If you are anything like me, the idea of committing to a goal or vision can be scary. It requires taking a hard look at where we are at and contrasting that with where we want to be. It requires sacrifice and discipline. It requires staring down the potential for disappointment and laughing in its face. But, if you are determined grab life by the reins and change your circumstances, there are seven steps you can take to help you succeed at your goal.
1. DEFINE YOUR VALUES.
Whether we are aware of it or not, we all live by a set of principles or values. These values become apparent through the decisions that we make and the fruit of our behaviors. While we may say that we value or believe something, our actions betray what really lies within our hearts.
For example, if you value your feelings above all else, you will more than likely fall into a hedonistic lifestyle, giving into immediate pleasures and what feels good. You will be more prone to live in the here-and-now, with no sights set on the future. However, if you value financial security, building wealth, and saving, this will be evident in how you manage your money, regardless of how much you earn. While we are all human and have tendencies/make mistakes, it is important to be conscious of our values, allowing us to use informed decision making. For this step, I recommend sitting down and actively writing out values you wish to apply to your life, being mindful of how this will play out in your day-to-day.
2. DETERMINE WHAT YOU WANT TO BE TRUE 1, 5, 10, AND EVEN 30 YEARS FROM NOW.
Identifying what we want in life can be a challenge. If your journey has been anything like mine, there are periods where no amount of dreaming or planning seems to matter – things happen that are out of our control. Whether through job loss, the death of friends and family, or unforeseen medical expenses (to name a few), it can be easy to feel as though we are simply running on the proverbial hamster wheel of change. In spite of this (or really because of this), it is all the more important to ask yourself, “Where do I want to be in the future?”
As you go through this exercise, it may be helpful to start with a shorter timeline (roughly one year), especially if you are just getting into the habit of forward thinking. Whether you want to pay down (or off) debt, purchase a home, write a book, or declutter your home, write down affirmative phrases (e.g. In a year I want to lose 50 pounds, or I want to pay of $12,000 in debt) that pertain to your goals and/or desires.
During this step keep things simple and add to your vision as it becomes more clear. You will add the practical details in the following steps.
3. TAKE INVENTORY OF WHERE YOU ARE AT.
A main theme in setting goals and visions is honesty. In order to be successful, we must be honest and take inventory of where we are at. Full disclosure – this can be painful. In order to pay down debt, you must take a snapshot of your financial life in order to determine what can be cut from your expenses. It will also show you how much you need when increasing your income. If you want to lose weight, you will need to be honest with how much you eat, what you eat, and if there are any possible health conditions making it more difficult along the way.
Whatever goal you have in mind, writing down a clear, concise picture of where you currently stand will help you determine the steps that you need to take in order to be successful. Doing so provides a foundation for discipline and accountability, especially if you are surrounding yourself with encouragement and community (as I will touch on in step six).
4. MAKE A LIST OF PRACTICAL STEPS REQUIRED TO MOVE YOU FROM POINT A TO POINT B.
We’ve all heard the mantra, “You can be anything you want to be.” And while this may be true (unless you are tone deaf and want to be a singer – see step three if this is you), what we aren’t often told is that success takes intentionality, hard work, and planning. If you want to pay of that $12,000 worth of debt, it isn’t going to happen by wishing it away – especially if you continue the habits that earned your debt in the first place. You may need to find a second job or move to a new one that pays more – possibly both. If you want to lose weight but struggle to do so, you may need to work with your doctor to discover what is causing your body to retain weight (if things like overeating have been ruled out). No matter your goal, it will take practical steps to get there. Financial security, health, and goals involving your career (such as becoming a doctor, or writer, or world-renowned trapeze artist) will always require some level of skill, practicality, and ingenuity.
5. DETERMINE YOUR WHY.
Because of human nature, sticking to a set goal becomes much more purposeful when you have determined your why. Determining your why is akin to an elite-level athlete pumping their body full of nutrition. Let your why become fuel that will see you through to the end and produce endurance.
In this step, take the statements outlined in step two, and add a because to each one. For example, I want to be debt-free because I want the freedom to …. I want to lose 50 pounds because I want to set a good example for my kids … You may find that finishing your statement in this way helps to define an even larger goal that is 10, 15, or even 30 years out.
6. SET A DEADLINE
Now that you have your honest snapshot, do something really bold and set a deadline. Setting a deadline provides even more definition to the actions outlined in step number four. In order to meet your deadline(s), you will need to meet certain markers along the way, being intentional with your time, money, and attention.
7. TAKE ACTION ON THE STEPS OUTLINED DURING STEP FOUR.
Based on your lists and information gathered in the previous steps, set your goals in motion. Change your diet, take on an extra job, cancel your cable and/or monthly subscriptions, find ways to learn whatever skill(s) will be necessary to succeed at your goals. Many of these steps will seem small from a daily perspective, but you will be shocked at how little choices add up over time.
Personally, I have found a way to save over $300 a month, simply by cutting out things like Barkbox, Netflix, grounded internet, and cafe-purchased espresso beverages. Plus, I save even more by not eating out (for both financial and food sensitivity reasons). Don’t be afraid to get creative with this step. While I have been blessed with a job that doubled my income in the last year, I spent nearly 8 years working 2-3 jobs at a time just to make ends meet. During that time I gained invaluable experience and skills that prepared me for the job I have now.
The hustle is worth it in the long-run.
8. CONNECT WITH PEOPLE WHO WILL HELP, TEACH, AND ENCOURAGE YOU ON YOUR JOURNEY.
One of the best phrases I have ever heard is, “You can’t one another yourself.” This allusion to the verse, “Bear one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2), is an important reminder to put ourselves in a position of encouragement and accountability with other people. Whether you enter your vision process with close friends or choose to listen to influential teachers via online platforms, find ways to get plugged in and inspired. Life will continue to bring curveballs, and old habits can be hard to break. Being surrounded by a group or community will help you to overcome any periods of discouragement along the way. Plus, you will learn a lot and grow as an individual.
9. BONUS TIP: NEVER GIVE UP.
You can do it, and State Farm can help …
You really can do it.
One minute you may feel as though you are alone in a pit with no chance of getting out, and the next you may find yourself placed on a mountaintop. In those mountaintop moments, I guarantee that you will look back and be grateful for every ounce of hard work and every painful moment.
Never give up.