Many of my posts have been in the vein of the philosophical, the theoretical, and the metaphysical — lofty themes meant to tap into your deep thinking in order to help you understand how to change your life and achieve your big goals and dreams. Today, I want to focus on the here and now and those action steps that it takes to move forward and get you to where you want to be.
The truth is, you’ll never be able to start a journey to create a new life without inspiration, but that’s only the beginning. So, once you have the inspiration, which will then lead you to think about the destination and the direction towards your dream (see blog # 8: Do You Know YOUR Destination? ), what’s the next step? Creating a plan and taking action. As one of the mottos of my alma mater states, “Inspiration without action is merely entertainment.”
Defining your big goals and dreams is an essential practice for living a satisfying life. These sought after accomplishments provide you with purpose, direction, and motivation. They offer you something to strive for and they force you to change and improve yourself in order to achieve them. When you take that first step towards your dream or big goal, you instantly begin to feel empowered, because instead of thinking about something that seems so far away and almost unreachable, you will be working on something tangible and focused.
Create an Action Plan with Plenty of Milestones
Pursuing your dreams/big goals is a daunting process and can overwhelm even the most tenacious achiever. Even when you’re on track and making progress, losing that momentum can happen quickly after a minor setback or may strike after a “rhythm breaker” like a holiday, illness, or injury. In any event, staying on course becomes much easier if you set milestones along the way, and celebrate each success.
By breaking your action plan down into easy to achieve and less complicated tasks offers you a chance to take a beat and enjoy a feeling of accomplishment. Reaching a milestone gives you more confidence, strengthens your resolve, and helps keep the momentum moving in the right direction. Spending time setting your milestones at the outset will help keep you on track. These are the shorter term goals that collectively propel you forward towards your bigger ambition.
One caveat: they need to be realistic and achievable. Bill Gates once said, “We set our sights too low when we create a vision for our future, and yet, we set our sights too high when we look at plans for the short term.” Plan wisely and set realistic goals along the way to success — and don’t forget to celebrate them!
Get in the Right Frame of Mind & Decide That You Must Achieve Your Goals
"Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success." ~Stephen A. Brennan
The truth is people perform better when they’re invested in what they’re pursuing and understand why they’re doing it. It’s the emotional commitment to your goals that gives you the motivation you need to accomplish them. To be successful, you need to make sure the goals you set are something you truly want and you can fully support as you move forward.
Also, it’s important to frame your self-talk concerning this journey in a positive manner, rather than a defeatist one. Saying, “I’ll try or I’ll make an attempt...” basically gives your permission to fail, and inevitably, you will fail. Instead, phrase your action in terms of “I will...!” or “I must...!” By staying focused and affirmative, you can achieve much greater things than those who are not fervently committed to succeeding or those who give up after the slightest setback. As Henry Ford said, “Whether you believe you can do a thing or not, you are right.”
Monitor Your Progress
The next step is to remain vigilant and monitor your progress. The more often you do so, the greater the likelihood that you will succeed. According to research conducted by the American Psychological Association, their studies have found that you increase your chance of success by recording your progress and discussing it with others. Talking about your dream with friends, family, and even strangers can help keep you focused and on track to reach the next milestone. By engaging with others, you will have people who are rooting for you and are interested in your progress — like your own personal cheerleaders and accountability partners. Besides, it’s much more difficult to back out of a goal if others know about it!
Inevitably, there will be days where you are feeling overwhelmed, discouraged, or bewildered. Looking back on your progress will give you an instant boost and help you re-energize and re-focus with your mission, making it that much easier to get to your destination. Monitoring also allows you to make adjustments to your action plan if you are getting off course, or correct a wrong “turn” before it's too late.
Write Your Dreams/Big Goals on Paper
Another useful step is to write it down. This act subliminally tells your mind that these goals are important and different, and it sets off a chain of events that will help keep you positive. If your dreams and big goals are not written down, there’s a distinct possibility that they will just remain inspirations. Finding clarity about what you truly want by writing it down helps you articulate your dreams and prioritize the things that are most important. It also helps to focus your attention and efforts on the actions you can take to make your dream a reality.
Psychologists have shown that writing about your dreams for the future can also make you happier. One experiment had people write about their dream for 20 minutes/day for four days, imagining that their dream had truly manifested. People that did so were more likely to feel immediately contented and physically better than those who wrote about more mundane things, and this effect lasted for several weeks. It also helped them identify what was really important, what they really valued, and opened their minds to a higher and more creative level of thinking.
They weren't just writing a list, they were describing in detail their vision of a more fulfilling life. They were then able to identify specific action steps to work towards, which, in turn, helped them feel capable of achieving the dreams they desired and deserved. I also use this technique in my training program, and it’s truly effective.
Make Your Dreams/Big Goals Visually Pervasive
Finally, keep your dreams/big goals in plain view everywhere you spend time. Post them on your bathroom mirror, at your office desk, as a screensaver, on the dashboard of your car, in a vision board, etc. The more intensity you give to your thoughts, the stronger they become, and the more you see your dreams, the easier it will be to achieve them. Your attention to your dreams allows them to manifest more quickly. The trick is to keep your mind laser-focused on what you truly want.
Don’t get the wrong idea, though. Nothing that is worth achieving will ever come easy. Undeniably, there will be certain tasks that will frustrate you and test your resolve to continue moving forward. That’s just a fact of life, especially when you’re learning a new strategy for success. My advice: take things one step at a time, celebrate every achievement along the way, rely on others as accountability partners, and keep moving forward. You’ll reach your destination sooner than you would have ever thought possible.
TIME TO DINE: Cooking for Joan
Along with the food recipes that I post in the Cooking for Joan section of my blog, I'm also including beverage recipes that I enjoy. People who know me know that I’m a serious cocktailer. I’m constantly coming up with new and interesting libations, as well as putting my own personal spin on old standards. Sometime this summer, I’ll give you the back story to the Rose Kennedy cocktail!
Today, though, I’m offering up a new favorite that I learned about last summer. It’s light, flavorful, refreshing, and is gin-based. A perfect warm evening cocktail to enjoy wherever you have access to the great outdoors: your veranda, backyard, a local park, or for many New Yorkers — the good old fire escape!
Sour Cherry Gin Cocktail
Prep Time: 5 min | Makes: 1 | Difficulty: Easy
- 5 sour cherries, plus 2 more for garnish (I prefer Morello cherries that can be found at Trader Joe’s and other specialty stores)
- 1/4 ounce simple syrup
- 1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
- 1 1/2 ounce gin (you can subsitute vodka, if you prefer)
- 1 to 2 ounces prosecco (or seltzer, if you don’t have prosecco or other bubbles)
1. In the bottom of a highball glass, lightly muddle sour cherries, simple syrup, and lemon juice until cherries are gently smashed, not pureed. I have also used a metal shaker to smash the ingredients.
2. Fill the glass with ice, add gin and stir for a few seconds until everything has combined. Top with prosecco, garnish with cherries, and serve. You can also add more gin and serve it up as a martini--delish!