“There is no syllabus for life that outlines the steps you need to take to graduate to the next level. This life itself is the lesson and the test and there is no dean’s list and no gold stars. There is the just the sum of your relationships and your actions, measured by how you feel when you lie down to go to sleep at night, and how many people heart your tweets.”
~ Nora McInerny Purmont, It's Okay to Laugh (Crying is Cool, Too)
At the end of the day, no matter how much you tell yourself otherwise, it feels fan-freaking-tastic to see all of those hearts on your tweets. Talk about positive reinforcement!
Remember back in grade school, when you didn't get a paycheck, social media didn't exist, and positive reinforcement came in the form of little tinfoil gold stars from your teachers?
The pride of finally earning a star when I learned to tie my shoes--after much trial and error--really drove the point home: Earning gold stars feels pretty awesome.
Setting goals and actually reaching them is kind of like earning little tinfoil gold stars. [Tweet this]
I recently caught up a good friend who reinstated a star system for herself--and I love it. I want to create a star chart for myself this week to motivate me in life, and I want to stick enough stars on that chart to earn my reward, just like she does.
What if you were to channel your inner six-year-old and use those same gold stars to start crushing your goals now? We all need a little motivation sometimes!
After all, if life is indeed the sum of your relationships and your actions, then that requires continual action.
Here are six steps that can help you reach your goals (and earn stars on your star chart) when you feel lost:
- Think big picture and reconnect with your dreams. Focusing purely on the minutiae of the day doesn’t help you move beyond that. It’s so easy to stay in the day-to-day, isn’t it?! Your proverbial plate is constantly full, but, to keep moving forward, you need to reconnect with your bigger picture: What’s missing? What’s not working? What is your vision for yourself, why are you not there now, and what’s in the way? Granted, these are not small questions, and they take time.
- Turn those dreams into goals. Unlike dreams, goals require action. Remember: You are the author of your story, and life is like a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book. Snow White dreamed for her prince to come, but the reality of Prince Charming stumbling upon her little dwarf-filled hut in the woods? Yeah...not so likely.
- Break those goals into smaller goals. Think in terms of monthly goals and weekly goals. I’ll use myself as an example: “Self-publish my first book by January 2018” is a hefty goal. My “smaller” goals would include growing a platform so that people actually buy my book and writing on a more regular basis. On a monthly basis, maybe that means setting a number goal for followers on Twitter. On a weekly basis, maybe that means posting and responding daily on Facebook.
- Break those smaller goals into tasks and processes... ...and recognize the difference between a task and a process. Sticking with my example, "growing a platform" is a goal that includes many tasks. Some tasks: 1) Research the best social media platforms for writers, and 2) Decide which platform (or two max, so I don’t overwhelm myself) to focus on. However, revamping/creating a writer’s-blog-focused website is a process. If I write “Build a website” on my list of daily to-dos, I am definitely not going to check it off in one fell swoop. Therefore, I break that process into tasks, including 1) Researching which website platform to use, and 2) Deciding on a domain name. This is where gold stars can enter the picture: Schedule time to complete these tasks during your Power Hour! Create a weekly "task chart" for yourself and stick on a star when you complete the task. Use a reward system for yourself: If you complete all three, for example, you earn ___________. If returning to your childlike self helps you shift your mindset and get stuff done, then do it!
- Continually check-in with your why. What is the why behind those big dreams? Go back to your big picture, your dreams, and what motivates you to break down all of these goals in the first place! Reminding yourself why you work hard to achieve them helps you keep moving toward them, step by step.
- Use your time wisely.
- Don't underestimate the power of thinking. Do you commute to work, be it on foot, by train, or by car? Use that time to, well, think. Maybe that means listening to a podcast on productivity, or goal-setting, or whatever inspires you, and maybe that means just being with yourself and letting ideas flutter and ruminate.
- Record thoughts that come to mind. With so much internal brain noise, even the most “brilliant” of ideas get backlogged. Carry a small journal, or use a recording app on your phone: Find a place to put what comes to mind, so that you can begin to put the pieces together and clarify.
Last but not least, get support from an accountability partner!
Every superhero needs a partner in crime!Think about a friend or colleague who you can check in with on a regular basis and co-motivate. I just started doing this myself: My partner and I discussed and wrote down three goals for the year: One finance, one health, and one career. We email each other once a week to check-in with our progress and smaller goals “to keep each other honest”, and we meet monthly for an in-person “session”. Knowing that I have to email her with a weekly report keeps me cognizant of my bigger picture.
When it comes down to it, earning "gold stars" basically means that you feel pretty good at the end of most days. And that requires recognizing when you feel a bit lost and figuring out where you can go from there to keep moving forward.
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