Taking Part in the Joy of Accomplishment to Realize Your Goals

I finished a big project today. One that was unexpected, yet took me one step closer to accomplishing a lifetime goal of working from home under my own umbrella. While it hasn’t been easy to realize this goal, some 30 years in the making, I believe that visualizing the dream, making it a daily “mantra” if you will, helped get me as close as I’ve ever been to realizing that goal.

As I finished shipping off this project, I was overwhelmed by a sense of well-being. Then I realized that there is nothing like that sense of real accomplishment. After all it’s a realization of hard work, determination and motivation.

What many of us forget is that when we complete a set goal, we have an amazing opportunity to enjoy the endorphins that are released and absorb the reward that nourishes our mind, body and soul.

Unfortunately, in today’s fast-paced world we are so focused on achieving the next thing on our list that we forget to enjoy the pleasure of the moment. I know. That was me a year ago. Pressing on from one moment to the next, with only one goal in mind: get home, throw on some PJs, pour a glass of wine, watch TV and forget about the day. It was an empty, unrewarding goal.

Through a series of events I won’t go into here, I began to realize that while the frantic to-do list related to the goal of raising three children was complete, I had never replaced it. I was rudderless.

Then I remembered a quote from C.S. Lewis, “You are never too old to set a new goal or to dream a new dream.”

The Lists

Any successful person understands the importance of setting goals of course. The trick is making sure our list of goals doesn’t get too long. I’ve known many people who swear by “the list.” They get a thrill when they check off completed items, regardless of how minute they may be. Unfortunately, that thrill quickly fades as they look at the items that are still on “the list.” Instead of really appreciating the moment, they feel unsettled and anxious.

Personally, I always found daily lists to be tedious. Eventually I realized that they got in the way of enjoying what I should have be focused on. The goal.

In addition, while I prefer the written list over the virtual list, my biggest challenge was the task of getting back to “the list”. Which meant finding the list and the sense of failure that came with the realization that I’ve lost the list. For many, committing tasks to paper is a way to free up brain space. I totally get this, thus my fear of losing the list because once I write something down, I let it go.

I have tried many methods for keeping a to-do list over the years; buying small notebooks that fit in my bag, notepads on the refrigerator, white board calendars so anyone can jot things down on the fly. And let’s not forget the awesome, amazing Post It note.

Unfortunately I would forget to look at that little book, or any list for that matter. I was inevitably misplacing it, likely leaving it at home where I was trying to add new to-dos but got interrupted by the need to do something I had forgotten to do.

Reminders in a date book seemed to work for a while. Then it didn’t. Then lo and behold, Apple added a feature where you could create virtual Post It notes that could clutter up your computer desktop. That was cool and worked really well until the computer crashed and all those little notes disappeared in a puff of virtual smoke because those notes are supposed to be temporary and aren’t included in the backup cycle. Sigh…

I don’t know about you but even technology failed me. Except at work…where I never left the computer and was trained to use any variety of tools to manage to do lists and communicate them to colleagues.

What Does Your To-Do List Look Like?

The reality is that our “to do lists” are always in a state of change. Depending on where you are in your life, the minutia of daily to-do tasks can be overwhelming.

I remember a newly married girlfriend of mine. She was a list keeper in her personal life, not so much in her work life. She showed me her list one day and I nearly died as she pointed out the two pages of items she was determined to accomplish before the end of the week.

“Don’t you feel like you are setting yourself up for failure here?” I asked her.

“Well probably but if I don’t write it down, I will forget it. I guess I never complete all the tasks on my list though,” she sighed.

“Sooo, how do you ever feel good about what you’ve accomplished at the end of the day?” I said.

She just shook her head and admitted that she generally didn’t feel good about the tasks she had accomplished because she was focused on the next task. Mostly, she said, she felt like a failure for not getting everything done.

The reality is she never would because every day there is a new to-do to add to that list. And while to do lists have their place, they can also be more of a burden than the actual goals you want to accomplish. Take a look at what stage your life is in. Are you a student? Married? Have kids? Do you own a home or a business? Are you an entrepreneur?

The point is that each of these stages present their own challenges and their own set of to-dos. All of them are guaranteed to eat up your day, and night, while most of them you simply will not accomplish, because at the end of the day, we make plans and life intervenes.

The Dirty Little Secret of Time Management

Regardless of where you are in your life, there is a dirty little secret we all forget — there are only so many quality hours in a day to get things done. Those hours are portioned out according to our commitments in life, so it is important to set goals that you can actually accomplish.

We all deal with daily minutia; it’s just a fact of life. As parents we dress and feed the family, we buy groceries, drop kids off, pick kids up, cook dinner, bath the kids, protect and serve. And worry.

As workers, the agenda can be significantly different. Get gas, go to the dry cleaner, get to work on time, earn more money, advance, manage relationships, keep a smile on our face. And feel anxious or depressed.

As humans, we tend to forget the to-dos needed to protect our minds, our bodies and our sense of well-being.

We hear it, we understand the need to incorporate these goals into our every day life but how do we fit that into the already insurmountable Post It notes cluttering up our minds, our refrigerators and our computers?

Three Steps to Realizing Your Goals

While I still jot things down in a notebook, it’s more because my memory isn’t what it used to be. More importantly, life has shown me that in order to thrive we have to have a greater appreciation of the accomplishment, no matter how small it is. A sense of accomplishment builds self-esteem and raises confidence, which in turn helps us in visualizing our goals. So use that to-do list to relax your brain, but don’t forget the bigger list — the goals you want to attain at the end of the day, week, month or year.

Below is a three-step process I use, that whether I realized it or not, has helped me realize my goals so far in this crazy life:

1. Be clear on what you need or want to accomplish.

Set THREE key goals for any given time. Any more than that will inhibit your ability to move forward and make it difficult to complete the tasks within the everyday confines of life. For instance, if you hate your job, visualize the perfect job, see it, define it, look for opportunities to own it and be prepared for the challenges that will come with making the transition.

2. Write them down and put them where you can see them.

Make a vision board — My 26-year old daughter taught me this trick. It is a phenomenal way to visualize your goals.

Be specific. Whatever you need to help you visualize the goal. Put these goals on multiple index cards and invest time in deciding where to place them, preferably a place where your mind is at rest. Bathroom mirror, refrigerator, on a card next to your bedside, on the TV controller, in your favorite book.

3. Focus and visualize the intended goal(s) every day, multiple times a day. Make it a part of your everyday existence. We tend to forget these goals as we become distracted. Try to clear your mind of everything else and visualize your goal as a reality.

By taking a moment to look back at our big and small accomplishments, appreciate them, enjoy them and draw strength and clarity from them, we can clear the way for new goals.

Remember that even if we didn’t accomplish something we thought we should, the past cannot be changed. Take the time to enjoy and recognize what you can change and appreciate your accomplishments while keeping a keen eye on the ultimate goal, whatever that may be, as your own journey rolls out in front of you each and every day.

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