Your goals change your life.

They affect your income, your personality, how you walk, how you speak to people and how you dress.

They influence and affect you, even if they’ve not been set consciously.

Their size and type will determine where you are in the next few years.

If you want to see just how transformative goals can be for a person, you will realise when you reach the end of this piece.

Now is a good time to think about your goals, so that in 2023 you don’t end up somewhere you don’t want to be, doing something you don’t want to do, with people you don’t want to be around.

You can make a living — or design a life

I’ve recently discovered goal setting. Like so many positive habits, I had to force myself to use it.

Maybe you were like me. Someone who grew up without truly practicing, or developing this basic habit.

You can sketch out goals in any area of your life that you see fit: in your studies, career and skills development, fitness and diet, business, finances and budgeting, even travel destinations.

The world seems so busy, loud and full of distractions nowadays that it has become necessary to be a goal-setter and good planner to navigate through the bluster and nonsense.

Life is unpredictable and uncertain. You can’t scheme, predict or plot out every event in the future. But approaching it in a strategic and methodical way gives you direction, purpose and the resourcefulness to adapt to changing circumstances.

Now a habit that I’ve added to my repertoire of routine activities, I hope it becomes as embedded and second-nature as brushing my teeth, exercising or even meditating.

A quick point on terminology here before we proceed. If the word ‘goal’ is troublesome for you, think instead of ‘projects’ or ‘causes’ to help you define your journey.

I’ve flipped my attitude towards these terms and ideas and what they mean for me.

I used to be very viscerally affected by public speaking and social situations. After resolving to confront this anxiety and through consistent practice I now, as a ‘cause’, seek out opportunities both to participate in and to coach others in this.

As a young man I didn’t travel as much or as far as I would have liked, preferring instead to revisit familiar locations in Ireland, England and the continent. I have since made it an ongoing ‘project’ of mine to travel as far afield as I can, volunteering to train people in Rwanda and Tanzania and applying to speak at conferences in Canada.

The opportunities that are coming my way from this mindset shift are so diverse and varied that I have also been offered the chance to work in a few obscure countries in Eastern Europe and South America.

Photo by Dardan on Unsplash

Types of goals

There are generally two types of goals:

  1. Long-range dreams which take three to five years to realise, and help you become someone unique.
  2. Short-range goals, which help build confidence and focus on today, this week, this month, this year.

Writing your goals down is a psychologically powerful thing, because it communicates to your subconscious you’re serious about doing better.

Investing in a journal (whether a cheap notebook or a Moleskin) to write in daily can help you here.

Think of the journal as a tool to study yourself, and how you make improvements over time.

You are your greatest and most valuable asset, so become familiar with who you are.

“Make yourself a priority. At the end of the day, you’re your longest commitment.”

Your future does not get better by hope, but by planning.

It might be difficult to think that far ahead into the future and plan for it. But the time will pass anyway.

You might as well see what you can do, and see what kind of person you can become in the intervening period.

My First Failure to Launch

Maybe you are like me. A mistake I made for several years was to work very hard on my day job and neglect planning my future.

In my first full-time paid job after university I kept my head down and just worked diligently, staying late after colleagues had left the office.

I thought it was the most straightforward, and the only way of progressing. “This is how it’s done,” I told myself.

“Look at Stephen and how hard he’s working. He deserves a promotion. Give him a pay rise.”

This naïve and unthinking attitude succeeded only in making me stressed and resentful.

I created a rod for my own back, and self-imposed expectations where staying late and consistently taking on more work than my colleagues led to ‘the extra mile’ becoming the norm.

Leaving at normal time, the time on my contract, then looked to my colleagues like I was leaving early.

I spent my Monday to Friday suffering at the grindstone and then my weekends were spent rather aimlessly.

I didn’t relax properly to recharge my batteries, and neither did I spend free time on passion projects or doing something to better myself.

Failing to plan is planning to fail, and I spent over three years in this approach, waiting for external things to happen for me (like my employers to feel generous) instead of taking responsibility for adding more value to my life and whatever I was doing.

It is of course easier to settle for mere existence over substance.

But if you’re like me this grinds you down after a while. Your performance begins to regress. Things you were once good at start to slide. The environment becomes stale and predictable.

Then if you’re like me, you run away and go into politics — but that’s another story for another article perhaps.

You might reasonably ask, in an article about goals, what mine are and the progress I’m making towards them.

Right now I am more interested in writing about how YOU might put some of these strategies into practice to lead a more purposeful, clear and truthful life.

The last time someone — a family member — asked me what some of my goals were, they proceeded to spend an hour attempting to have me second-guess, doubt and be skeptical of the goal I told them about.

The conversation alone would make a fine article. Watch this space.

Alex Turner tells the world the Arctic Monkeys are back on ‘The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon’

“Ask, and you shall receive? A guy ought to look into that!”

Goals are like magnets, the more you describe them the more they attract.

The more specifically you construct them, the more powerful their effect on you.

Goal setting is a way of asking: “What do I want?”

The above quote about asking and receiving is from our friend Jim Rohn and his seminar on ‘The Art of Exceptional Living.’

He tells us to learn the art of asking intelligently, of being clear and specific.

Defining what you want, and asking for it with faith starts a unique mental and emotional process.

You might begin by asking yourself some striking questions like:

· What’s the most important thing I can do today / this week / this month, such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?

· If I had six months left to live, what would I do today?

· What would I do if I knew with certainty that I couldn’t fail?

· Based on my life so far, who would go to my funeral and what would they be saying?

· What do I want to accomplish? Why? What will be required of me to do this? What type of person will I need to become?

Grab a piece of paper and write ‘2018’ in the middle.

Categorise what you want to do in different areas like a spider diagram.

Financial, professional, social, fitness, personal development and hobbies for example.

Write out the goals, in the present tense if this is useful, with a date by which to achieve them.

For example, I will have given 10 external presentations by 31st December 2018. I will lose 5% body fat by 1st February 2018. I will meditate twice daily and list three things I am grateful for each day. Secure an additional income stream by May. Reach 501 LinkedIn connections by the end of this month.

The potential is limitless and you have many options in terms of how you approach this. How public will you make your goals? Who will you look to hold you to account to these? How often will you check in with your journal about the progress you’re making? Daily? Weekly? Will you hire a mentor or coach to speak to monthly for example?

As you engage in this process you will start to receive insights while meditating or in your day to day. You will get great ideas on who to approach and what you can do to really progress on some of the bigger-picture targets that will take consistent action over months to realise.

Doors will start to open for you. People will show you the way and help where you need it. Offers will start flooding in.

This is where the magic happens. I’m not sure how this works, and frankly I don’t need to know.

Like operating a Surface Pro laptop, or mobile phone, or exercising in a high-intensity circuits class, I don’t need to know about the nuts and bolts and the bells and whistles and the science behind these things.

I just need to know how to operate it, or make it work because, when used correctly, they deliver a desired result.

“Some people are always studying the roots, some are picking the fruits — it depends on what end of it you want in on.” Jim Rohn

Photo of the highest free-standing mountain in the world by Harshil Gudka on Unsplash

Asking is the beginning of receiving, so start the process by setting your goals

Life gives you what you ask for, and passes no judgement on what that ask is.

If I was to ask someone “what are you asking of life?” and their reply was something like “I don’t know”, “Nothing much” “Nothing in particular” “Not sure” or “I’m not asking for very much” then I’m sure you can imagine what this person is getting from life.

So, this receiving is automatic for all of us, whether we acknowledge the process or not. If we’re not in receipt of what we want, then failing to ask must be the problem.

Success is not in short supply, folks; it isn’t rationed.

And this receiving is like the ocean: there’s plenty of it around. So we should go down to water, and ASK with a large bucket, rather than a teaspoon.

Jessie B. Rittenhouses’s poem below explores this idea further:

My Wage by Jessie B. Rittenhouse

In my last job when I was refused a small pay rise in exchange for more responsibility I made a decision. I handed in my notice there without having the next job lined up.

I spent the next two months working part-time, training for a charity boxing match and looking for the right role for me. I was adamant I would not just desperately take any job.

I interviewed for a public affairs position I thought was around my level, and my employers came back after the first interview and recommended that I go for a more senior position they had available.

I accepted the opportunity, gave a presentation relating to influencing strategies during the Brexit process and passed the very exacting interview with flying colours.

From making this decision to not simply accept what one person was telling me I was worth and to go out and ask life for more, I doubled my salary. Remuneration aside, the job is also far superior to my last one in almost every way imaginable.

While on the topic of wages and salary, I would like to illustrate one shift that has made a difference for me: being meticulous in having well-planned economic goals related to income and spending.

So many of the goals you will set require some starting capital, whether for mentors to hold you to account or other vital expenditure to get something off the ground.

The thought of budgeting and saving properly really didn’t sit well with me for years. Perhaps subconsciously I didn’t think I was “good enough” or “worthy enough” of having means and living comfortably.

I realised these habits were something anyone with financial freedom had some basic grasp of.

I realised that experiencing any of the things I wanted involved having the necessary funds and that I should not feel bashful or embarrassed about this.

You can’t pour from an empty cup. You can’t help anyone if you are not in a position to help yourself.

I also learned from Jim Rohn, that “success is doing what the failures won’t do.”

Those still in the failure to launch stage often have not mastered the preliminary step of budgeting and saving. So learn it, or pay someone to do it for you.

Call To Action

Goal-setting can be very difficult. It’s hard work first to write them and to find the clarity around the WHY supporting each goal.

My next article will be about how to identify reasons to inspire and motivate you to be a success, and how to use these reasons to fuel this goal-setting process.

In the meantime you can read more on personal development and self-improvement strategies from the world’s most well-known motivational speakers in my last article here: The Major Key To Your Better Future Is You.

Psycho-Cybernetics talks about the creative, goal-striving mechanism that is in each of us, that is waiting for a clear-cut goal or target to shoot for. It needs a sense of direction.

Living without engaging this mechanism within us by setting goals is like the skipper of a ship relinquishing their hold upon the wheel and hoping that it will drift in the right direction.

As goal-strivers we need to be on the offensive, like a mountain climber looking always toward the peak. We are functionally like bicycles — maintaining our poise and equilibrium only if we’re moving towards a defined destination.

When we have no interest, no personal goal that means something to us, we become listless and restless. We go around in circles and stagnate. We fall off the bike.

But Psycho-Cybernetics tells us we are built to conquer environment, solve problems, and to achieve. We derive no real happiness or satisfaction without obstacles to conquer and goals to strive for.

A screenshot from my acting debut… watch out Day-Lewis

And what about me?

Am I just talking about all this or do I have skin in the game? Am I invested personally in these strategies I recommend for others?

I have been experimenting with this for many months now. And doing all of this has led me to many places:

To leading public speaking and personal growth workshops for people from every walk of life in London, to the world’s most successful political party, to fielding questions from and working directly with the Prime Minister on his constituency visits, to raising the most money for charity out of over 70 amateur boxers in a white-collar fight night, to leading on Brexit, technology and public affairs for one of the UK’s most prestigious and valuable industries, to being asked to train educators in Rwanda on growth-mindsets and facilitation skills (potentially impacting over 15,000 teachers and 635,000 students), to going on a wonderful safari in the same country, and on to Tanzania later this summer to mentor young people to overcome challenges and unleash their hidden potential, and if I’m lucky, to climb Mount Kilimanjaro.

Before I started doing this, I came from very different places.

From being so anxious, depressed and self-absorbed I could barely answer my ringing mobile phone, or have the confidence to even leave my room in university halls or go and speak to people who I liked or respected. From having such a low opinion of myself I chose a third-tier university to study at, when on intelligence scores and grades I was consistently among the very highest and with a high enough IQ to join MENSA. From failing miserably to coach the university Gaelic Football team and quitting at the earliest opportunity. From not having the balls to pursue what I knew I was good at. From not having the courage to apply for a John F Kennedy Harvard scholarship I’m now too old to be eligible for (that’s regret). From getting so frustrated, isolated and in such a wretched state I would drink lots of wine and Jack Daniels and then punch brick walls and take a Stanley blade to my back and shoulders. From walking into a park in my final year at university, and stopping to pick up some large pieces of glass on the floor to take with me, as I walked further into the park filled with very negative but unactioned thoughts about how, and on what parts of my body, I would use them.

I know which one of these mindsets I like better, and which one I think others want to have also.

Forgive me for labouring these points, for using such explicit imagery and banging on about my past. I’m trying to communicate a clear message.

A message about how far you can go, how radically you can shift your life just by picking up a pen and journal, and thinking about things differently.

From thoughts of killing yourself, to Kilimanjaro.

From self-absorption, selfishness and thoughts of self-harm in a Sheffield park. To trying to scale the highest free-standing mountain in the world, with intentions and attitude as diametrically opposed to these three feelings as you can get.

From giving up in the face of any difficulty my mind identified and exaggerated, to trying to surmount each obstacle I find in my way. From mentally defeating and sabotaging myself for an adolescence, to setting my sights on solving the common challenges and destroying the insecurities we all face.

I call on you to challenge and change yourself, and upgrade your vision of your life so you propel yourself into the stratosphere and beyond.

By asking more intelligent questions, and by asking for more from life.

By throwing yourself into more empowering projects and more meaningful causes. By setting more uplifting and worthwhile goals to fulfill your potential and lead a more prosperous and joyful life.

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