The importance of planning your life. How to set goals and achieve them.

Jul 17, 2021

The importance of planning your life. How to set goals and achieve them.
“I'm not gifted. I'm not smarter than everybody else. I'm not stronger. I just have the ability to stick to a plan and not quit.”
-Jonny Kim (US Navy Seal, Doctor, Astronaut)

This quote summarizes how to get what you want from life. It's all about creating a plan and executing it day-in and day-out.

It might sound boring and demotivating, but ponder on it some more, and you might find the thought encouraging. Hearing accomplished people say that they are no different from us mere mortals should give you the courage to go after your goals.

Now it's also true that there's luck involved to some extent. But to quote the Roman philosopher Seneca: "Luck is what happens when preparation meets the opportunity."

Planning can be your superpower

How planning gives you an edge

Most people don't plan at all. So by doing some planning, you are already ahead of the curve.

We tend to associate planning with a loss of freedom when in truth, planning liberates you. It removes the uncertainty and reduces your worries and anxiety when you think about your goals.

You don't need to do a lot to get started: Start by writing down a simple TO DO on a yellow pad after getting out of the shower in the morning.

But be real with yourself, and don't overpromise. Don't make a giant list as it will intimidate you instead of helping you. After a while, you will avoid looking at your list altogether. I suggest you start with a small list of the three most important things you want to achieve that day, no more than that.

Progress over perfection

Don't let perfect get in the way of good. Things won't always go according to your plan, and that's okay, plans are meant to be flexible, and you can adjust them as you go. That's all the part of the process, but the important part is to start.

To quote Mark Twain: "The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks and starting on the first one."

An imperfect plan executed early is better than a perfect plan that never comes to fruition.

Different levels of planning

Although plans don't need to be perfect, it's good to have some idea of what you want to achieve in different timeframes. So I suggest you create a plan for the day, month, and year.

Planning a whole year ahead might be hard at first, which is why it helps to think of your plans as fluid. Your initial plan doesn't need to be perfect. The goal here is to get your thoughts down on paper (or laptop) and remove ambiguity from your head.

Be specific

Your plans can be fluid, but your goals need to be precise and measurable. Being specific with how you word your goals makes them more achievable.

For example, rather than saying that you want to be in great shape, try to specify how many pounds you want to lose. Think of your goals in terms of things you can control and measure.

How to follow through with your plans

Okay, you have your plan in place. Bravo!

Although planning is a great first step, following through with your plans is what ultimately matters.

Before you get started, be honest with yourself about how long it will take to reach your goals. Accept the fact that it will take time, doing so will instill in you the patience you need. Rest assured, no effort is ever in vain, even if it might seem like it at first. You win, or you learn.

Baby steps daily

Here comes yet another quote, this time from Vincent Van Gogh: "Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together."

I subscribed to this belief a long time ago, and I still stand by it. When I look at what I've done in a day, I'm often unimpressed, but when I look at what I achieved in a year, I pat myself on my back a little.

The truth of reaching your goals is very different from how they portray it in social media or movies. In the movies, there's usually an epiphany moment, followed by a giant leap of faith. That rarely happens in real life. The reality is much more mundane, and it consists of small daily steps.

Silence the inner critic

This is the toughest part of the process. You will surely doubt your plan, your goals, and your abilities countless times. The voice in our head will come up with dozens of reasons why what you're working on is not worth it: opportunity cost, lack of connection, talent, etc.

To help silence your inner critic, avoid thinking about the big picture once your plan is set. Think only of the steps that you need to take each day.

A technique that helps is to set aside daily chunks of time of focused work. Then once you're done with your daily commitment, forget about your goal for the rest of the day.

Use every advantage you have

We're lucky to live in our age of abundance of information and the ease of access to it. The internet contains the collective knowledge of humanity about any subject. Over the years, people have built numerous techniques, frameworks, and tools that make any task easier. It would be unwise not to take full advantage of it. As cliche as it sounds, it really is about working smarter, not harder.

Before diving into your next step, spend time researching the tools available for you. An hour of research and preparation will save you tens of hours of work.

Focus on what you can control

Lastly, try to focus on the things you control. Obsessing over events outside of your control is the surest recipe for disappointment.

If some external factors are not in your favor, try not to stress too much about them. Instead, focus on things you can do to push the needle today.

Now I realize it's easier said than done. Working hard and still failing is always disappointing. Not everything will work out, that's just the fact of life, and the best course of action is to move on and shift your focus on the things you can do.

There's a high chance not much will change for you after reading this post. We often fall into the trap of knowing-not-doing, which is as good as not knowing at all. Don't be that person, take the first step today!

If you want to start planning your life in a fun and interactive way, try YourTrail for free. Using YourTrail, you can break down complex goals into simple, actionable steps and have a great time doing it! No credit card required, no strings attached.

I hope you found this post useful. Good luck!

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