Are you living the life you have always dreamed of? Are you on the path you had hoped to be on? Are you doing what you love?
According to Gallup’s 2017 State of American Well Being Survey, purpose, described as enjoying what we do each day and motivated to achieve our goals, took a sharp decline highlighting that we’re becoming less satisfied with our lives and failing to live a life of purpose and meaning. This, coupled with data that suggests that 83% of the US population doesn’t have goals, further implies that many of us are simply getting swept along in life. For some of us, this may not necessarily be a bad thing. To live in the present moment and to see where life takes us, and heck, it can sure take us to some wonderful and unexpected places! But, it can also lead us down a rabbit hole. Life takes over, time keeps ticking. We get sucked into the daily grind and the routines until one day we realize we’re unhappy, unfulfilled, tired, burned out and perhaps living somebody else’s dream that’s likely in conflict with our own aspirations and values. And we’re stuck.
It’s this cycle that can lead to regrets later in life. Researchers have found key distinctions as it relates to these regrets in our later years. Firstly, we tend to regret inaction more than action and so in reality, it’s not the things we do, but the things we fail to do that has a longer lasting negative impact on our conscious. Secondly, subsequent research has determined that our deep-rooted life regrets stem from not living our ‘ideal selves’ (essentially the person we want to be based on our hopes and dreams), as opposed to our ‘ought selves’ (being the person we should be based on our duties and obligations, or what other people expect from us). What this research tells us then is that people wish they’d had the courage to live a life true to themselves and wish they had taken action to follow and achieve their dreams.
“One day you will wake up and there won’t be any more time to do the things you’ve always wanted. Do it now.” ~ Paulo Coelho
Setting goals allows us to think mindfully about the things we want to get out of life, so we can focus on what’s important, ultimately leading us to a more fulfilling and purpose driven life. Having a clear vision and goals can serve as a reminder for what we’re striving for, especially during the tougher times, keeping us motivated along the path we’ve consciously chosen.
When we know what we want, it’s easy to start formulating goals, but what if you don’t know what your future vision is? What if you’re confused about what you want or what direction you want to head in? That unknowing can be rather unsettling, but from a growth mindset perspective, can also be exciting as you start to think about the realm of possibilities available to you. This is your opportunity to carve out a vision for what you’d like your life to be and to a live a life of no regrets. The alternative is to ask yourself, what if I do nothing?
You have a choice. In this moment, you can take control of your destiny.
Take time for self reflection
Taking some time out to think about and to plan your future is an important first step in determining what it is you want to get out of life. Schedule some time that you can focus without distraction. Grab a notebook and pen and get creative; doodle, mindmap, write, draw. Just start! Think about the following questions;
- What brings you joy? What makes you happy? What lights you up and puts a smile on your face?
- What are you passionate about? What gets you really excited or angry? What gets your blood going?
- When are you most alive? What are you doing?
- What would you do if you knew you could not fail?
- What are your values and are you living them regularly?
Most of us haven’t stopped to think about these questions before and they’re purposely designed to be thought provoking. Once you’ve answered them, notice if there are any key themes or areas that evoke deep emotion since these will give you clues as to what’s important to you. When we’re living a life that’s in harmony with our passions and values, life tends to be fulfilling and effortless. What goals can you create that will honor your values and bring you long lasting happiness?
Visualize your own funeral
In his book ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’, Stephen Covey believes we should begin with the end in mind and provides an eulogy exercise whereby you visualize your own funeral and imagine what your loved ones would say about you. A little depressing perhaps to think about our own mortality, but actually doing so can be rather eye-opening. It gets us thinking about what’s really important and how we want to be remembered. As you think about the end in mind, consider the following questions;
- What would you want your loved ones to say about you?
- Are there specific things you would like to have achieved?
- What would you regret not having achieved?
- What would you like your legacy to be? What would you like to be known for?
As you reflect on your answers, explore how well you’re achieving your aspirations currently. Are you honoring your values and the things that are important to you? What action can you take now that will help you to achieve your life goals and help to fulfill your legacy?
Create a Vision or Dream Board
I first learned about vision boards in a workshop facilitated by Dr Sam Collins, the CEO of Aspire where she shared her own experience of placing on her vision board a picture of a man who looked like Sean Connery holding a young boy. Years later, a photo of her husband and son looked eerily similar to that same picture. And, it’s not just this example that gets me excited about vision boards.
- In her book ‘Rules for Renegades’, Christine Comaford-Lynch shares her experience of creating a dream board. When she was thinking about her dream home she had cut out an image of a gorgeous view of vineyards and within a year she had found a house with that exact view.
- John Assaraf, a self made multi-millionaire and best selling author had unknowingly bought his dream home that he had cut out from a magazine years earlier.
- Ellen & Oprah are also huge fans. The good news is dream boards aren’t just exclusive to celebrities, they work just as well for you and I too. A dear friend of mine placed a picture of a house on her vision board and she now lives in that house.
It’s a little spooky, but this stuff works! Having a vision board not only serves as a reminder for what you’re aiming for, but the more you see it and visualize it, the more your brain becomes wired to be on the lookout for opportunities for you to achieve your goals. Sifting through magazines helps to generate ideas so don’t despair if you’re still not sure what you want in life, just cut out images or words that make you feel good and that resonate with you on a spiritual level.
Grab a selection of magazines and cut out images and words that resonate or speak to you. It could be an image of a holiday destination, your dream house or career, or perhaps an ideal partner. Stick them on large poster or pinboard and have it displayed somewhere you can see it daily. You can also get some friends and do it together. Have fun with it and hold each other accountable for living and achieving your dreams!
Create your Goals
Once you have determined your vision for the future, it’s time to start taking action and breaking down your vision into specific goals. As you start to formulate these, consider the following;
- Write them down. A study by Gail Matthews at Dominican University found that those who wrote down their goals accomplished significantly more that those who didn’t. As you write them, notice if they evoke passion and excitement within you. How badly do you want these goals? Do they light you up? If they don’t, you probably won’t be motivated to achieve them and you’ll risk giving up at the first hurdles. Don’t waste your time on those.
- Be Specific. Try to make your goals SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound) and think about how you can break them down into manageable and achievable tasks.
- Take Action. This is a critical step as it relates to goal setting and in moving you towards achieving your vision. What can you do today to start moving towards your dream life? Who can help you?
- Visualize your vision and goals on a daily basis. Visualization is a powerful and proven technique that has been used by many successful people. What does it look like, feel like, smell like when you have achieved your goals? Picture it in your mind and imagine it in as much detail as possible. This may feel alien to begin with but the more you do it, the more your vision will come to life. The world really is your oyster so dream big. Play with it and have fun!
Going through this process can be an emotional journey but the benefits of doing so can literally change the trajectory of your life. Dream it, wish it, and do it. Take control of your destiny and start living a life of no regrets.
Originally published at happydayspsychology.com