photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net/stuartmiles
You might say, “What kind of question is that?” It’s a serious one, though. We all want things, and we all say we have goals, but how clear is our picture of what these are- and how do we get there? It’s hard to get somewhere if you don’t know.
And what are we really doing about it? My wife often quotes me as saying, “Are you willing to do what it takes?” You need to know what to do- and then you have to do it. And that’s the raw truth. Anything worth accomplishing isn’t easy. It takes work- and a consistent effort, to make it happen.
To get to the point of this post, I wanted to talk about 4 related concepts: vision; goals; a plan; and execution. These aren’t new, but they’re worth thinking about in order to clarify what you want, know what it takes to get there, how you get there, and then what you have to do to make it happen. Without all 4, I would tell you that the answer to the question in the title is “No”. And I’m serious. So here goes…
1. Vision: We all should have some vision of where we see ourselves in 5 years, 10 years, and so on. What does life look like? What do you see yourself doing? What do you want to be doing? Most of us have some vision of the future, but it’s a good idea to spend some time thinking about it and to try to make it more specific.
Ask yourself the following questions: How does this fit with my beliefs, morals, or worldview? Is this likely to be fulfilling? Is this what I want, or what someone else wants for me? You may ask yourself different questions, but it’s important to be able to articulate your vision as much as possible and that you be true to yourself in creating it. And it’s ok if it changes over time- that’s to be expected.
Many people confuse a vision with goals, but they are not actually the same thing. And some people don’t really have a vision. Their vision is vague, like “be happy” or “be successful”, or they’re ok with just letting life happen to them…”everything will work out”.
2. Goals: Keeping in line with your vision, what are your goals? What are some specific things you would like to accomplish? What will it take to achieve my vision? Your vision will likely include several goals- short and long-term.
Long-term goals might include: getting a degree; having a career; owning a home; getting married; or having children. Short-term goals may be: getting into a particular college; getting A’s and B’s for the marking period; getting a desired SAT score; sleeping more; getting a better job; or finding a date. The difference between short and long-term (you guessed it) has mostly to do with how long they take to accomplish. This post has more to do with achieving long-term goals, although these are not achievable without short-term goals. For example, if your long-term goal is to graduate from college, you might have short-term goals of registering for classes; paying tuition; getting enough sleep; going to your classes; doing class readings; and studying for tests (among others).
Some people don’t have goals, while others would say they do, but could not articulate them if asked. And others’ goals are just too vague. Whatever the case, the chance for success is low. I would encourage anyone to have at least 1 long-term goal and at least 2 to 3 short-term goals they’re currently working on. For a primer on how to set goals, check out this post.
3. Plan: A vision and goals are great, but you can’t stop there. What exactly are you going to do?
Take this example… I live in Pennsylvania. If I want to get to Seattle or San Diego I can jump in my car and start driving west. I could end up in either place, but I could also end up somewhere else. And that may or may not be anywhere I want to go. But with a plan- a well-thought out, comprehensive one, I know I could get wherever I want to. A plan may not prevent every possible setback (to keep with this example- running out of money, a flat tire, blown up engine, or injury), but it can help you to prepare for setbacks, deal with them, overcome them, and continue on your way. A plan outlines the steps necessary to accomplish your goals and achieve your vision.
Many people don’t have a plan. They may have a vision and even an idea of goals, but no plan. Sure, goals sound good, but without a plan, you’re not likely to get any farther.
4. Execution: Simply, this is what you DO. Using your plan, you take the steps and exert the amount of effort necessary to reach your goals and realize your vision. And to make this possible, you do this consistently, every day. To quote my wife quoting me again, the question is, “Are you willing to do what it takes?” If you are, and you have a vision, goals, and a plan, this is where execution comes into play. If you really want what you say you do, then you’ll make the commitment and do the work necessary. If you don’t, it’s unlikely you’ll execute, at least with any consistency.
This is certainly not to put anyone down or to criticize anyone’s motivation. You certainly are the best judge of whether you really want something or not. On the contrary, my goal here is to have people think about these concepts, so when they do have something they hope to accomplish, they will be better-situated for success. It’s critical to think about this and to be honest with yourself. And are there any things holding you back? There may very well be- either things you’re doing or not doing, circumstances you’re up against, or even people who are not supportive or even detrimental to your success. All important to thin about.
If you find that any part of this is difficult or that you are not accomplishing your goals or getting to the place you want to get to, perhaps a professional can help. Consider contacting a psychologist. For a referral, click here.
Dr. Jesse Matthews