Goals are the basic units of life’s design. They are markers or targets we set to measure our progress along life’s path. In the process of attaining the goals we strive for, we keep our commitments to ourselves, and we experience greater satisfaction in our lives.
Unfortunately, few people ever actually set goals for themselves. And of those who do, fewer still ever follow through on the commitment to themselves and reach their goals. Some prematurely stop for various reasons before they succeed in their objective. Some people change their minds and decide to start over with new goals. Others set their goals unrealistically high for success.
Whatever your reason for not attaining your goals, you can begin now to take control of your life and increase your level of satisfaction—you can set goals for yourself and then work to achieve them. The first step is by getting to know the “real you” and understanding what your inner self wants.
As we increase our self-awareness, we begin to understand more about our strengths and areas of weakness. We discover our individual talents, our areas for improvement, and even certain things about ourselves that need to be changed.
Consider a goal as something that identifies where you want to be. And by doing that, a goal also helps you determine where you are now in relation to where you want to be. A goal provides you with information about how you can attain the results you want, and it gives you a way to determine when you have succeeded. To be effective, therefore, a goal must focus on the outcome more than the activities required to achieve that outcome.
Once you have established goals, you then need to understand how to make “good” decisions to attain your goals. Like goal setting, decision-making is a strategic exercise. Although you can’t predict the future, you can take the future into account in your decision-making by considering the consequences of your choices. This consequential style of thinking is the opposite of impulsive behavior, which ignores the future and produces only short-term gratification. Consider these tips to support consequential decision-making as you prepare for this part of the process:
Imagine the outcome—both the positive and negative aspects of what could happen.
Look for a “fatal flaw” in your decision. When weighing a decision, however, don’t let one “negative” consequence keep you from moving forward with your decision if a number of “positive” consequences outweigh it.
Consider past experiences—they are a good guide to predicting the consequences of your present decisions and actions.
Take the advice of others, particularly if they are familiar with the issues you are trying to make a decision about.
Give yourself enough time to consider all of these points before moving forward. Consequential thinking does slow down the decision-making process, but keep in mind that the amount of time it takes to reach your decision may depend on the length of the shadow your decision will cast.
Most of all, throughout the entire decision-making process, be brave. It might be risky to move forward with your decision, but if you muster up the courage to act on your decisions—you will move in a positive direction toward your goals.
Don’t be discouraged if you run into resistance along the way; resistance is a natural part of the process. Those pressures that helped create the life you’re currently living are the same pressures that create the resistance that may prevent you from even TRYING to go after what you truly want in life. Just understanding this potential roadblock should give you strength to overcome any resistance.
You add to, reshape and continue to form your identity throughout your lifetime—the choices you are currently making are only a few out of the thousands of possibilities. So take charge of your life—the choice is yours!
Marti Eicholz, Ph.D. is founder of the Institute for Transformation in Kirkland, Washington. She is also a national speaker, radio personality and the author of five books. Her most recent title is Personal Relationships: The Art of Living Together. Learn more about the Institute for Transformation at www.transformation.org