Goals are just milestones. Places where you stop for a while and enjoy the scenery. The trip is what gives you the ultimate thrill, and it will always be like this.
But, as interesting as the trip may be, goals have their own importance. They can either add more awesomeness to the mix or make the whole experience dull and boring. It’s one thing to stop on the side of the road, eating some dust watching how others are passing you by, but it’s a completely different thing to stop at a 5 star hotel, relax, and get your strength together for the next part of the trip. As I said, both are just milestones within a bigger trip, but their quality is different.
Let me share a personal story with you about some goals I set a few years ago. Although these are material goals, closely linked to money, I’m using these examples because they can be easily measured. The same approach works in many other areas, like personal evolution, lifestyle, or relationships.
The Early Years
A few years ago I was spending the majority of my time trying to build an online publishing company. I had a considerable degree of success, some would say, but it involved a considerable degree of personal involvement and time spent making things happening.
At that time, I could barely afford my own car. I was driving a very old Dacia model (a local brand, based on a Renault chassis). It was a wreck. I remember that at times the engine would heat up to the point where it would let out waves of white steam from the hood. Often I had to pull over and replace the water from the expansion recipient. Before going to a meeting, I would always making sure I was carrying around at least 4 liters of water on the back seat. It wasn’t unusual to stop 2-3 times a day to watch the white steam and to replace the water.
So, eventually I decided that it was time to get a new car. A beautiful one. Of course, I couldn’t afford it. I was barely affording the maintenance expenses for my wreck. But I wanted a new, beautiful, and shiny car really bad. So, after browsing a little on the internet I decided I want a Volvo XC90. It was 6 years ago and the model hadn’t even been launched yet, but since one of my niche websites was the biggest car portal in Romania, I was wired to everything that was new in the car industry. I already had a few wallpapers for the upcoming Volvo XC90. Beautiful, shiny pictures.
I set up my computer wallpaper to the most beautiful picture in the whole album. Each morning, it was the first image I saw when I opened my computer. Each evening, before shutting down my laptop, I saw the same image. I had made a very strong commitment. I think I had that wallpaper for more than one year. One day, I decided it would be no more than 3 years until I would have that car.
Time passed and in the process I changed my wallpaper. I also changed my car, but not to a Volvo XC90. I started gradually with a Skoda, then an Opel. At some point, after 3 years of countless hours spent in the office with clients, partners and employees, I realized that I could finally afford a much better car than my Opel Astra.
So I bought an Infiniti FX 35, a huge, powerful and luxurious car, more expensive than a Volvo XC90. That Volvo disappeared from my goal horizon, but the associated lifestyle didn’t. In fact, the goal of having a big, shiny and powerful car (which could act more like a statement of what I was doing at that time), become even stronger.
The whole process took about 6 years. From the moment I set up a certain goal, to the moment that goal became reality, there were around 2100 days. How did I feel the day I drove my new Infiniti home? Exactly the same. I wasn’t different. The car was, but I wasn’t. However, the car was a very clear sign that my intention to change my mindset towards a much more abundant one was working really well. The trip was unfolding in the right direction and this milestone was a very rewarding one.
The Current Situation
Now, this may be an interesting story, but it happened 6 years ago. How about now? What is an easy to measure goal that I have right now, and what exactly am I’m doing to make it happen?
If you read my last post, you already know, but I’ll say it again anyway: I want a jet. A Learjet, to be more precise. I know, I know, it sounds crazy. It may even be crazy. But that won’t stop me from wanting it.
Can I afford a jet right now? You’re kidding me, right? Of course I can’t! Compared to my “car goal” situation, I don’t even have a wreck to call my “first jet”. I have nothing in this area and the financial difference between how I’m doing right now and how I would need to do in order to afford a 17.9 million dollar jet is enormous.
But I’m reading about it. I started to look around for flying courses. I’m enjoying its pictures. I don’t have a wallpaper with it, but one of the tabs of my browser is always opened with that image. I’m “soaking” myself with a jet the same way I soaked with the image of a Volvo XC90.
I want it in 5 years from now. And I’m working towards it.
The Three Stages Of Goal Setting
Those of you familiar with my ebook already know that I’m using a life management framework called “Assess – Decide – Do”. Of course, 6 years ago I didn’t know that I was using that framework in particular. At least, not consciously. But, on a very deep and hard to grasp level, I have always done stuff following this pattern. Now, how can this be related to goal setting?
First Stage: Assess
This is the stage in which you’re pondering how your goal should fit into your life. It’s the stage in which you are wondering, day dreaming, brainstorming, and drifting away in dreams about your goal. This is the part where you are making room to fit your goal into your current lifestyle.
That’s the stage from which I am slowly getting out of now, with my jet goal. I impregnated its image into my daily activity. I made it familiar. I found ways to integrate it into my lifestyle.
6 years ago, wanting a better car had a close relationship with my lifestyle. I had the biggest car portal in Romania, and having a state of the art car was somehow part of my image as an owner.
Right now, I want a location independent lifestyle. Having a jet to support it looks like a good fit.
Second Stage: Decide
This is the stage in which you are signing the contract with your goal. And you do this by placing it into a space/time continuum.
Speaking of my car goal, the decide stage was when I clearly stated that I want the car in a time frame of 3 years, here, in Bucharest.
And speaking of the jet goal, this is the stage where I am right now. I have a clear time/space context in which I can see this goal happening. In this case: I’ll have it in 5 years from now, when I’ll be fully location independent.
Third Stage: Do
This is the most confusing stage for people, because they think they should focus on the goal. There’s a very subtle difference here. And I guess this is the most important difference in my goal setting approach versus other techniques. I’m not advocating a “fixed eye” on the goal. On the contrary. If you start moving towards your goal, you start making it happen, and you don’t have to focus entirely on it. Instead, you should focus on the chosen lifestyle.
That’s a fundamental difference and here’s why.
Focusing on the goal will be like focusing on the hotel. Instead, your focus should be on the trip itself. A goal is just a milestone. The trip is the great thing, not the goal. If you focus on the hotel, you’ll get stuck on the hotel. You may get a nice room, but your trip will be over.
So, in my “goal car” example, once I assessed it (having its wallpaper on my computer for a year) and once I placed it in a time/space context (3 years) the things I did where not directly even really related to this goal. I just continued to work on my business. I constantly improved my lifestyle. I grew up. I just went on with my trip and enjoyed myself.
And, at some point, the goal was already there, on the side of the road, waiting for me to enjoy it.
The Quantum Element
One more thing: you may have noticed that there was a little bit of a difference between what I wanted as a car, and what I got. I wanted a Volvo XC90 and I got an Infiniti FX 35. In this case, I outgoaled myself. I did better than I thought I was able to.
Most of the time this is the case. I set up a certain goal, start working towards it, and then I wake up one day realizing that I have much more than I initially wanted.
I call this the “quantum element”. If you do your job properly, if you stay on the trip, the milestones will be much more rewarding than you can imagine. It’s like reality is suddenly activating some invisible triggers telling you “ok, I know you wanted this, but I’m going to give you that instead, because, well, it’s much more fun”.
But be aware that sometimes this “quantum element” may be working “against” you. You may get a lower vibration. For instance, I am fully aware that I may not get a jet, but only a regular, 4 seater plane. That may happen.
We may not get exactly what we want. Sometimes we get more, sometimes we get less. I think it’s part of a bigger process, which is tightly connected with acceptance and observation. This “quantum element” adds a certain degree of randomness to our trip. Maybe for preventing us from get too wired up in our own little wishes. If we would always get what we want, life would be pretty boring and predictable, isn’t it?
But that’s another story.
Well, 5 years is a lot of time. Since I’m finished with the Assess and Decide part of my jet goal, I’ll just continue to do my work here, on this blog.
And that’s how goal settings works. At least for me. 😉