Inside: The steps needed to accomplish our life goals can feel boring in the moment. But small steps with consistency lead to powerful results.
I still have the sheet of loose-leaf paper I used in 2008 when, inspired by Dave Ramsey, and after paying off 50K in student loans, I wrote out my new life and financial goals. Building a 3-month emergency fund, saving cash for a new vehicle, taking a family trip to Europe and helping kids through university all felt distant and hard. But we rolled up our sleeves and began ticking off these dreams one by one.
When our youngest graduates, we dream of living a simple debt-free life that allows my husband and I to rent a flat a few months at a time in different countries while I live out my mission writing and we meander cobblestone streets, hand in hand. We live a humble but joyful life as we work diligently toward this dream and experience tells me we will likely get there.
THE BORING BUT EFFECTIVE WAY TO MAKE DREAMS COME TRUE
The truth is, the steps needed to accomplish life goals can feel decidedly boring and unglamorous in the moment. We can struggle to feel like we’re making any real progress. It can be challenging to live in the tension of wanting to fully enjoy life now and also steadily progress toward our bigger life vision. Here are some habits that help me take consistent action toward my life goals.
1 | Write down your life goals and check-in regularly
Start by dreaming about where you’d like to be in 5 years – a vague, loose dream is fine but do not allow perfectionism or fear to prevent you from getting honest about what you want. Now, create a 6-12 month goal worksheet of actionable, measurable, values-aligned goals that you can focus on to move you closer to that bigger life vision. Break down these short-term goals into monthly tasks and get them into your planner.
We progress in what we track. It’s critical to build the connection that the only way to make your dreams come true is to get them out of your head and heart and onto paper – then into purposeful (imperfect) action on a daily basis. I suggest checking in at least once a month with your bigger life vision and showing up for weekly money dates to stay honest about where you’re at and where you want to go.
2 | Keep your eyes on your own path
Be wary of who you watch and listen to. Unfollow people on social media that tempt you off course, delete apps and ditch the TV and magazines that ignite lust for things that don’t align with your bigger life vision. Everyone else’s life might look far more exciting than yours along the way but what everyone else is up to is not actually your business.
So hang out with like-minded or at least growth-minded people that challenge and encourage you. Keep your eyes on your own path; your job is to decide what you will create with the life you’ve been handed.
3 | Take one small, stubborn step after another toward your dream
Sometimes people take big leaps, come into big money, experience a seismic shift or turn of events in their life that radically alters the trajectory of their path. But most often, it’s more boring than that. They work hard for years to build a business that looks like an overnight success to others. They plod along saving money and living simply so they can buy the lake-front cabin debt-free. They practice showing up and loving each other in small ways, through times of both relative ease and intense struggle, to build that beautiful marriage we admire. One tiny habit, consistently followed-through on can lead to significant shifts in our life.
It is slow and steady, one stubborn step and then another, that we walk our way into our dreams. Small steps with consistency lead to powerful results.
4 | Invite your family into your vision or dream but don’t bully them into submission
Unless we want to do life alone, we need to invite people into our vision but not bully them into submission. Not everyone is a dreamer or planner, some people are fearful of change or content with life exactly as it is, and sometimes the people we love don’t share our precise dreams. Everyone’s voice should be heard.
Walking through life with the people we love requires flexibility and compromise; learning to be honest and vulnerable but making space for them to be honest too. This means that sometimes we put some dreams on hold or let them go altogether; it might mean we negotiate or take our time crafting a dream that honors the needs and desires of everyone involved. Inviting people into our dreams and making space for dialogue is the slower, sometimes messy, but likely more effective way to make our dreams come true.
5 | Hold your life plan loosely
Life rarely turns out according to our well-laid plans, and I propose it often turns out far more beautiful. But the fact that life surprises us does not in any way dismiss the need to set goals and work toward them. We can dream and plan and hold the outcome loosely but remember that it is in stepping out and taking action that we find our path.
When you stumble, pick yourself right back up again. Life may have beaten you up a bit, but you can still build a dream. We all have pain and limitations in our lives, but we can take responsibility for what is within our control and choose not to quit.
Originally posted on January 31, 2018 as a guest post on Becoming Unbusy.