How to Get What You Want Out of Life

4 11 2008

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Thanks for taking the time to visit! Chris

Image by Light Knight on Flickr via Creative Commons

Image by Light Knight on Flickr via Creative Commons

“If you don’t know where you are going, you will probably end up somewhere else.” Lawrence J. Peter

How clearly defined are your goals? In order to be as effective as possible in getting what you want out of life, you really need to make sure your goals are clearly defined. This is not as easy as it may sound. Often people have many little goals they want to achieve, but are not sure which objectives to concentrate on in order to achieve their ultimate goals. If you are not clear on the objectives you have for yourself you will not be able to define the required actions you need to turn your dreams in to reality.

How to clearly define your goals

1. Make a list of all the things you want to achieve.
Think long and hard about this. Start by brain-storming ideas then leave the list for a day or two before revisiting it to finish off. Initially, list everything big and small.

Here are some suggestions to get you started:

  • What do you want to do, be, or have?
  • What Lifestyle do you want to lead? How you see yourself in a few years time? (or how you want to see yourself?).

2. Think big.
At this point don’t think about what you could or couldn’t achieve, just think about what you want. If you could have, be or do anything what would that be?

3. Review the list.
Hopefully you now have a list of goals, projects and items you want to achieve. These will probably vary in size from big lifetime goals, to small things or projects that you want to do. Review the list and check that it captures everything important to you.

4. Eliminate.
Here is where it starts to get difficult, but there is a method to follow here. Think ten years ahead  in the future, these are the big goals. Tidying your loft or redoing the patio is probably not on the critical path to the place you want to be in ten years time. Sure they are important to you now in the short term, but you really want to be taking actions that will have the most effect towards achieving your future goals. You’ll probably find  some points you have written down are not that important. Other targets may seem important, but ask yourself “If I didn’t do this, would it mean I couldn’t reach where I want to be?”

5. Simplify
You can’t work effectively on ten goals at a time, probably not even half that amount. If your goals are important to you and you really want to achieve them, they should be something you care about more than anything. Again, this is not easy, but if you find your passion you will understand what is most important to you.Look at your edited goals list. What is the most important goal to you now? I would suggest you pick three large goals, maximum maybe five, and focus on these as your only priorities.

How your goals tie in with your Lifestyle Project
Your Lifestyle Project is the sum of the actions you take to achieve those goals. By definition, a project encompasses all the required activities to achieve defined objectives. The skill to managing your project is maximising the resources available to you to achieve the objectives. Therefore the key is to clearly define for yourself what your goals are. Be in a position where you are able to state what your goals are in life at the moment and to easily say 3-5 sentences stating your objectives.

Stop putting off the important
Some of the items on your list will probably be action points. This means they are probably things that you need to achieve or do in order to take the steps to reach your ultimate goals. DO NOT keep procrastinating activities on this list. Don’t hold up pursuing your dreams by ‘achieving’ mediocre or unimportant tasks or waiting for the right time before starting on the path towards your desired goals. There is never a right time. I very much doubt anyone finds a point in their lives where all conditions are perfect to start a new venture or pursue a new project.

Clarifying your goals for yourself is the first thing to do in your Lifestyle project. I suspect some people will find this very easy, whilst others will find this very difficult to do. However, the main thing to realise that once you understand yourself and what you want to achieve, you will be able to, or at least attempt to, control your own actions so that you are always working towards getting where you want to be.

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Reading around the blogosphere this week:

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Investing in Your Future

23 09 2008

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Thanks for taking the time to visit! Chris

I’m on Holiday at the moment so I have for you an article by Lifestyle Project contributor Tom Church. Please bear with me for comment approval whilst I’m away. Enjoy!

Image by Oude School on Flickr via Creative Commons

Image by Oude School on Flickr via Creative Commons

“Learn the past, watch the present, and create the future.”

Looking out my bedroom window this morning, through the crisp sunlight, I noticed that the first of my garden trees had begun to shed its’ leaves. ‘Already?’ I thought. Recalling in my half-asleep brain the month, I gasped silently. 2008 was nearly over. It seems only yesterday that I was laughing uncontrollably at the dinner table with my family at Christmas. Surely it hadn’t already been 4 months since I finished school for good?

I began rattling my brains for a solution. There had to be some sort of time delusion going on, what had I done with all this time? Bit by bit, I began piecing together my year: the parties, the exams, the girl friend, the holidays, the jobs, the random events, the ups and the downs. And where did all this leave me standing? In the same room I woke up to in January.

After this mind boggling brain storm, I went downstairs to recover with a hearty breakfast. Whilst eating, I thought about how this year measured up in comparison with previous years. Surprisingly, I could not accurately conclude whether this year was better or worse than the years before, simply because they all seemed exactly the same.

This provoked some panic within me, especially as I began working out the percentage of my expected life I had already lived. It had gone too quickly for my liking, and I was shocked. I looked around me at the interior of my parent’s house where I live. All of this stuff was theirs. How on earth did they manage to acquire so much (rubbish) in the small difference between our ages?

Until today, I had always assumed that these sort of things just happen. You study, you get a job, you earn, you get married, you buy a house, you have kids, you die. Yet, as I have just discovered, this isn’t quite the case. With the economic crisis, I have found it incredibly difficult to find a job recently (well, it took me 2 weeks), and now I have one, I don’t really want it. By gaining a job, I am simply ticking off the next thing in my life check list. Next, get married. With every tick, I am becoming closer to death.

What would happen if I did the opposite? Un-learn, leave my job, spend money, become single, travel around, use protection, live. It sounds extremely appealing. At least it did to me at first.

Whilst in the gym today, I picked up a magazine for the first time entitled Psychology. I’d never read in the gym before, but this took my fancy after having read a blog post, Simple Ways To Increase Your Attractiveness which explains that learning the basics of Psychology will increase your attractiveness.

Within this magazine, there was an article about being honest with yourself and living in the present. There was a golden line (not literally) which initiated a huge thought explosion inside my head, it read, “Imagine that you’re fifty. What have you achieved with your life? Compare this to your present.”

And that’s exactly what I did. It was then that I realised material possessions were not the greatest component of my future happiness (although my vision did include myself looking out through the window of a penthouse apartment). I had a wife, a kid, a fire, a comfortable home, a view of the city and a sunset.

Comparing this to my present life, I sighed, concluding that I had none of these things. It seems that my ‘opposite-life-list’ of being single and spending money won’t lead me to my desired dream of when I am 50 years of age.

My vision showed that I wanted comfort when I was older, secure surroundings for myself and my family. It included a nice place with a view over the city, accurately representing my love of city life and the buzz of people. This means that I have to begin to invest in my life. I hate to think of living and dying alone, it scares me. Online dating sites show that the life check of ‘get married’, just doesn’t happen automatically. You have to work hard to find someone you can share love with.

Now that I have realised this (and hopefully you have too), I can start taking an active role in investing for my future life. This doesn’t mean putting huge amounts of cash into a high-interest bank account, although I would love to if I could. I am starting simple by developing an ‘investment attribute’ within my characteristics. Investing into projects that have long term benefits, for example, exercising every day or eating healthily, will develop a greater level of wisdom and foresight.

These returns should aid me in turning my dream into reality. For now, despite no sleep in the last 38 hours, I am going out to show my appreciation to my friends one last time before they go to University. Who knows, maybe one day, one of them will return this appreciation and save my life.

This article was written by Lifestyle Project contributor Tom Church of The Life of Change blog. Click here to subscribe to his blog. You can also find Tom on Twitter.

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Our Lifestyle Projects (and the future)

17 09 2008

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Thanks for taking the time to visit! Chris

Image by Vermin Inc on Flickr via Creative Commons

Image by Vermin Inc on Flickr via Creative Commons

“When it comes to the future, there are three kinds of people: those who let it happen, those who make it happen, and those who wonder what happened.” John M. Richardson Jr.

Without doubt, I think that the part of my Blog that has triumphed is the “What’s your Lifestyle Project?” page. It was a slow start, but once a few people posted the confidence of the community grew and now the flood gates have opened for people sharing their Lifestyle Projects. This is excellent, thanks to everyone that has shared.

If you haven’t shared your Lifestyle Project yet, please take a moment to think about it and do so here.

I have to be honest, I’ve been on a bit on a mission with Twitter recently and whenever someone follows me I send them a thanks notice via Tweet Later which invites them to share their Lifestyle Project on the Blog. This has been a great success, with 50 people so far sharing their Lifestyle Projects. I have done a short response to every single one, but plan to contact some individuals in the future to do some more in depth responses, actions plans and posts. Drop me a line if you would be interested lifestyle [dot] project [at] yahoo [dot] com.

What I have noticed so far is that there are a number of similar projects (or goals) amongst the submissions. I guess to an extent this is to be expected as readers of my Blog, and my followers on twitter are bound to have similar interests. There is a strange comfort in knowing that other people are striving for the same achievements as yourself and I’m sure we can all help each other realise our dreams.

My plans now are to improve this area of the site and refocus the Blog content more strategically towards helping myself and my readers pursue their Lifestyle Projects. I will be analysing the responses so far and aiming to increase submissions. I want to keep that area of the site simple but I am going to pursue options for managing people’s submissions of Lifestyle Projects better. I am aware of various sites that people can use to track their goals, but really all you need to track your goals in a list of what you are prioritising.

I’m on holiday next week, in part to research options for moving abroad as mentioned previously. Once I get back I plan to move the Blog properly on to a hosted wordpress.org platform, with a site redesign and more content focus.

So over to you my readers, how would you like to see this area of the site (and indeed the blog as a whole) progress? I have some ideas but would be interested in your feedback. Please do leave a comment below and let me know.

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” Eleanor Roosevelt

I’d just like to take this opportunity to thank you all for your kind words about the blogs so far, and taking time to interact with the Lifestyle Project community! The futures bright, so stay tuned!

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Thanks for your feedback on my Friday Fun & Roundup posts. For the moment, I’m going to stick with them and try and make the posts as interesting and useful as possible.

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A Guide to Using SWOT Analysis to Achieve your Goals

21 08 2008

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Image by Josef Stuefer on Flickr via Creative Commons

Image by Josef Stuefer on Flickr via Creative Commons

“Our inner strengths, experiences, and truths cannot be lost, destroyed, or taken away. Every person has an inborn worth and can contribute to the human community. We all can treat one another with dignity and respect, provide opportunities to grow toward our fullest lives and help one another discover and develop our unique gifts. We each deserve this and we all can extend it to others.”

You may or may not have heard of S.W.O.T. analysis. If you haven’t heard of it then I hope this post will explain what it is, how to do it and when you should use it. For those of you who do know what it is, I hope it provides a useful refresher and encourages you to use it and add it to your arsenal of techniques for personal effectiveness. For those of you who do use it regularly, well done, make yourself a cup of tea and go and watch family guy.

S.W.O.T. analysis is a technique which gets you to look at the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats of any given situation. I think that you can use it in any scenario, but especially in ones that leave you wondering which way to go on a decision, deciding whether to spend more time (your most precious resource) on something or in goal setting. SWOT is simple and easy to remember.

You can apply SWOT analysis to any number of situations. Sometimes it will be a quick exercise to aid decisions, other times it can be a more in depth look in to a major life decision.

How to use the SWOT Analysis Technique

I think that in order to be effective you should know your own S.W.O.T.  You already know this subconsciously, but spending time focusing on thinking about it and committing it to paper gives deeper thoughts and understanding to your life (and you’re Lifestyle Project).

Starting by taking a piece of A4 paper (I find paper is best for this type of thing as it is free flowing and non-liner. You can always type it up later or put it in to some fancy mind mapping software if you want to.) Spilt the paper in to quadrants and title each one with Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats respectively. Now enter under each heading those items that come to mind in that area for your life. List your strengths; maybe you have good interpersonal skills and are great at presenting for example. Weaknesses; maybe you lack authority or are unskilled in a certain area. What personal opportunities does your life present you with? perhaps you have a friend going on a trek on the Inca Trail and they want you to come with them? That’s a great opportunity that you have which others may not. What about Threats? Maybe you have an overstretched mortgage or a massive credit card debt.

Using your SWOT

Here’s where the SWOT analysis technique comes into its own. It is what you do with your SWOT that is the differentiator between the normal person and the motivated, effective person who wants to improve. Most people will be able to do a SWOT analysis in most situations at a high level. Make yours deeper. Make it is as open, honest and deep as possible you are doing it for yourself and your own development. As will is done subjectively by you it is important to be as honest with yourself as possible to get the most benefit out of the situation. It is often beneficial to discuss your situation with other people that can offer you constructive views.

Acting on your SWOT

So now you’ve done your SWOT, you need to look at each area in turn. This is where you think about the results of the SWOT and what actions you need to give yourself for personal development.

Here’s a checklist to help with this bit:

Strengths

  • Are they positive?
  • Are you using these to their full potential?
  • As they are strengths, can and are they being used to overcome your weaknesses?
  • How can you use this strength to its full potential

Weaknesses

  • Why is this weakness for you?
  • What are/could/should you be doing to overcome this?
  • What can you do to minimise the impact of this weakness?

Opportunities

  • Are you making the most of these?
  • If not making the most of these, why not?
  • How can you maximise the benefit of these?

Threats

  • What can you do to minimise the impact of these?
  • Can you eliminate them?
  • What strengths or opportunities can you use to overcome these?
  • Is a weakness creating these?

It is how you act on your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats that will help you to achieve your goals.

I would recommend you do a personal SWOT and spend the time to review, and improve on it. Write down key actions you can do to improve your personal SWOT and stick a date in the diary to review it and your progress against the actions you set out for yourself. Review the actions in 1, 3 and 6 months time.

Other (external links):

Think about your Life Goals | Zen Habits

Benjamin Franklin’s Goals

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My Goals Review

10 08 2008

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Photo by Monster on Flickr via Creative Commons

Photo by Monster on Flickr via Creative Commons

Life is rather like a tin of sardines – we’re all of us looking for the key. Alan Bennett

In the interests of open disclosure (and practicing what I preach), I thought I’d do a monthly review of my personal goals and where I am up to with them. I usually about once a week do a personal review of my goals and thoughts in a nice leather bound journal that I have. I thought it would be good to post my progress on the blog, as as (slowly but surely) more people visit get some reaction.

I think that doing personal reviews, much like GTDs weekly review, is great for making progress towards your goals. Even though you know what progress you are making generally, when you sit and write it down and make yourself accoutable you really bring to the front of your mind the actual progress you are making. For example, doing this now really reminded me that I am making no progress against goal no. 2!



Goal No.1 – Generate Income without a 9-5

I’ve got lots of ideas bubbling over a the moment. I have put a lot of work in to this blog to learn about social networking, blog writing and internet oppurtunities in general. The idea is not really to monetize this blog, but build on what I learn and track my progress here.

I re-reassured myself that moving from a 9-5 to an income stream that I control myself if the way to go, and I continue to work actively towards that goal.

Projects that I can update on: I am putting together a Lifestyle Project eBook. It’s in the researching phase at the moment but I hope that it will improve my writing ability and add some real value to this site.



Goal No. 2 – Be in a Band

I’m sad to report that I have made no progress towards this goal, other than sending a guitar playing friend a message via Facebook saying that we should meet up for a Jam session. I think that I have been making good progress on the other goals and this has just had to take a back seat. I plan to bring this goal more in to focus in the coming months as I really want to have something together to play at my Dad’s 60th birthday party next year.



Goal No. 3 – Maintain Fitness

I chose the word ‘Maintain’ as this is something that I have struggled with in the past. I am pleased to report tha I have made excellent progress towards this goal. My weight loss has been excellent and my strength and endurance increase every time I train. I am very pleased and I am managing to fit the training sessions around my other commitments. This is staying as a goal as I need to maintain it. I have also signed up to a Triathlon at the end of next month (Sprint), but realise that I need to put in place further targets beyond that to keep the maintenance of my training going.

I plan to do this review on here about once per month and would love some comments below! I do have a post coming up about goal setting, but for the moment here is a link so some information about turning Goals in to Habits from Leo over at ZenHabits.

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Beijing Olympics Starts Today: Motivation to Exercise

8 08 2008

This your kind of thing? Please think about subscribing via RSS or eMail (it’s free). Thanks for taking the time to visit! Chris

Image by Jimmy Harris on Flickr via Creative Commons

Image by Jimmy Harris on Flickr via Creative Commons

“Movement is a medicine for creating change in a person’s physical, emotional, and mental states.” Carol Welch

I’m doing well with my Healthy Living Plan (which I am currently researching and experimenting with, but hope to turn in to posts and an eBook later). Part of this plan involves exercise (as you would expect). Everyone knows that they need to exercise. In fact most people probably need to do far more exercise than they currently do. With the Olympics starting today, maybe that will motivate you to dust off your running shoes and venture out.

There are plenty of good reasons to exercise.

  1. Health Benefits. OK everyone knows this, but hard though it may seem to start,  you will soon look and feel better and that will motivate you further.
  2. Get out. Exercise is a great way to get away from your computer, your phone and the distractions of life. You can just focus on the one activity and that is a rare situation for many people in the modern world.
  3. De-Stress. Exercise releases hormones that reduce stress and relieve tension.

There are issues with exercise that people find difficult.

Starting

This could be starting to exercise (i.e. stopping being a couch potato), or starting a run because it is raining. I find that it is best in this situation to just do it, don’t think about it, JUST DO IT! (see my blog post about this here.)

Maintaining

  1. Don’t skip more than one day without exercise. Make this a personal rule. If you miss a day of exercise (excluding one rest day per week that you should have), make sure that you exercise the next day. No excuses.
  2. Reward. Give your self a reward for hitting a exercising target or goal. Perhaps best to make it something constructive rather than a big cream cake (that would kind of defeat the object of healthy living).
  3. Take Little Steps. There is the saying “Don’t run before you can walk”. Build up gradually otherwise you will get too tired or injured and lose you motivation. Set realistic but challenging goals, and don’t increase by more than 10% per week (that’s time, intensity or weight lifted etc).
  4. Accountability. Make yourself accountable for your exercise. Sign up for a 5k run or a super-sprint triathlon. If you are fitter but need to keep your motivation going, sign up for something bigger like a marathon. Make yourself accountable to yourself and others.
  5. Training Plan. Put together a programme for yourself or find one online. If you plan and set out a training plan it will be easier to maintain. Also it is a good idea to keep a record of your progress as a motivator and to look back on your achievements.

Finding the time.

Set up getting fit (or staying fit) as a personal goal, simplify your goals and eliminate what you don’t need to do. Bring it forward in your consciousness and make time (put it in your diary as an appointment you must attend). If it is important enough to you, you will find the time and make time. Maybe you need to force yourself a bit? Get a training partner or sign up to a local club or group.

GO FOR IT!

Here are some links you might find useful:

Leo’s Tips on Minimalist Fitness – fresh off the ZenHabits press (note I drafted my post above in a meeting yesterday before Leo’s posted this morning!)

Cool Running Couch to 5K plan

Tim’s Geek to Freak Programme

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Blog Goals

28 07 2008

In setting up this blog I probably should practice what I preach. So here are my blog goals in no particular order:

  1. Build an interesting and informative content
  2. Have a high quality of output
  3. Improve my own written communication skills
  4. Balance Blogging with my other interests
  5. Explore new methods of self improvement

I’m aiming for a 2 post a week frequency consistently, but think I need to build up a small queue of posts. I have the content for around a dozen posts in Draft form, but I only want to put it out there when it is good.