You’ve heard the term “think big” and “don’t live in the past”, but how many times have you heard “don’t live in the future” or “think small”? Personally, I believe this piece of advice is helpful in our personal lives as well as our professional one.
Do you ever say “I’ll start that diet tomorrow”, “I’ll clean out the garage next week”, or “I’ll look for a better job next year”.
Why do we do these things?
Because in the future, you’re happier, more successful, richer and you have the career you’ve always wanted. Or at least that’s how you see yourself. It’s always easier to envision a better you in the future because it’s filled with hopes and dreams for your life. For the most part, this positive visualization is a good thing.
It becomes negative however, when you don’t set a path for yourself to reach the better you of the future.
It’s like eating an entire bag of potato chips as you envision the healthier and more fit you of the future. It’s counter-productive! You clearly have a goal of taking charge of your heath or the way you look, yet you haven’t set short-term attainable goals to reach that final destination of the fit you.
Setting short-term attainable goals = living in the present
Many of you may be in a job you absolutely hate, the kind that makes you hate going to work in the morning. You probably imagine yourself in a happier career 5 years from now.
The question is: how do you get there? If you don’t have baby steps, it’s easy to get discouraged and give up. Think of it as a checklist. Every time you accomplish one baby step, you check/cross it off your list. Who doesn’t like crossing things off their checklist?
Checklists are awesome for two reasons
- They make you feel like you’ve accomplished something, which will inspire you to continue to your next goal and before you know it, you will have reached your final destination.
- They break up the voyage to the long-term goal and makes you feel like it is actually a goal you can reach.
Okay, so you have your checklist. Now what?
Use the ‘S.M.A.R.T method to create your goals
This is the most crucial step. Make your goals specific and not something broad and loose. Let’s use the potato chip example… saying something like “I will get healthy” is not as specific as “I will lose 5 pounds a month”.
What great about having a specific goal is that it allows you to measure your progress. At the end of the month, you won’t say that you ‘kinda’ reached your goal, you either did or you didn’t. If you did, you know you’re on the right track. If you didn’t, you know you have to make changes to reach make up for it and reach your goal next month.
Setting a goal of losing 30 pounds in a month is not going to happen… at least not for most of us. Your success or failure depends on setting a goal that is realistic. If you set one that is impossible to reach, you’ll get discouraged and give up. But don’t go too easy on yourself either just to make it attainable. You have to challenge yourself, that’s how you make changes!
Be honest and know your limitations. No matter how awesome you are, some things just can’t be done. No matter how hard we try, most of us will not be able to look like a supermodel. Be honest with yourself when evaluating your abilities and commitments.
This one’s my favorite. You need to set a deadline because having a specific amount of time allows you to set a schedule to reach your goal. Instead of saying ‘someday, I’ll lose 30 pounds” you can say “By the end of the year, I’ll lose 30 pounds”. Without an end date, there is not sense of urgency and no reason to start taking action today.
Your future goals start with small attainable goals today. You need to feel like you’re reaching goals along the way in order to feel like you’ve met your long-term goal. This provides a broader definition of your goals that will help you reach not only your professional goals, but your personal ones as well.