“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
In Part I, we examined the connections between thoughts, feelings, actions, habits, character and destiny, and how deciding to live a life of significance — of consequence — is a critical first step. This goes far beyond new year’s resolutions.
In this installment, I want to give you some tools that will help you stay on track this year and in the years to come. From an actuarial standpoint, if you’re a millennial you have many decades ahead of you on this earth, so bookmark this post (or save it in Evernote) for future reference.
Cast a vision
In Part I, I asked you to think through what your ideal life would look like from the point of view of your friends and family at the end of your natural life. If you haven’t done so, this is a worthwhile exercise that can help you clarify your priorities. Knowing how you want things to end up can help guide you to better decisions along the way.
Break it into chunks
Think about the domains or dimensions of your life — your health, your spiritual life, your relationships, your finances, your work — and place each at the top of a column on a sheet of paper. What do you hope to achieve, to be or to have in each sphere? Write it under its appropriate heading. Then for each column, think through what steps will be needed to accomplish the desired end result. This will illustrate the need for short-term, intermediate-term and long-term goals.
Set SMART Goals
The concept of SMART Goals appears to be an outgrowth of Peter Drucker’s Management by Objective, but George T. Doran coined the SMART acronym/acrostic and published it in Management Review. The idea is that you can establish and achieve goals if they are easy to understand and consist of steps that are simple enough so as not to be overwhelming. To fit this template, SMART goals must be:
Specific — Define the objective in concrete terms. What does the desirable outcome look like? For example: Work up to a single set maximum of at least 25 overhand grip pull-ups, rather than increase my one-set maximum.
Measurable — What scale will we use to determine whether or not we have reached the goal. In the pull-up example above, 25 is a specific number. I’ll either achieve that number of pull-ups in a single set, or I won’t.
Achievable — Given my current personal record, my age and state is what I propose within the realm of possible outcomes? There is no point establish a goal you cannot achieve. Even so, aim high.
Realistic — Is this goal attainable given the facts, resources and time at my disposal? There is no way I’m going to sprout wings or add an inch to my height, so I will avoid goals that do not conform to the the world that is.
Time-bound – A friend of mine likes to say, “A goal is a dream with a deadline.” Ask yourself: By what date will you accomplish this goal?
Pro tip: Make sure to note how you’re going to accomplish each objective. Once you’ve made up your mind to do so, how do you intend to live a life of consequence?
How do I do this?
Here are some tips to help you stay on track:
Capture and subdue your thoughts — Recognize that fears and doubts are part of being human, but they do not have the final say.
Understand that mistakes are part of any worthwhile endeavor — Learn to accept the lessons, shake off feelings of condemnation and keep moving.
Share your goals — Discuss your goals with your mentor (you do have a mentor, right?) or with trusted friends to help keep you from turning back.
Keep your goals in sight — put them on your bathroom mirror. Carry them in your planner. Create a daily or weekly reminder in your smart phone. Just make sure you review your goals and assess your progress regularly.
Don’t try to do too much at once — The key to making this work is to keep the task in front of you bite-sized. Some people are recommending no more than three major goals for a year. I like this approach, as well as choosing three or four themes or key words for the year.
Set goals according to specific roles — If you are a musician and you have a day job (most of us do!), it’s perfectly acceptable to establish goals for each separate domain. However, if your long-term objective is to make a mark on this world — to live a life of consequence — all those annual goals must point to the larger objective and fit under the larger themes.
Choose your friends wisely — Make it a point to associate with people who are also committed to growing — people who are on a mission, who have discovered their purpose. Don’t forget to read books that will inspire you and motivate you. Not all of these are non-fiction or self-help books, by the way. Great stories inspire us in ways commands cannot.
So how about you? How are you laying out the plan to live a life of consequence? Declare it to the world by adding your comments below.