You guys, I have to share this with you!
Since September, I’ve been setting daily, weekly, and monthly goals to help me build a daily routine that will move me in the direction of my long term vision for my life.
(I’ve also been hard at work, identifying my long term vision, but that’s a story all in itself…)
I started out by asking myself, “Where would I like to be in one year?” and I spent a couple of days writing out everything I’d like to accomplish in the next 12 months.
(Not everything I need to accomplish, or everything that I maybe could accomplish if I wasn’t afraid, or if I had enough money or time or resources, or everything I think other people think I should accomplish. Just… what would I like to accomplish?)
And I came up with quite a list, encompassing multiple areas of my life: spiritual, physical, mental, emotional, familial, social, and financial. (Those turned out to be the things that are important to me; somebody else’s list might be wildly different.)
I took that list, and tried to break things down into, “What can I do this month,” and from there, “What can I do this week, to start moving in the direction of these goals?”
And I decided that every Saturday, I would set goals for the next week and review my progress from the week before.
I started small, just a few goals at a time, but in very short order I was setting (and keeping) daily and weekly goals across each of those seven areas.
I started going to the gym every morning, and following that up with 30 minutes to an hour of focused freelance study. I found time each day to play the piano. I started cooking breakfast, lunch, and dinner (for myself, mind you; and it is hard to cook for only one, but I found a way to do it). I started writing every day.
And I started to really think about my future, about the kind of life I want to live and the difference I want to make in the world.
The last week of September, I spent a solid six or seven hours in deep, focused thought…
The result of which was the culmination of a solid month’s worth of setting and keeping goals, and keeping my eyes firmly fixed on my long term vision, and my own personal values and principles:
I sat down, over the course of that week, and I wrote up a thorough, detailed vision of my ideal day. Every moment, every activity, from the time I wake up until the time I go to sleep at night, laid out in vivid detail.
Every part of my day broken down into three sections: what do I do, why do I do it, and how does it make me feel?
(And I’ll tell you right now, the most important part of everything I wrote is the “How does it make me feel?”)
Taking the time to fully answer that question for everything I do has awakened a passion inside of me that I didn’t even know I had. It’s taken words that I wrote on a page, and given them life, and purpose, and meaning, and value.
It makes me want to do whatever it takes to have that feeling every day.
When I finished writing my ideal day… You guys, it was so beautiful it moved me to tears. It was like this enormous spotlight was shining through the darkness, showing me the exact path that will lead me to my vision of happiness and success.
I cannot adequately describe just how grateful I was for all the work I’d done that month, that brought me to that incredible moment.
But that moment, as fate would have it, was not the end… it was only the beginning.
A day after completing this Herculean task, I started to feel discouraged. My mind was filled with doubt and uncertainty, and I started to question everything I had written.
Suddenly my enthusiasm was gone.
I felt utterly defeated, and I went to bed that night feeling like I should just give up on it all, like I’d never be able to achieve the things I had written – and like, even if I did, it wouldn’t matter anyway, because nothing I could do will ever be good enough.
I wanted to give up, but for some reason, I wouldn’t. I woke up on Sunday morning, and still felt lost and down-hearted.
I was so distraught I didn’t even want to talk to another person.
I went to bed Sunday night, still feeling like everything was hopeless, but not yet ready to throw in the towel.
I got up on Monday and I went to the gym, and I came home and did my studying and my writing practice, and fixed myself something to eat, and still felt like everything I was doing was wrong.
I got up this morning, and I went to the gym, and I came home, and started my freelance study…
And within about ten minutes my “happy, optimistic, goal-oriented” mind just kicked in, all of its own accord – and just like that, a switch has been flipped and I am back on.
I am happy to be studying, to be writing this story, to be setting and keeping meaningful goals that align with my long term desires – and the doubt, and the fear, and the feeling discouraged?
Somehow, as if by magic, my routine is now capable of overriding discouragement.
My goals, and my dreams, and my desires, are such that they can stare doubt and despair in the eye and say, “Not today, kiddo… Today belongs to us.”
And I’m ready to get on with my routine, and continue to build the habits that will lead me to success.
And, God willing, the next time I’m faced with doubt, or discouragement, or disappointment, to just keep following my routine anyway, secure in the knowledge that pursuing worthwhile goals makes doubt disappear.
(Sometimes, it just takes awhile.)