The important thing is not where you were or where you are but where you want to get.
Without knowledge of your destination, you are bound to waste your time, driving aimlessly. Even if you know where you wish to go but don’t plan on how you’ll get there then you’re bound to get lost.
In life, there is a default position where people aimlessly wander, simply hoping that someday their dreams come true. But no one ever stumbles upon success. No one accidentally achieves their dreams.
Rather, the achievement of one’s dreams requires concentrated and focused effort. As David J. Schwartz puts it in his book The Magic of Thinking Big:
A goal is an objective, a purpose. A goal is more than a dream; it’s a dream being acted upon. A goal is more than a hazy “Oh, I wish I could.” A goal is a clear “This is what I’m working toward.”
The importance of goal setting is common knowledge. So common that we often underestimate its importance of it and overlook the benefits we can derive from it. Many times we set big goals that we hope to achieve someday without giving thought to the smaller steps that will get us to our goal. Or, we may figure out the small things that we need to do but don’t know to what end we are aiming for.
Either way, you’ll have a hard time reaching your goals.
Instead of vague wishes, goal setting should be used not only to accomplish certain actions but also to improve yourself and improve the conditions of your life. To this point, David Schwartz encourages people to create a 10-year plan. This sounds like a daunting task because many of us don’t even know exactly what we want for dinner, how then can we create goals for ourselves for the next 10 years?
First, you have to understand the importance of such action. Schwartz uses the analogy of a forward-looking business, which would be business’ which plan for the future in order to keep growing, as a blueprint for individual growth.
Each of us can learn a precious lesson from the forward-looking business. We can and should plan at least 10 years ahead. You must form an image now of the person you want to be 10 years from now if you are to become that image. This is a critical thought. Just as the business that neglects to plan ahead will be just another business (if it even survives), the individual that fails to set long-range goals will most certainly be just another person lost in life’s shuffle. Without goals, we cannot grow.
In recent times I’ve started to think more about the kind of person I want to be as much as the things I want to accomplish. I look for the characteristic that I wish to have and those characteristics I wish to get rid of such as browsing car ad’s or looking for some new gadget that would be nice to own for the time being. Not that there is anything wrong with material possessions, but those things come and go and only bring me short term satisfaction but there is a nagging voice in my head that keeps me from being satisfied with the person that I am because I know that I am not who I wish to be.
This is where goals like the 10-year plan. Such plans can allow you to aim at an ideal version of you and can help you outline steps to get there. In order to create your own long term plan, you have to focus on two things.
First, visualize your future in terms of three departments: work, home and social. Dividing your life this way keeps you from becoming confused prevents conflicts, helps you look at the whole picture.
Second, demand of yourself clear, precise answers to these questions: what do I want to accomplish with my life? What do I want to be? and What does it take to satisfy me?
A more detailed plan would look somewhat like this:
Work department: 10 years from now:
- What income level do I want to attain?
- What level of responsibility do I seek?
- How much authority do I want to command?
- WHat prestige do I expect to gain from my work?
Home Department: 10 years from now:
- What kind of standard of living do I want to provide for my family and myself?
- What kind of house do I want to live in?
- What kind of vacations do I want to take?
- What financial support do I want to give my children in their early adult years?
Social department: 10 years from now:
- What kinds of friends do I want to have?
- What social groups do I want to join?
- What community leadership positions would I like to hold?
- What worthwhile cause do I want to champion?
I would personally add a self department which would be to work on your own health and habits, including attitudes and behaviors.
All of this planning and goal setting is done because, in order to get somewhere, you must know first where you are going. Once you have an aim then you can take action. Once your long term goals are set then you can break them down into smaller steps which would include the things you need to accomplish this year which would get you closer to your overarching goal and then, what you need to accomplish within the next 6 months, 3 months, month, weeks, and days.
In this manner, you live your life actively with each day being of use. You wake up with a purpose and plan and go to sleep knowing that you did what you were supposed to do and over time you will be able to recognize the progress you have made.
This is ultimately the point of goal setting: To make incremental progress. Such progress brings meaning to one’s life and leads to a more fulfilled life.
Use goals to live longer. No medicine in the world–and your physician will bear this out–is as powerful in bringing about long life as is the desire to do something.