Resolved: An Achievable Plan to Reach Your Dreams


 

I'm in the business of helping people build happiness, both here and at my day job. An important part of that is to help you reach your dreams. To do that, you need to turn your dreams into goals, and your goals into achieveable objectives.

It's a whole lot easier than it sounds, and I'm here to help you learn to reach your dreams.

Turning a Dream into a Goal:

[amazon_link id="B00AA8FYTE" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ][/amazon_link]To start, pick one overreaching goal to strive for during the year. Everything else falls into place under that goal.

Ask yourself: 'What one thing do you want to change (improve) (maintain) in your life in the next year?' and keep in mind that this goal needs to be something you at least have the power to influence. In other words, your goal will primarily change your behavior or outlook, not someone else's behavior or outlook. A goal of 'identifying what I want in a relationship and look for relationships able to provide that' is a more useful goal than 'I want to be married to (insert name here) by next December'.

A goal doesn't necessarily have to be measurable, but it needs to be achievable. It can be a dream that you have held for a long time, or it can be a piece of that dream that you think you'll be able to accomplish in a year. My goal for 2013 is to 'see my way forward toward writing full time within five years'. In other words, my own personal business plan for this year is to lay the groundwork for changing careers, not actually change careers.

[amazon_link id="0470399937" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ][/amazon_link]Your goal should be stated positively ('I will' vs. 'I won't') and should be one sentence that doesn't run on too much.

What do You Have Going for You? Strengths and Resources.

Before you can harnessthis really awesome goal of yours to reach your dreams, you need to identify the tools you'll be working with. To do this, you need to identify your strengths and resources.

Strengths are things you have going for you that come from within yourself, and Resources are things that provide help from outside yourself. List between three and five of them that will help you reach your goal.

Strengths might include:

  • Excellent writing skill
  • Determination to meet goal
  • Outgoing
  • Loving
  • Sense of fun
  • Good coping skills for stress

[amazon_link id="1400069289" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ][/amazon_link]Resources might include:

  • Good job with benefits (or spouse or partner or parent with good job and benefits)
  • Support from (specific family members or friends)
  • Reliable vehicle
  • Fast computer and comfortable writing desk
  • Gym membership with helpful employees
  • Letters of recommendations

What Might Get in the Way of Reaching Your Dreams? Liabilities and Weaknesses

Now that you have identified what you have going for you, you need to honestly examine what might get in your way. Weaknesses, like strengths, come from within, and liabilities are life situations outside yourself that might pose a challenge.

[amazon_link id="0767920082" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ][/amazon_link]Weaknesses might include:

  • Tendency toward procrastination
  • Low tolerance for stress
  • Poor coping skills for anger
  • Chronic health problems
  • Ignorance of (insert needed skill here)
  • Inability to say 'no'
  • Inability to say 'yes'

Liabilities might include

  • High debt
  • Underemployed or unemployed
  • Critical family members or friends
  • Legal matters that are in the way
  • Inadequate housing, health care, or food
  • Inadequate work area to achieve goal

The point of listing weaknesses and liabilities isn't to cause you to despair or to lose hope, but to help you identify specific changes you need to make in order to reach your dreams. When you know that your inability to say 'no' to other peoples' requests is getting in the way of your dreams, you can target it as something to change. When you know that you won't be able to reach your dreams until you have a good enough job to begin paying down some old debts.

Measurable Objectives: Defining How You're Going to Reach Your Goal

Once you've come up with your main goal and figured out what you have working for and against you, you need between 3 and 7 objectives that are measurable. It's not a bad idea to mine your strengths and weaknesses for ideas for some of these objectives. With each one, ask yourself how it will help you reach your dreams and tie back to your original goal.

It can help by working toward the change you are trying to make, or by conserving things you already have in your life that you don't want to lose in this change.

Measurable objectives could look like this:

I will exercise three times a week for 45 minutes each time. (notice a number of times per week and an amount of time per session.)

[amazon_link id="1583334386" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ][/amazon_link]Not like this:

I will work out more often. (this objective has no numbers in it. What does 'more' mean? More than what? More than who? How will I tell?)

The definition of 'numbers' in this case includes words like 'all, half, and none', but not words like 'more', 'less', and 'some'. The key is 'is it specific' and 'can I measure a difference'?

Maintenance Objectives

1-3 of your objectives should be 'maintenance' objectives: objectives that 'keep you going' day to day.  The sample exercise objective above is a maintenance objective for most goals, unless your goal is specifically to improve your health.

A maintenance objective 'maintains' something you already have, ensuring you don't give up something important in your quest to reach your dreams. Think carefully what values you have now that you want to make sure you retain as your life changes. For me, my family, my financial well being, and my health are among those things. What do you treasure and want to conserve? 

For instance, exercising 3 times a week might be a good maintenance objective for my goal, as it would help me with the energy I need to essentially work two full time jobs, without being overwhelming in terms of time commitment. On the other hand, 'losing 30 pounds' would be a 'change' objective (and not necessarily related to my larger goal, so probably not included this year).

Here are some sample maintenance objectives:

  • I will go to all of my scheduled doctor and dentist appointments this year and follow their recommendations at all times ('all' serves as a quantity in this objective. If you really need a number, 100% or even 90% would be fine.)
  • I will pay all of my bills on time and in full this year.
  • I will spend 4 hours of every Saturday morning doing deep cleaning and maintenance tasks around my house and yard.

Action Objectives to Reach Your Dream:

The rest of your objectives should be action objectives. Like the maintenance objectives, you should be able to measure them. These are going to be the rungs on the ladder that lead directly to your main goal and enable you to reach your dreams. Some sample action objectives might look like this:

  • I will schedule a post for publication every day this year on my website. (I phrased this very carefully. It allows me to not write every day so long as I write enough articles that some days I can schedule extra posts for vacation days.)
  • I will plant a garden that provides over half of my food in summer and fall this year (for someone with a goal of sustainable living)
  • I will participate in one demonstration per month, in person, for a cause I believe in. (for someone wanting to get involved in activism).
  • I will work on my novel 30 minutes every day. (for someone whose goal is to finish a novel)
  • I will go out with friends once per week to places where the kind of person I would like to meet might hang out (for someone wanting to build relationships, and perhaps develop an intimate relationship)
  • I will put $10 (or $50 or $500) out of every pay check into a bank account until my emergency fund is full (define full... most experts say $1000)
  • I will read one professional article in my field per week. (for people wanting to increase their professional skills)
  • I will search for a job for 20 hours per week including a minimum of five employers per week.

You get the idea...

reach your dreams

Finally, you write or type the whole thing up neatly, and keep it somewhere you can look at it often. I have made this easy for you by providing a .pdf form (down there at the bottom of the post) that you can print out at home.  At least once a month, read through it and review your progress. Have you achieved an objective? Cross it off and add another. Have you decided that one of your objectives no longer lines up with what your goal is? Cross it off. Has something else come up that needs to be added to your objectives? Go ahead, add it. You can even adjust or even completely change your overarching goal if you want to.

Make the changes, and date them. No need to type. The scribbles show you that it's a work in progress. When working on the objectives gets hard, go back and re-read your main goal. Your goal should be very important to you. If it isn't, you won't work toward it consistently. So if re-reading your main goal isn't helping you get motivated, re-examine it and start over.

You can't fail. You really can't. You can only give up. Even if you give up, it doesn't need to be permanent. It is the nature of goals to be written and re-written, and for dreams to adjust as we age and grow. Plan to reach your dreams and your life gets better, over time, even if it doesn't quite take the direction you intended.

Enjoy working to reach your dreams, and enjoy building them into a new future for you. You can do it!

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About odanu

Maureen O'Danu is the webmistress of Am I the Only One Dancing? where there is a new discussion every day on any one of dozens of topics and ideas, as well as reviews, geekery, family, fun, and enough politics to season the pot.
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