I know that this is not 100% travel-related, but for me a fair amount of my life goals are also travel goals! And if you forgive me this slight tangent, I hope that some of the things I have learnt about setting and achieving goals will help you on your path in life, whatever it might be.
“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you will land among the stars.” – Brian Littrell
I am currently at my parents’ house, visiting my family for a few days before I start my new job. My old bedroom is still full of my stuff – the kind of stuff that I don’t need with any urgency, but which I nevertheless I want to keep. Old art projects, photo albums, books, a few childhood teddies, that kind of thing. And with complete selflessness, my parents have allowed me to keep it like that for the last six years, rather than turning it into a minimalist guest room.
Anyhow, as I was looking for something the other night, I came across my book of life goals. It is an A4 notebook, with a pretty butterfly cover. These details matter, I promise. I hadn’t forgotten about it completely, but it certainly hadn’t been at the forefront of my mind. As I leafed through the pages – begun in 2008 – I felt time folding up on itself, and suddenly, I was that girl of 20, wondering what to do with her life, standing in Paperchase in front of the notebooks and deciding on one in which to make a plan.
Inside were goals for education, work, travel and money. Set in 2008, reviewed yearly, with little updates jotted down, achievements noted. I wanted to graduate with a 2:1 degree, complete a PGCE and secure a full-time teaching job. I wanted to do some solo travelling, preferably to Africa. I wanted to keep travel journals and try and get a bit of writing published. I wanted to make sure I didn’t fall into debt and hopefully saved a little money. And I wanted to learn to scuba dive. Now, I can tick almost all of them off. In fact, the only things I haven’t done from my list are to learn how to scuba dive and to go to Africa. The degree, PGCE, solo travel and teaching career are all taken care of. It makes me stupidly happy to realise that I can achieve my goals. It wasn’t a waste of time buying that book, or writing those things down. Though I seriously need to step up the learning-to-scuba-dive effort.
I am not professing to be any expert on this, but if you just happen to be someone like me, who occasionally feels a little bit lost or disillusioned, these are my tips for setting and achieving goals.
1. Don’t be afraid to dream.
That sounds horribly cheesy, doesn’t it? But it’s important. I wrote the stars quote at the front of my book, as a kind of permission to write down the big things I wanted out of life. You need the courage to accept the dreams you have, even if they seem fantastical and remote, otherwise they have absolutely no chance of happening.
2. Buy a nice book.
Ok, if the first tip was cheesy, you may think that verges on the ridiculous. But there is something to be said for treating your life dreams – and therefore yourself – with respect. If you write down some of the most important things to you on a scrappy bit of paper, how much are you really valuing them? Go to Paperchase. Stand in front of the gorgeous notebooks and choose one that is really beautiful. While you’re there, buy a nice pen. One that writes smoothly and prettily. You know the type.
3. Write your dreams down.
Once you’ve acknowledged your dreams and bought the book, you need to actually commit your goals to paper, otherwise it is all too easy to let them slip away again and use that lovely book for shopping lists, or something.
4. Put the book away.
This may seem to fly in the face of what I’ve just said, but now you have to almost- but not quite – forget about it. If you leave the book somewhere highly visible, it will nag and taunt you on a daily basis. ‘You haven’t achieved anything yet,’ it will say. It will take time for your goals to come to fruition: four years, in my case. Once you have put your goals down on paper, your subconscious will get to work on them and you don’t need to worry too much.
5. Review your goals every year.
Or when something significant happens. Confront your goals. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t achieved them, or even if you no longer want to. They are not set in stone. However, if the goal still stands true and you have not made any progress towards it, the review gives you a chance to rethink your efforts. Of course, you can also adapt the original timescales you set yourself – it may be that you thought you could achieve something in two years, and now you realise it will take a bit longer. That’s absolutely fine.
6. Acknowledge the goals you have achieved, and unexpected things as well.
I never imagined I would do a ton of the things I have done in the last four years. Life will take you on all sorts of meanders and diversions, and it doesn’t mean you are not achieving anything; so acknowledge – in writing – what you have done. You are really quite an incredible person – celebrate that.
7. Set yourself new goals.
When you have achieved – or otherwise modified – most of your goals, it doesn’t mean you’re done. You’re even closer to the moon; things that once seemed utterly impossible are now within your reach. So go for it. Turn over a new page, grab that nice pen, and write some new goals. There is simply no limit to how high you can go.
If anything, this process has made me appreciate that I am even more committed to some things in my life than I was back then. Reading my goals, I can sense how tentative I was about travel writing – and even travelling. Now those two things are two of the most important to me. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go and research trips to Africa and PADI courses. I hope this has been a little bit helpful for you.
Do you have any tips to share, or any goals you have achieved?