We all have certain aspirations in life. We tell them to our friends and family. We write them down. And other times we keep them hidden underneath our brain wrinkles.
Whatever we do, they are there; they are implicit in our conscious action. They are short-term and long-term ideas we have in mind for the future.
But if we don’t periodically ask questions like “Where am I going? How will I get there?” our goals begin to drift further and further away from our outcomes. We are no longer exercising our free will, we are instead like puppets pulled by strings.
Making a list
It has been exactly one month now since I wrote about goal-setting in my article, “Create A Timeline To Better Envision Your Goals.” In this post I emphasized the importance of writing down our goals, making ourselves more conscious of these aspirations, and getting ourselves in the mindset to achieve them. I also promised my readers that I would write a follow-up article touching on ways you can improve your timeline to make it more effective in helping you meet these goals.
Making a goal timeline is simple. All I recommend is that you list out the goals you want to achieve within certain time frames, for example:
Within the next hour,
Within the next day,
Within the next week,
Within the next month,
Within the next year
Within the next decade.
Once you write your list, save it, and try to update it every 3 months. Remember, your goals aren’t set in stone.
Whether you have written them down or not, you probably have a decent recollection of the types of things you have wished to accomplish throughout your lifetime (at least the biggest and most important ones).
When you re-visit your goals there are several things you might notice:
1. Some of your goals may have already been accomplished.
One of the best feelings in the world is to finally accomplish one of your long-term goals. When I refer back to the list I made last month (and especially to the goals that I listed to complete “Within the month,”) I can already begin to sense some form of accomplishment.
2. You may have changed your mind on certain goals.
You may glance through the list and notice you aren’t as enthusiastic about some of these plans as you were when you first made them. Of course, as long as you have genuinely lost interest, and you are not just fishing for reasons to quit, then there is absolutely nothing wrong with changing some of your goals. We change (and many times for good reason).
3. You may want to add new goals to your list.
Just like the point made above: we are always changing. As some interests diminish, others develop.
4. Some goals are becoming less and less likely to achieve.
Some goals you may still be very interested in, but you simply don’t have the physical and mental resources to do them. They are becoming not likelihoods. Maybe you’re simply “not good enough” to become a professional baseball player, or a local politician, or a model – so what, most of us aren’t. We have to sometimes accept our limitations, and if you can acknowledge which goals are becoming more and more unrealistic, then you can filter them from the list and divert your attention on more important things. Yeah, it sucks, and it can temporarily hurt your drive, but it is better than wasting resources on things that you stand little chance of accomplishing.
5. Some goals you are on your way towards completing.
You may already be on the right path toward some of these goals. Good job and stay focused.
How often should I re-evaluate my goals?
You want to be consistent, but not excessive. At least once every 2-3 months should be a healthy refresher. Doing things like this can really be a great exercise and it only takes 10 minutes. It is a way to take a step back, so that you keep your mind concentrated on the things you really wish to make out of life, and not letting yourself get lost in the hectic tides of a busy work schedule. When I reflect back on my goals, I like to think of it as a kind of meditation; a way for me to assess the karma of my actions (what they are leading to) and adjust them accordingly.
Good planning means adding details
Like Abraham Lincoln says in the quote above, “A goal properly set is halfway reached.” But what does it mean to properly set a goal? Making lists can be useful, but better planning requires that we add details to our goals. So, you want to be a doctor? That’s great! But what steps do you have to take to get there? For starters, you will probably need to maintain a high GPA all throughout college, then you have to take the MCAT exam, than get into a medical school, than pass medical school, find a job as a doctor, etc. And that is just the surface (I’m only brainstorming about how to become a doctor), eventually you need to actually do research, talk to professors and administrators, and then act out those plans.
Where are the best places to get the details?
Depending on your goals there are a variety of ways to seek advice or guidance. The internet has proven to be one of the most valuable resources within our recent history. If you are unsure about anything, you can go to forums to ask questions, search something on Google, find a blog of someone who is a professional, find a video of someone doing it on Youtube, or read about the subject on Wikipedia.
You can also talk to friends, family, coworkers, or fellow students who may have experience with what you want to accomplish. Maybe you want to learn more about recording and your uncle’s best friend owns his own studio. Maybe you want to get your grades up in a class, so you find a friend who is majoring in the subject to tutor you. Don’t hesitate to ask around, because a lot of answers may be right in front of you.
One thing I like to do to learn about a topic is go to my local library. As long as you live in the area you should be able to get a library card and take out books, CDs, and DVDs for free. This is a great way to find informational gems that you would otherwise not get on the internet or through friends. In many ways, the library is what sets you apart from the pack. I try to always keep myself in the middle of some book to keep my mind active.
Visualization and “seeing all the way through”
How often does it happen when we see people make a mistake and then say to themselves, “I just didn’t see my actions all the way through.”
Visualizing our actions and the consequences to those actions can help us to avoid making those mistakes. It is a great way to prepare ourselves mentally before we begin acting out our goals. Visualization has been used in Sports Psychology for decades now as a method of rehearsal and motivation.
Also, this was recently reported by one psychiatrist and brain researcher in an article at the Huffington Post:
“Although visualization was regarded as ‘new age hype’ for many years, research has shown that there is a strong scientific basis for how and why visualization works. It is now a well-known fact that we stimulate the same brain regions when we visualize an action and when we actually perform that same action. For example, when you visualize lifting your right hand, it stimulates the same part of the brain that is activated when you actually lift your right hand. This shared area of brain activation when we imagine an action and perform it has been demonstrated extensively in the scientific literature. A striking example of how visualization increases brain activation is seen in stroke.
When a person has a stroke due to a blood clot in a brain artery, blood cannot reach the tissue that the artery once fed with oxygen and nutrients, and that tissue dies. This tissue death then spreads to the surrounding area that does not receive the blood any more. However, if a person with this stroke imagines moving the affected arm or leg, brain blood flow to the affected area increases and the surrounding brain tissue is saved. Imagining moving a limb, even after it has been paralyzed after a stroke, increases brain blood flow enough to diminish the amount of tissue death. This is a very clear indicator of the power of visualization. “
Visualization can be great method for improving learning, motivation, and goal-setting. It allows us to consciously prepare an idea, even though we haven’t practiced it yet in the real world. Visualization is most effective when we take into account the different ranges of possibilities, and how different decisions can lead to different sets of outcomes. This is a big part of what it means when we say to “see things all the way through.” By imagining ourselves doing certain actions, and by imagining the consequences of those actions, we can check to see if they are congruent with our original intentions.
One caveat, however, is to not mistaken the efficacy of visualization in The Secret-sense of the term. This means that, contrary to New Age garble, merely visualizing your desires will never get you the things you want. It is only a form of planning, and eventually you need to consciously act out that plan.
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