When trying to plan life goals it’s often difficult to see where the road eventually leads to as it seems so far away. This article takes a look at a way of helping to deal with this often-encountered problem and overcoming it.
I find that it often helps to create a mental image – in terms I can relate to – of any given problem. So for really big projects it pays to have a big image! One I use for visualising life goals is that of a mountain. You are stood there at the foot of the mountain looking at the summit: how do you get there?
It’s tempting to think that you can just set off and, by sheer determination and single-mindedness, reach the top all by yourself. This may be true but for every thousand that set off this way perhaps only one will reach the top. How then do you get there? Well, firstly ask yourself this – just exactly how do you go about climbing a really big mountain?
Let’s think about it. Maybe you have seen documentaries on the subject, maybe not. However, if you think about it, there’s really only one way it can be done: in stages. That’s right – base camp one, base camp two and so on until you are ready to go for the top.
How does this relate to long-term goals? Simply put, it is much easier to break a journey – or a planned life goal – into planned sections rather than take the whole thing at one go. Also, if only one goal is set – in our mountaineering model the summit – then it is impossible to assess how the rest of the journey is progressing.
With only this single goal in sight, two main problems generally occur. The first is that, due to the long time scale – maybe twenty or thirty years in some cases – the goal becomes lost, or changed beyond recognition, or simply forgotten about in the general day-to-day bustle of living. The second is that, with no milestones along the way. the long-term goal can continually shift or become warped or fizzle out due to lack of any measurable achievements.
Thus the setting of intermediate goals is crucial – not only to mountain-climbing success but also to the achievement and realisation of any long-term objective. In any project I undertake I always set short-, medium- and long-term goals. Not only does this let me know how the project is going generally but it also lets me know that I’m on track with my current goal.
Now I wouldn’t blame you for thinking that this way of life is restrictive and maybe even obsessive. I wouldn’t blame you if you thought you couldn’t understand how anyone could live their life with a continuous line of goals stretching away from them into the future. However, I would blame you if, by not learning the simple – and it is simple – process of structured goal-setting you let your potential slip away from you!
It isn’t restrictive – goals can be changed or adapted within the overstructure of your long-term plans. There is nothing wrong with changing your interim goals – as long as YOU change them – not the other way round. Maybe there’s a better way up the mountain than you first thought!
Any goal in life should be have two criteria that are important to recognise. The first is that the goal – maybe the overall life goal or any of the interim goals – is achievable. If it isn’t – and only you can decide if it is or not – then it’s pointless setting it. It will only frustrate and demoralise you. On the other hand, it can’t be too easy either! However, goals that are too easy are preferable to impossible ones – the too-easy goal will soon be identified and you can then toughen it up some!
The second is that the goal should be measurable. How does it move your overall plan forward? How much money has it made you – and is it enough? Has it come in on time – or on budget? If you can’t answer these types of question by assessing your goal then you haven’t got it right and the effectiveness of your goal is reduced.
To summarise this short article, try to remember the following: don’t set a long-term goal without breaking the project down into several measurable, achievable goals; it is much easier to break the project down into chunks you can handle. Do set goals for any enterprise that you consider at all worthwhile and this will soon become habit. Maybe it’s not the coolest habit you could imagine having but, when you stand at the top of your personal mountain it could well seem the most valuable!
Steve Dempster spends his time working towards his life goal and having fun as well. If you would like to look at one way of starting off down a planned path to success, pay him a visit by clicking here