One thing I’ve struggled with much of my life is long-term goal setting. I knew that long-term goals would help structure my life but I would often get tripped up with problems I hit along the way.
Lately I’ve been experimenting with a technique that’s much more visual, and it’s been working beautifully.
Typical Goal Setting
Classic goal setting looks like the following:
- 20 Year Goal: Retire
- 5 Year Goal: Get a House
- 1 Year Goal: Get a Raise
Even if you take the time to write down more detail, simple text omits complexity and tends to not be very motivating.
Drawing the Path Increases Motivation and Improves Focus
Rather than simply write down a textual list of stuff you want, instead draw your goal and the path to get you there, including uncertainties and potential pitfalls.
This is best explained via illustration. Consider the following:
At the top of the drawing is the longer term goal – where you want to go or what kind of life you want.
In this example I put in a drawing of a house and a happy family – this represents that I want to move to a very nice location and have my family’s needs taken care of. You may have something much more specific.
Below the goal you’ll see a path with many branches. Along each path or possible subpath are things that you’ll encounter – internal and external things that will help move you toward your goal or push you away if you let them.
Also along the way of these multiple paths are things that can push you off the path or encourage you to abandon it all-together. A few I’ve identified are:
This is a person who’s in a similar circumstance as you and feels threatened by your success. They’ll often try to intentionally and unintentionally hold you back.
The crab gets its name from the bucket of crabs phenomenon – the tendency for crabs in a bucket to latch on to any escapees, preventing their escape. They’d rather all of them get boiled alive than have one of their own find freedom.
The Black Hole
Black holes are incredibly negative people who take great comfort in playing the victim and tearing down the world around them. Just being around these people will subconsciously wear you down and encourage you to turn back.
Avoid these people at all costs because they can push even the strongest off the path.
For any goal worth doing you’re going to encounter fear. Learn to push through it and even welcome it. See article on expanding your comfort zone
The ability to stick with your life path independent of how you feel is a critical skill you must develop. The good news is that the more you’ve pushed through fears in the past the easier it becomes.
I classify any sort of hiccup along the way – big or small as rough terrain. You plan something will take a week and it takes a month. You thought you’d have a month to work on something and you only have three days.
Just hunker down stay on the path, find a side path, do whatever and keep visualizing your goal – it’s out there, it’s just a matter of finding the path again.
Rough Terrain can be a pain in the ass but there’s always a way through or around it.
Dead End & Learning.
Sometimes you think you’re following the right path but alas you overlooked something or something random just popped up stopping you cold.
It can be discouraging but it can be a net positive if you take the opportunity to first learn why you encountered the dead-end and how you can avoid similar dead ends in the future.
After doing your analysis get back in the main path and keep going.
Sometimes you encounter problems that aren’t quite dead-ends but you don’t know the way forward right now so it feels like a dead-end.
Take a step back, sketch out a few ideas, talk to a few people, let some time pass. Eventually this will either turn into a dead-end which you can learn from or you’ll figure out a way through.
The Good Stuff
You won’t always find difficulties on your path. There are good things that can pop up too.
If you’re working your butt off finding your way along your path you’re bound to find helpful people along the way. Pushing along the path will raise your energy level and optimism. Like-minded people will be attracted to you and will want to help you out.
Many times you’re going to find financial and other opportunities along the way you could have never anticipated. As you keep pushing forward these things just appear so keep your eyes out for them.
The biggest help you have on the path of life is yourself. You’re armed with the a sword and shield called intent and perseverance.
You have more than enough power to tackle any obstacle you encounter as long as you stay focused on sticking to the path and don’t get distracted by internal or external factors.
Review Daily and Visualize to Stay on the Path
Once you’ve drawn your map review it every morning to keep the image firmly in your mind.
As you progress through the day and encounter problems or uncertainty you’ll have a mental picture to draw on. This will keep things in perspective and help you maintain focus.
Understanding that the jerk sitting across from you is just a Crab or a Black Hole let’s you keep things in perspective. You’ll be able to see your path, see where this person fits in, you know what you’re doing and know you just have to keep pushing toward your goal off in the distance and not let them distract you.
The same goes for all those other obstacles and annoyances you’ll encounter along the way.
Embrace Life’s Unpredictability… Then Enjoy the Ride
In today’s modern society we tend to expect things to be laid our for us on a silver platter, and if we don’t have that clear path we don’t even attempt it. Society encourages this viewpoint and this has created people who don’t have a lot of confidence. But that’s just what happens when you grow up in a zoo.
The fact is that we’re all a hell of a lot stronger than we think we are. When you start pushing through your fears toward your long-term goals you’ll quickly realize this.
When you view life as more of an adventure rather than something that has to be spoon fed, both you and your world will become much more interesting.