It is again that time of the year where everyone makes plans how their life will improve in the next 12 months. People tend to reflect on the stuff that happened in the past year and also plan for the new ones coming with the new year. Well, this doesn’t take more than a couple of days and things go back to where they were really fast, no more than a week after you did your plan.
I have been doing my yearly goals now for more than 7 years. Time just flies by. I have prepared my plan for the next 10 years (it was done back in 2017) where I see myself and where I would be happy to be. But with each passing year, I just see how I leave more and more goals unfinished and I have been dragging them for a couple of years now. And I was thinking about which are the most important things that helped me achieve some of them and also not achieve others. Here is my small guidance on working towards achieving your personal life goals:
I cannot emphasize more how important this aspect of goal settings is. Specific goals help you achieve them. You can take small steps towards them, measure them, reward yourself for achievements, and many more. The more specific a goal is, the easier it is to move it to the Done column. If you want to have financial freedom, don’t just write down „Have financial freedom by 5 years“. Write the small steps that will get you there:
- Improve current codebase test coverage to read 60%
- Read a book on latest Kotlin features
- Finish a course on Product Management by 6 months
- Mentor a person each week
- Get a team lead status by the end of December
You can even split these tasks into smaller steps and use the Kaizen way to achieve them.
Focus on the meaningful stuff and not the material ones
There is this book by Erich Fromm, To Be or To Have that really changed my mindset when I look at personal goals. Material stuff is important, yes, you need to have food on the table, make sure kids have everything they need and your family is not restrained. But another really important aspect of personal goals is to be happy, to feel joy. The Bible focuses really a lot on the word „joy“ as it is one of the purest feelings a human can feel. Try to focus on goals that bring you „joy“. This joy will help you grow as a person, grow your inner strengths and fulfill your life with meaning. Goals like planting trees, helping the poor, teaching people, investing in your family harmony and relationship – these are the ones that bring joy into your life. Yes, you may earn a lot of money one month that will make you feel really good, but remember that feeling is temporary and it doesn’t last really long. While meaningful goals last, they bring you a feeling of joy that lasts and which you will remember long after achieving them. And they just make you proud of yourself.
Take a step each day
The goals that are left behind are usually the ones that you don’t walk to every day. You leave them for tomorrow, for next week, for next month and suddenly the year ends and they are still on your list. If they are really important to you – then focus on them each day. Make a step towards them. Eat a healthy meal, write a single page, learn a single lecture. This is how you are going to get there.
Goals need YOUR time. As everything else in life
Time is what we humans spend without realizing it is our most important asset. We spend it on so much useless stuff and never have enough of it for important things. Goals need your time. Every day. Each decision to go shopping for hours will leave you without hours to work on the important stuff. It is fine to rest, relax and take your time. But keep in mind that it is very easy to lose your focus and just spend your time irrationally, just doing random stuff that doesn’t focus on the joy but rather brings you that temporary feeling of possession and happiness.
Check your progress regularly
This has been a really problematic point for me. 7 years and I still haven’t managed to do it right. You need to track your progress. You need to see it fulfilled, moving, achieving. And this needs to happen regularly, at least twice per week. There should be a time where you reminisce about your goals, where you want to be, what you want to look like, what would life look like for you if you have achieved part of the meaningful stuff.
I know it is hard, especially if you work at many places, have a family, or just simply want to relax at the end of the week. But remember, time is your most precious asset and if you don’t spare a small portion of it on the important stuff, there is no way you will get where you want to be. Sad but true. Try to spare these 30 minutes on the weekend somehow. Maybe while the others are sleeping, maybe early in the morning. The path is never easy and there is always a price to pay. Pay a price for being a better human, to have a better life, to have meaningful relationships.
Software can help but won’t do it for you
I have used a lot of apps to list, monitor, and achieve my goals. Todoist, Microsoft ToDo, AnyDo, Trello, Jira, NirvanaHQ, Filofax planner, and many many more. The fact is really simple. The software helps you but won’t do it for you. If you don’t spare the time, Todoist can spam you every morning to check your life goals but you just dismiss the notification and everything goes to hello. Jira and Trello have all of your goals there, they look good when you see them spread into stories and tasks but 1 week later, do you even remember the link for that website?
Software is good but the focus is not the program that you use. The focus is you and your life. The vision of where you want to be is what should motivate you to use the software and not this stupid annoying daily notification that spams your phone each morning. You have to set up a reminder in your brain that says „I want to have a meaningful life. I want to feel joy“. And this should happen with each morning when you open your eyes.
Reward yourself when you achieve and not when you start
Rewards are important. This is the moment where you feel joy when you achieve goals. This is your celebration that despite all of the life problems, despite all of the issues you have to fight on a daily basis you make a small step towards having a good life. It is important to celebrate it because there will be times where no one will appreciate the progress you make but yourself. You have to be proud of yourself. Of what you do, of how you achieve it, of the direction that you are following and that many fail to follow. So don’t leave the joy behind. Experience it, enjoy it. Getting the book out on the shelves, finishing the personal project you have been trying to achieve for so many years, seeing your kids wearing the jacket with the sign „Bright future“ on it, this is what you have been fighting for every day. It gives you goosebumps already, right? Each such goosebump makes the journey more and more joyful.
It is all about you
Remember, even if you have family, even if you have multiple jobs, even if you have hundreds of friends, in the end – it is all about you. You in your family, you at your job, you among your friends. When you bring yourself forward everyone around you moves forward together with you. So you should not rely on anyone else but yourself. And whenever you get that feeling of „Hey, maybe I should slack it today and don’t do anything“, just remind yourself that you are a ruler of your life and it is all about you. If you take that decision then you will not be where you want to be. And you can only blame yourself. Count the „you“‘s in this paragraph.
Well, these are the things I managed to get through these many years of settings goals. Maybe they are already obvious for you – then it is great, you are on the right path. Maybe they are not obvious – then maybe I have helped you to think about a broader aspect of goal setting. Most of these things sound very basic and maybe even primitive but actually, they are very complex. Setting time aside every day is complex. Looking at your progress is complex. Doing even a small tiny step can be hard. Goal setting is not about having journals, tens of pens, 4 different software products, and a complex system to manage everything. It is about you, your joys in life, the steps you need to take and you getting there. And for me personally, everything spins around reminding yourself every single day what would bring joy and what would make your life meaningful. Everything else after that comes naturally.