Do you make New Year's resolutions every year that evaporate by the end of January? Do you have dreams of things you want to do, but you don't know how to get from where you are now to where you need to be? Or perhaps you feel that you are just drifting, waiting to find the thing that will give your life meaning and significance but unsure of how to find it. If any of these sound like you or you are simply frustrated with your inability to make and stick to goals, the steps below can help you turn your life around.
Identify Your Goals
Even if you already have some aims in mind, this is still a useful step. The reason is that it can help you figure out whether the goals you have are the right ones. What makes for the right ones? Those are the ones that you chose, the ones that are personally meaningful to you. If your ambition is to start a business but you've only chosen it because your older brother started one and you want your parents to respect you like they do him, that's the wrong one. If you want to do anything for reasons that have to do with other people's expectations, it's probably not the right one either. Choosing your goal should be all about what you want.
There are a few different ways to approach this. You might want to think about what you loved and dreamed of doing as a child. You may want to try giving yourself 20 minutes to write down as many ideas as you can think of. You might also want to try journaling, writing about some of your ambitions and what you'd really like to do in the short, medium and long term.
Naming Your Goals
From one of the above exercises, choose one or two things that you want to work toward. You should write them down, but how you frame them is important. They should be specific and should have a well-defined time frame. For example, saying you’d like to go back to school at some point doesn't really give you anything concrete to work toward. Instead, maybe you'll write you want to get your bachelor's degree in math in the next six years. Now you have an actionable goal, but you might be feeling some trepidation about it.
This is another good time to start journaling. One good way to deal with the fears around embarking on a new goal is to actually write down what those fears are and how you'll deal with them. For example, you might write you’re afraid of spending all your money on school and then having to drop out. How do you address those fears?
With some research, you may see that there are many ways you can get money for college. You may be eligible for grants, scholarships and loans. Some private lenders offer great interest rates on student loans and make it easy for you to check your eligibility online. With plans in place to address your big fears, you can then move on to figuring out how you get from here to there.
Identifying the Intermediary Steps
Not being specific enough is one main cause of failure, but not knowing how to identify the steps in between is one as well. If you've never run farther than the end of your driveway, then running a marathon can seem incomprehensible. Yet those steps to the end of your driveway are part of a
continuum that eventually get you to the big finish. Going back to the bachelor's degree example, you might identify the steps as researching schools, deciding if you want to stay local or move, figuring out your financial situation and if you will work while in school, and applying. This is important as these smaller steps should also have time limits. Otherwise, you could spend years on the first step, and you'd look up after the six-year limit you made for yourself and wonder where the time went.
Keep Reviewing and Refining
How will you stay motivated and keep your goal in front of you? Some people like to make a vision board, a physical representation of what they are after. Others prefer to use apps to send reminders and encourage them to keep going. You'll need a system in place to help you keep going when you are discouraged and one that will help you figure out when it might be time to make a change to the goal.
To fight discouragement, giving yourself little rewards along the way may help. Of course, achievement should be its own reward, but sometimes that just isn't quite enough. Choose something genuinely indulgent. Maybe you'll give yourself a hiking trip or spend a weekend watching movies when you make it through each semester with a certain grade point average.
Figuring out when it's time for a change can be tricky because we can be good at fooling ourselves. This might be one more place where your journal will come in handy again. Really dig into the reasons that you're thinking about trying something else. Are you feeling as though you aren't up to the task you've set for yourself? Does it seem like you'll never get to the end? Those are normal feelings when you're working toward something difficult and hard.
On the other hand, maybe you've found something new that you are genuinely excited about. Be wary if this happens. It could mean that it's time to make a change, or it could just mean that the grass is looking greener over there. Dig deep as you write in your journal about the reasons you're thinking about abandoning one goal for a new one. Also consider whether you can pursue this new ambition alongside the old one or if you can put it off for a little while until the older one is complete. Be especially wary if you know that you have a pattern of struggling to stick to things, but you also shouldn't stay with something just for the sake of it if you are genuinely unhappy.
Author bio: Jenna Christine is a corporate relations specialist with over ten years experience in employee relations and brand development roles. She is a dedicated volunteer within the disability advocacy space, and loves to bake and run marathons.