
I have my “Dreams” list broken out by season and core value. I also created an Evernote shared notebook template here to explain what I mean. I have read that goals should be written to achieve a certain amount by a certain time, such as “I intend to save $2000 by December 1.” I do believe this is a good strategy, however, I also notice that I write goals like this and then I don’t end up doing what I said I would by the date I set.
Perhaps that means I didn’t work as hard as I should have to achieve the goals, but I have decided to take a different approach (with a few exceptions when it makes sense). Since I am focusing more on creating the lifestyle of my dreams, I am focusing on developing good habits that I plan to keep with me throughout my life. Rather than putting a specific date on my current goals, I have just put them into the category of “fall” to signify that these are things I am focusing on during the current season. This also gives me the flexibility of adding in goals for the upcoming seasons.
I think a benefit of this system is that it allows me to dream realistically and also big. The goals I have for the current season are things that are more realistic while a goal I might have for next summer could be something that I could work towards all year.
A drawback to this system that I haven’t quite figured out how I want to handle is saving old goals so I can look back a year from now and see all that I accomplished. I always liked the idea of keeping some kind of goal archive, because I think it can be motivating to look back and remember that you did something that you once thought was not a possibility. It would be easy enough to keep an archived notebook in Evernote and just move the goals over to that notebook once they are accomplished, however, I am also big on letting go of things of the past to create space for the new, so I am just not sure what I want to do about this yet.
Currently, I am working on developing a good habit of reviewing my dreams and affirmations first thing in the morning, preferably before I meditate so they can really sink into the subconscious during meditation to get worked on throughout the day. Tomorrow I will go through how I have created a companion list of affirmations in Evernote to my dreams list. Namaste!
image credit: this-is-the-life2905