In yesterday’s blog post, I wrote about creating a 100-Things “Forget the Joneses” bucket list. Today, I’ll show you how to organize and refine your list so it actually WORKS for you.
If you’re wondering what creating a bucket list has to do with money, you’re not alone. However, when you compare how you actually spend your money to what you really want out of life, there is often a huge discrepancy. This list is all about getting you back on track and putting your money where your priorities are.
If you only thought about your dreams, and they exist somewhere in your head (but not on paper), stop immediately. It’s not so much having the dreams but writing them down that is the crucial element in your success. You won’t be able to complete the next assignments without it.
What Do Your Dreams Say About You?
In looking at your list, you may notice some common themes. Do you love a certain hobby? Are you philanthropic? Do you want a makeover? Your list may also give you some insight into what is currently lacking in your life. If half of your list is comprised places you want to travel, it might be time for a vacation.
What Do You Really Want?
Your dreams can provide some valuable personal insight. With each dream you’ve written down, ask yourself these questions:
• Why do you want it?
• What will it provide for you?
• Is this something that society says is important, or one that you personally value?
• Is it consistent with your values?
• Would you want this if nobody saw or heard about it?
• Do any of your goals contradict each other?
Finding Contentment Today
Let’s analyze the traveling example again. What do you get out of traveling? Is it a break from routine? Is it uninterrupted time with your family? Or, do you like to experience new cultures? Is there any way you can replicate those feelings without leaving your city (or even your home)?
Analyzing why you want these things will help you find contentment in the here and now. If traveling gives you time with your family where you’re unburdened by the demands of daily life, you may be able to replicate that simply by getting a hotel room in a nearby city vs. going on an expensive vacation. If you’re into new cultures and experiences, simply going to more ethnic eateries in your own town can help satisfy those cravings. If it’s your dream to write a book one day, start by keeping a journal. Doing some of the little things today that provide you with what you’re really searching for can help you peacefully pursue your dreams.
In her book Quantum Success, Sandra Anne Taylor defines the Law of Paradoxical Intent:
“The Law of Paradoxical Intent points out the underlying paradox of personal achievement: You can get what you want by knowing that you don’t need it to be happy! It forces you to shift your focus from a desperate intention to a peaceful pursuit. Never send out energy that you’re willing to wait to be happy – just that you’re willing to wait for the goal. Needing a particular achievement before you can live with peace and joy creates a desperate energy that’s absolute poison to the resonance of success, so be clear about your intentions and fearless in your motivations. Pursue your goals because you want them to enhance an already happy life, not because you’ll be miserable without them.”
Think of goals and dreams as seeds you’re planting for the future. By writing them down, finding ways to implement progress into your daily life and nurturing them, you’re helping them to grow. But, just like a seed – you can’t rush things. If a gardener gets impatient waiting for her flowers to bloom, she could kill her crop by overwatering or overfertilizing. The same thing can be said for getting impatient with your goals. You have to happily go about tending your garden, knowing that one day you’ll be able to harvest your crop when the time is right. Living too much in the future can spoil what you have today.
With the insight that you’ve gathered, what do you think the essence of your dreams really is? What feelings are you really searching for? Think of ways to get what you want out of life today, without spending money or leaving your own town. Write down some of your ideas. You may even want to use that insight to fine-tune your dreams list.
Now that you have your list of dreams, it’s time to get down to work. Organizing your list is the next step and will help you narrow your focus on which dreams to tackle first. If you are familiar with Excel, doing this in spreadsheet form can help simplify the process even more. Having your list in spreadsheet form will allow you to sort your dreams by category, timeline, and importance.
Assign various categories to your dreams. Your categories may vary, but common ones include:
Beside every dream that you have, write down a target date about when you’d like to achieve it. Or, to make things even simpler, write down one of the following abbreviations next to each dream.
ST = Short Term (something you’d like to accomplish within the year)
MT = Medium Term (something you’d like to accomplish in the next 1-5 years)
LT = Long Term (something you’d like to accomplish in 5+ years)
Which dreams are you most passionate about? Are there some that you simply MUST accomplish? Which dreams are your “take-it-or-leave it” dreams, the things that would be great, but you’d be fine without them? Assign the following categories of importance:
HI = High Importance
MI = Medium Importance
LI = Low Importance
For example: For me, funding my retirement is highly important. Although I’d like to travel, these are the dreams I’m willing to let go in favor of other things. Most of my travel dreams fall under the Medium or Low Importance categories.
Once you’ve labeled your dreams, sort them according to category first, then by priority and timeline. In doing this, you’ll be able to see which dreams mean the most to you. (In my spreadsheet, I also color-coded the High Importance items red so they would stand out)
Plan of Action
A Goal is a Dream with a Plan
In order to turn a dream into a goal, you have to be prepared to come up with plan and do the work to see it through. That’s the big difference between dreams and goals. Studies show that that those who write out their goals not only end up achieving them, but have higher incomes and overall success and life satisfaction as well. If you didn’t write down your goals in the previous step, go back and do it.
The Harvard Business School conducted a study which drew a high correlation between writing down goals and overall success. In 1979, MBA students were asked, “Have you set clear, written goals for your future and made plans to accomplish them?”
Only 3 percent of respondents had clearly stated goals and actionable steps to achieve them. Ten years later in 1989, that same 3 percent were earning over 10 times as much as the other 97 percent combined.
Source: What They Don’t Teach You At Harvard Business School
There is a big difference between simply having general goals and writing them down. There is an even bigger difference between writing them down and creating actionable steps to achieve them. Those steps are your blueprint to achieve your dreams.
Make it Actionable
The more specifically you state your dream, the more clarity it has. Instead of saying you’d like to develop a better relationship with your sister, you need to identify what that really means to you. Does it mean seeing her more frequently? Does it mean going beyond the small talk to allow for conversations with deeper meaning? What exactly does it mean? You have to make it actionable. Your dream of having a better relationship with your sister becomes specific and actionable by writing down, “Call my sister at least once a week.”
Identify the Action Steps
What are the steps you’ll need to take to realize your dreams? Write them down. In doing so, you’re turning your dream into an actual GOAL. If you dream of building a house, you’ll need to: save for a down payment, buy land, decide on a blueprint, and so on. The more specific and detailed you can be with these steps, the better.
Dream: Build a house in the country
Goal: Build a 2,500 square ft. mission-style home on 2+ acres of land within 5 miles of our town.
Steps to achieve:
1. Estimate cost of project
2. Save XXXX amount for down payment
3. Locate building lot
4. Locate contractor
5. Have design/floor plan ideas ready
The more you can break your goals down into smaller segments the more successful you will be at achieving them. Write down your plan and post it in a place that’s visible. Revisit it frequently in order to stay on track.
Remember, more money isn’t always the only step in achieving your goals. Even though it can sometimes be an important component – it’s not the only thing. With traveling, for example, it’s fun to learn more about the places you want to go. Remember to keep planting your seeds and watering them – one day they will bear fruit.
Assignment: Further organize and clarify your goals by determining their importance and timeline. Now, pick the Top 10 goals to work on in this year. They will most likely be the ones that are highest up on the importance list, and also some that are time-sensitive short-range goals. In an effort to maintain balance in your life, try to select at least one goal from each category you defined. Then, come up with a list of concrete action steps to carry out to achieve the Top 10. Post your list somewhere you can see it frequently – on a bulletin board, refrigerator, or on your bathroom mirror.