“Do you know where you going to? Do you like the things that life is showing you? Where are you going to? Do you know? “ – Diana Ross
We all have our goals and dreams, don’t we? But some of us seem to be more successful at achieving our goals than others. We can chalk it up to natural talent, the right connections or just plain dumb luck. Sometimes those reasons are valid, but more often than not, people who achieve their goals are people who chose the right goals in the first place.
If we really want to be successful in life, we have to choose the goals that are right for us. We are all unique individuals and our goals and our journeys through life should reflect that. If you want success in life, you need to choose goals that are congruent with your values, your strengths, your passions and your desired lifestyle.
Most of us go right to the lifestyle. “Hey, I want to drive a Jaguar and live in a big house like Joe Blow…he’s a lawyer, so I should become a lawyer, right?” Wrong. Joe has the gift of gab, he has a natural gift for debate and he loves to schmooze at the Country Club. You get nervous when you have to speak in public, you hate conflict and your idea of fun is taking quiet nature walks. Becoming an attorney was a natural choice for Joe. That doesn’t mean it will be for you.
So how do you choose? What do you need to do to make sure that your goals suit you, thus virtually guaranteeing yourself success? You need to ask yourself the following questions:
What are my values?
Your goals must be consistent with your values. For example, if you want to travel, make lots of money and work flexible hours, you could choose to do many things – including becoming a hit-man. But if you value life, and everyone’s right to it, you’re not likely to succeed.
Okay, so that example is a bit extreme, but you get the point, right? Your values will take priority over any other desires you have. So, think about what is most meaningful to you. Organization, cleanliness, beauty and art, social welfare, wealth, compassion, self-expression, family, etc. What are the things that are most important to you? Be honest…nobody is watching. If wealth and beauty are more important to you than family, say so. Becoming an art dealer who travels the world without worries of family obligations would be a much more achievable goal than being an art teacher who tries to work her life around her kids.
What are my strengths?
This doesn’t mean taking an inventory of your skills. Skills are things that you have already learned how to do and, while the skills you have may come into play, new ones can always be developed. Strengths are more or less things that you seem to naturally possess. Some people have the gift of gab, some can seem to solve any problem or puzzle, some have great mechanical ability – they can take any machine apart and put it back together. Your strength might be good judgment, open-mindedness or an ability to gather others together and gain consensus. A great way to figure this out is to take a Strengths Inventory which you can do for free at the Authentic Happiness website. A goal that taps into and utilizes your strengths is a better bet than one that doesn’t.
What do I love doing?
For some of us who have spent a lot of time doing what we should be doing or what we have to be doing, this question can be a tough one. Think about when time flies. Sometimes we get so lost in what we are doing that we lose track of time. This happens when we are doing something we love.
Still can’t think of anything? Think back to when you were ten or so. What did you spend your free time doing? What did you do when school was over, homework was done and it wasn’t dinner time yet? Yes, you may have changed somewhat since then, but taking a little trip back in time can help us to uncover passions that we have abandoned and forgotten. I loved to draw and to read and take walks in the woods. I liked to collect leaves and have picnics. Maybe you loved to build forts. Can you think of ways that these passions could be put to use now? Publishing, writing and illustrating children’s books, painting landscapes, becoming a park ranger? How about carpenter, architect, playground designer, volunteering as a camp counselor?
What do I want my ideal day to look like?
If you like to putter around in the morning and do most of your work late into the evening, you don’t want to become a preschool teacher any more than you would want to tend bar if you like to go to bed no later than 10 p.m. Make sure that the reality of what you think you want to do actually meshes with the way you like to operate. Take some time to outline your ideal day. What types of things would you do and when? Use this schedule as a test for any goals you may be considering. How well will they fit into your day?
What’s required to reach this goal and will I enjoy the journey?
This may be the most important question of all. While it is true that sometimes you have to do some hard work and make some sacrifices to achieve your goals, if everything you must do to achieve your goals is a struggle and a sacrifice, you’re simply on the wrong path. It won’t be long before you start to veer off the road and give up. It’s important to remember that those goals we have will provide only a brief moment of enjoyment when we reach them. We soon adapt to our new life, get bored and look for something else to work towards. It’s human nature. The majority of our time is spent on the journey itself. Remember this. If the journey is not going to be enjoyable, why bother? You will not only likely fail to ever reach your goal, but you will also make your self miserable in the process. Trust me, I know this from years of personal experience.
Achievable goals are well-thought-out goals; goals that match who you are, what you do well and what you want out of life. Not sure where you’re going or why? Don’t know what you can achieve? Stop. Give yourself time to think. Look deep inside. That is where the answers lie. Know yourself first, then choose your goals. Choose wisely and success will be yours.