I am on a journey to live a life I love and to fill my life with the things that truly bring me joy... my dream job, loving relationships, financial abundance, a healthy mind and body, and a deep spiritual connection with all that is. I am living consciously to create a life filled with all the things I love.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Taking Steps to Realize Your Dreams

I was flipping through the magazine Body & Soul, looking for any interesting articles that may be relevant for me right now. Sure enough, one caught my eye, and gives very good advice that I was just starting to apply to my life. The article was titled, "Small Changes Big Results: Why not make this the year you achieve your wildest dreams? The secret lies in your approach. We'll show you how to set doable, practical goals and actually accomplish them, with time and energy to spare." This article talks about to do lists, chores, obligations and commitments, and how to make time for those dreamy aspirations. Summed up, the main ways to make these aspirations happen are to:
  1. Change Your Story
  2. Break It Down
  3. Enjoy the Ride
It gives examples of different goals and how easy it is to reach your goal by doing a little every day. Some of the example goals they mentioned here are right in line with the very goals I have. Here they are:
  • Learn a Foreign Language
  • Get More Exercise
  • Save Money
  • Master Your Gadgets
  • Run a 10k
  • Read More Books
I'm going to take this article and apply it to my life while adding some of my own thoughts and resources along the way.

So, let's begin.

We all have dreams. We all have goals. We all have things we'd like to accomplish in our lives. There are many new year's resolutions that go unmet, year after year. I know I've done this many years in a row. A list of 20-30 items, only to check off a few at the end of the year...that is, if I remembered where the list was to begin with. To begin this journey of not just realizing my biggest goals for the year, but achieving the rest of the "want to" and "wish I had time to do" things on my list.

Step 1: Make a list
I'm going to make a new list to re-aquaint myself with my list of dreams/goals/desires/ambitions/new year's resolutions/life list/bucket list (whatever you wish to call it). This time, I'm going to store it somewhere I can find it again. One place would be this blog, but an alternative location I found was a website called: www.43things.com

The list here is not for things that are on your to-do list for today, but rather the things you would like to do within your life time. It's a great way to find others who have similar goals and cheer each other on.

Dream big here! You can't achieve it if you can't dream it first. This is the time to dream, explore possibilities, and expand your potential. You can do more than you ever imagined! Shoot for the stars on in your life list and use positive phrases (what you want to do vs. what you don't want to do).

Step 2: Decide on the things you'd like to pursue first
I've come to terms with the fact that not everything can happen all at once. When I get excited about a goal and motivated to achieve it, I, like many other people, like to try and tackle as much as possible on a given day to get as far as I can. This method works, yes, but it can also wear you down, make you stay up late, and create an imbalance in other areas of your life. I've decided to take a more moderate approach by tackling a few of the most important things with great rigor, and then adding the rest of the things I want to do into my schedule incrementally.

This means, I'm not going to try and work out 2 hours a day for 5 days straight for the next month to get fit. It ain't gonna happen, my friend...it just won't (well, at least for me). Not unless you've built up that kind of schedule for yourself over time. Just know that this type of schedule is probably not sustainable over the long-term, so let's create something that is more of a lifestyle change. Something that you can sustain for 5 years or longer.

Decide on the most important things from your list and put them at the top. What are the top things you are going to focus most of your energy on to do during the short-term? Then, select a few of the longer-term goals that you can work on incrementally. You can always add, change, or move things around later.

Step 3: Print the list and tape it somewhere you will see daily
I find that the things that are in front of me are things I cannot ignore. By having something stare at me every day, I eventually start to find ways to incorporate them into my life. This is a method to get the things that used to be in the back of your mind to be more at the front of your mind.

It helps to think of what you want the end goal to look like and then imagine yourself in the future, as if you have already achieved it. What does that feel like? Revel in that moment. That's the energy you want to feel every day. Act as if you've already achieved it.

Step 4: Take baby steps
This is where we start to break things down. For example, if you want to become a millionaire and the most you ever made was $50,000, it's going to be a little bit difficult for you to imagine yourself making $1 million, no matter how much you want it. We need to break down the goal into something we actually believe we can achieve within a given timeframe, then stretch it a little bit to challenge ourselves. We want to challenge ourselves, but we also want to find a way to incorporate things into our lives by making it relatively effortless.

For example, one of my goals is to get fit. For me, going to the gym is not something I really look forward to, but will do because it is necessary. To make this process a little easier on myself, I've decided to make sure I get 20 minutes of physical activity every day. If I walk 20 minutes outside at a decent pace, I'll consider that my daily exercise. On other days, I will go to the gym inside my building for 20 minutes to run or lift weights. For me, 20 minutes makes the whole idea more palatable because it's not too long, and it's time I can afford to make it happen. If I'm inspired to work out longer because I'm already there, I'll do it. I'm not looking for a super-fit body in a month, but I do expect some really good progress in about three from taking a more passive approach that fits into my schedule. I also plan on doing yoga once a week. Since yoga takes more time commitment, and is something I enjoy, I can build it into my schedule on a weekly basis.

Find an incremental plan that works for you. Start small and allow yourself to build up to a longer time commitment after you start to enjoy the process and see some results. Remember, some exercise is better than no exercise! That is the idea to remember here. A lot of small actions equal big results in the end. You've all heard it before...it all begins with the first step, and indeed this is the way it will work. Find a way to start small that is practically effortless for you. Can you start taking the stairs? Can you auto-transfer a smaller sum of money into your savings account every week to build more savings? Can you find 30 minutes a day to practice learning your foreign language? 30 minutes a day to read to start reading all the books you've wanted to get through?

Write down a little action plan for each item you are planning on working on simultaneously and make sure you have realistic action items. Make them actions you know you will be able to follow through on since they are so easy, why wouldn't you?

Step 5: Track Your Progress
When you track progress and see results, it can motivate you to stay on track and possibly even up your game. This is when things start to get fun. You see the payoff for the effort you've put in.

Step 6: Reward Yourself
It's important to reward yourself for the little milestones you've reached along the way. It's not just the big end goal that counts. Every little success is an important part of making your dream into reality. Acknowledge yourself or celebrate with a friend every time you reach a little mile marker. You're doing well and you're well on your way to turning that dream into reality.

What To Do When You've Gotten Off Track
Never mind if you didn't have time to do something for a day or two or even a couple of weeks because of a busy schedule or any other reason you had. Just start back up again. Every day is a new day and treat it as such. Don't dwell on yesterday. Just focus on today. Don't feel disappointed in yourself for not following through on your commitment. We all take a few missteps here and there. It's all part of the process. It's whether you choose to get back on track that really counts. After all, this is a long-term change you've created, not just a short-term fix. The world wants you to succeed as much as you do and there will be people to encourage you along the way and celebrate with you when you've finally arrived at your goal.

One day you will look back and say, "Wow, I've arrived." Time to create a plan and have fun with the process.

Here's my life list. Please share yours in the comments!

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