The best way to predict your future is to create it.
What is an area of your life where you want to change? Is it physical? Financial? Relational, emotional, spiritual?
The first step to mastery is setting a goal. This is not new information. And yet, so few of us actually have a real, specific, defined goals. They are just vague statements. Like, "I want to get in shape", "I want to be successful", "I want to have a good marriage". Yes, but WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?! What does that look like, specifically? And did you write it down? Did you make it tangible in some way?
In a 20 year research study at Yale, graduating students were asked if they "have a clear, specific set of goals with a written plan of achievement." Less than 3% answered yes. Twenty years later, researchers revisited those students. 3% reported being happier and more well-adjusted than the others. That is subjective; so let's look at the numbers. The same 3% were also found to be worth more financially than their non-goal-writing 97%. Coincidence? I think not.
Goals allow us to create our future in advance.
Purpose-driven goals create a fire inside your ribs. They derive a drive inside you. They stretch you and serve you. Purpose-driven goals compel and propel you to action.
1. Ink It, Don't Think It
Write. Them. Down. And I mean write. With pen and ink. Or pencil if you are so inclined. There is something so much more authentic, personal, and tangible in seeing your thoughts, in your transcribed twang, on a piece of paper. This is the first step to creating something out of nothing. You just made the intangible tangible. You are making clear where you want to be. And you become aware of where you are. You realize the gap, the discrepancy, between those two states, and you become dissatisfied. But dissatisfaction spurs action.
When your too comfortable, you are not motivated to do whatever it takes to make something happen. Dissatisfaction can be a superpower. It is a discontent with status quo. Real drive pushes you from where you are unhappy to be, and pulls you towards where you want to be
2. What's Your "Why?"
Why do you need to reach your goal? What is the purpose behind it? Your goal is not the end itself; your goal is a means to an end. The purpose of the goal is not the result itself; it is how that result shapes you as a person. For example: "I want to lose ten pounds." Specific, measurable goal. Good. But what is the purpose? "Losing ten pounds would allow me to grow in discipline, self control, and confidence, and apply those virtues to other areas of my life.
Your purpose keeps you laser-focused. A strong "Why" will keep you fueled during trials and failures. Because power, possessions, or prestige is not enough to make you happy. The only thing that makes you happy is the person you have become and the things you have created by the end of your life.
So what are the reasons you must achieve this goal? How will it shape your life for the better?
3. The "F" Word
Faith. It's perfectly normal to have no idea to know how you are going to reach your goal. It's also okay to set goals that exceed your present ability and skill level. What's critical, though, is that you operate out of total certainty and faith. In the words of St. Augusting, "Faith is to believe in what you do not see; the reward of faith is to see what you believe." -St. Augustine
No matter what, find a way to make it happen. Even if circumstances are out of your control, what you can control is your commitment to persevere and overcome. Too many people give up too quickly. They stop themselves before they start. But what if the challenge was less about figuring out how to do it, and rather, believing you will figure it out no matter what -- that your goal is not only a possibly, but a certainty. Then figuring out how is the fun part.
4. Execute, Review, and Repeat
Repetition is the mother of all skill. Repetition is the key to mastery. And repetition is the only way to ingrain a skill into your system.
Practice is repetition in action. You can't set a goal one, never act or look back, and expect results. You may have a vague idea of where you want to go. But the magic comes from daily repetition and constant review. Quick fixes never produce mastery, or long term results. Achieving your goals comes from focus, faith and practice.
If there is a new skill or ability you want to acquire, practice is the key. Determine the core process you need to achieve your goal, and execute consistently.
Now Stop and Reflect . . .
What is your goal? But more importantly, how would reaching your goal make you feel? We are emotional creatures. Most of our decisions are based first on emotion, and later justified by logic. Not the other way around. Harness your emotions to help guide you. What would reaching your goal mean to you? How would your life change?
Now harness what you learned about faith, focus, and fortitude in order to make those goals tangible, to make them purposeful, and to make them unstoppable.
Make a goal, make a plan, and make it happen.