Before we know it, 2010 is going to be upon us. So I want to devote this post to encouraging people to take time over the next three weeks of December to dream about what they want, and then come up with a detailed action plan of how to get there.
I’ve noticed it’s the action part that often trips us up in pursuit of our goals. Action plans tend to get left out when New Year’s resolutions get made. Which is a shame, since we’re capable of more than we realize once we know what we should be doing.
I’m going to provide an example of the 5-year goal & action exercise. Both BOOKLIFE by Jeff VanderMeer and HOW TO GET OUT OF DEBT by Jerrold Mundis have this particular exercise in their books. Mundis’ book also has many other planning exercises readers can try 0ut as well.
Step 1: Spend quiet time thinking about what you’d like to be doing and how you’d like to be 5 years from now. Write everything down on a piece of paper. Then go back to your list, and try to be specific if you can (for example, “be an author” is a bit vague, while “publish 2 novels and 10 short stories” is more specific). Goals are like a seesaw in trying to keep away from vagueness (i.e. “be happy”) versus unrealistic specifics (i.e. “marry Alan Rickman by 2012”).
A real Step 1 goal I had a few years ago: Completely pay off all the credit cards in five years.
Step 2: Choose the three to five goals dearest to your heart. Now come up for each of them a subgoal that is doable in one year.
Step 2 example: 1) Learn how to deal with debt, 2) track my finances, and 3) stop the credit card balances from increasing.
Step 3: Now ask for each 1-year goal, “What actions can I take this year that will bring me closer to my goal?
Step 3 example: 1) Find and read best books on debt and how to get out of it, 2) lock credit cards away, 3) learn how to do budgets, 4) do budgets each month, 5) brainstorm ways to save money and earn more money.
Step 4: Now ask, “What can I do this month towards my 1-year goals?”
Step 4 example: 1) Find and read best books on debt, 2) lock credit cards away.
Step 5: Now ask, “What can I do this week towards my 1-year goals?”
Step 5 example: 1) Research books on debt at the library, and 2) lock credit cards away.
Actions are cumulative, like pebbles rolling down a stone-strewn mountain to trigger a landslide. Each small action I took to get the credit cards paid off had cumulative effects over time. I learned how to control my credit card usage. Created spending plans and spreadsheets that tracked how I spent money in about 25 different categories. And had to make many other small changes in my behavior.
It never ceases to amaze me how tiny actions taken on a daily basis can lead to big changes in a few years. I encourage readers to give this method a try and let me know in December 2010 how it went. Good luck!