The Secret to Success – Setting Goals

I’m writing this with a sunburn, sitting on an oceanfront patio table, watching the tide come in. Beach bums on motorized scooters and bicycles zip by on the boardwalk with music blaring and smiling faces. Last month I was writing my book under the pine trees in the mountains listening to the song of the creek.  If you think I am “lucky” to have such an amazing office environment, I’m going to let you in a secret.  It was not luck, or fate, or my fairy godmother who gave me this lifestyle.  I live my life this way for one simple reason.  I planned it.  Setting clear goals is the only reason I’m sitting at the beach today.

Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t always peaceful.  I have 4 young kids at home and a hobby farm to take care of and I’m probably the busiest person around.  I chose that too.  My life is no accident.  It is the result of taking the time to decide what I want, and taking action to get me there. I’m going to shoot it to you straight. . . the cold, hard truth of the matter is that your current lifestyle is your fault too.  Hopefully you love your life and it is everything you ever dreamed.  But if you feel there is room for improvement in your quality of life, read on my friend.

Goal setting is one of those activities we would all rather just skip.  Self-improvement books, seminars and coaches are always insisting that you set goals.  It seems like a conspiracy that it is repeated like a mantra by all coaches. This requirement to write it down feels like a high school homework assignment and adults hate nothing more than homework.  It is easier just to brainstorm about it for a minute and move on.  Writing it out isn’t really necessary, right?

Wrong!  At the risk of reminding you of your high school English teacher when he assigned you that pointless exercise you knew you would never need in the real world, I’m telling you that putting it down on actual paper is necessary.  I hate to be the bearer of bad news, I wish there was an easier way, but goal setting is the centerpiece of every great coach’s training for one simple reason, it actually works!  The day you sit down and get specific about what you want, is the day you start on the path towards achieving it.  The reason is simple.  You cannot get what you want if you do not know what you want.  Saying you want to be “happy” or “rich” won’t cut it either. You have to get specific and you have to get real.

When my son was born 12 years ago, I had a wake-up call.  At the time I was living paycheck to paycheck (or more precisely, not even making it to my paycheck), drowning in debt and was a slave to my job.  I didn’t have time to write down goals, I didn’t even have time to sleep for 8 hours a night.  But I knew that something had to change.  I knew I wasn’t happy and I had no idea how to break the endless cycle of working my butt off and still getting financially further behind every month. I didn’t know who to turn to for advice, so I started reading books written by people who knew what to do. The first one I read was Rich Dad, Poor Dad.  If you haven’t read this book yet, go get it!  But I didn’t stop there.  I read every book Robert Kiyosaki recommended, and then I read every book those authors recommended, and so on.  And do you know what they all had in common?  They all told me to write my goals down on paper.  I ignored it the first time I read it.  And the second.  The third brilliant author who told me to get out a pen and some paper actually made me consider it.  Still, actual action didn’t occur until I had heard the same thing at least half a dozen times.

When I first sat down at my computer I felt like a crazy person.  There I was, totally broke, living in a house owned by my employer, driving a company vehicle, without a single asset, using my credit cards to bridge the gap until payday and I’m writing down this crazy dream land nonsense. I had zero faith in the process, but I was feeling guilty about ignoring the wisdom of all of my coaches.  So I did it.  I wrote down things like living on a farm with horses, having a nanny, taking many vacations to exotic places every year, owning my own company, being in a great relationship, being fit, owing investment properties, eating healthy, making money when I was asleep or on vacation, and many more items that were equally insane.  I wrote this beautiful fantasy story and described in great detail what my dream life looked like, felt like, smelled like.  Then I hid the printed copy in the drawer of my nightstand and hoped no one would ever see it.

I felt foolish and naïve for having written my fantasy story on paper.  But I faithfully read it to myself until it was memorized.  “I live in a beautiful home on the ocean . . . “ And guess what happened?  It started to work!  Now that I had a clear picture of what the future looked like, I was able to differentiate between opportunities that were in line with my goals, and the many distractions that were not going to get me where I wanted to go. Those pages in my nightstand became a road map to the future life I was headed towards.  When someone offered me a great job, I declined it because it was not in line with my goal of making money when I sleep and my vow not to trade my hours for dollars.  When an opportunity to start a business flipping houses arrived, I jumped up and yelled “YES!, this one is in line with my goals!”  I reminded myself that the future me was a non-smoker until I found a way to quit smoking.  I agreed to exotic trips instead of talking myself out of them.  When I felt overwhelmed trying to balance home and career I thought to myself, “Maybe this is the right time to hire that nanny that is in my story”.

I never would’ve believed that I would have my dream house, three thriving businesses, the man of my dreams and take more than a DOZEN trips a year before I was 40.  But here I am rocking it!  90% of the things that seemed impossible then have become a routine part of my daily life now.  I’ve had to re-write new goals because I wasn’t thinking big enough the first time and those goals were too easy!

I beg you, don’t waste time being too proud to write it down like I was.  Get out a pen, sit at your computer, or dictate it to Siri, but get it on paper.  Look into your crystal ball and see the future.  Where do you live, what do you drive, how do you spend your days, who is around you?  You need to tell yourself what the destination is, and then commit to doing only the things that will get you there.  Making decisions becomes easy, all you have to do is ask yourself, “Will this help me get to the future I wrote about?”

I’ve got two major goals left to achieve from that early, goal setting first draft.  First, I can’t hear the waves crashing outside my open bedroom window. . . yet.  But I know I will get there.  Second, I have so much more to give back.  Now that I’ve got myself out of hot water, I’ve got to help others do the same.

When working on my written goals I vowed that if the Universe bestowed on me the many blessings I was greedily asking for, I would do everything in my power to give back any way I can.  And I owe the Universe big time!  I will only be able to live this amazing life of mine without guilt and regret if I can help others get here too.  When I post on Facebook pictures of my fabulous vacation and my friends comment “How are you are on vacation again?!”, I want to help them get there too.  When my employees say “Wow, I love your house, I would love to have a place like this!” I want to help them get the home of their dreams.  When I tell you about how amazing my life is, it is not to make you jealous, or to flaunt my freedom, it is to help you get here too!  It brings me physical pain to see good, hard-working people grinding away and not getting ahead.  You deserve more, it can get better, I will help you get there!  Besides, I need someone to travel with.  So pack your bags my friend, life is about to get good! You can do it, I’ve got your back, and you are so much stronger than think you are!

Join the movement, join The Happy Jobless Life!

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Ashley Aakre is an author and serial entrepreneur.

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