Creating Your Vision and Action Plan for 2020
It’s that time of year! The beginning of a calendar year inspires us to create new intentions and take action toward achieving our goals.
I was very lucky to work for lululemon athletica for nine years, and one of my favorite parts of the job was doing goal-coaching sessions with my coworkers. lululemon is deeply committed to the personal growth and success of its employees, whether or not they plan to stay with the company long-term. As a result, turnover is low (I certainly worked there far longer than I originally intended!).
2020 promises to be an exciting year—change is in the air. Is there something you’ve been dreaming about, and are you wondering if it’s possible or realistic? Now’s the time to find out.
First Step: Create Your Vision
You can create a vision for your life for any point in the future. For this exercise, pick a time frame somewhere between 1 and 10 years from now.
Let go of all expectations of what your life “should” be like. After you’ve read these questions, close your eyes and let yourself dream about your ideal life, where there are no limitations on what you can achieve or create for yourself.
- If time, money, education, and experience were no issue, and you had zero constraints in the world, what would you do?
- What does a day in your ideal life look like?
- In your ideal life, where do you live?
- Who do you live with?
- If you work, where from (an office, your home, the beach)?
- What do you do in your free time?
- How do you take care of yourself?
- What is most important to you?
When you can see your ideal life in your mind, open your eyes and write it down. It can be in note form or a descriptive paragraph—whatever works for you.
Now, read it over. Does it feel right? Does it excite you and make you smile? Is it what you really, truly want for yourself?
Your vision of your ideal life will likely evolve and change over the coming months and years, so revisit this exercise whenever you feel like you need clarity or inspiration.
Remember, you only get to live once—this your only chance. This is IT. So do what makes you feel alive, what brings you joy, and what you feel you’re meant to do.
Next Step: Create an Action Plan
You’ve identified what you’re passionate about accomplishing and visualized the life you want to live. Now it’s time to create an action plan to get you there.
The ideal life that you envision may include some changes to your current career or lifestyle. In order to make these changes, you’ll need to break down each big, long-term goal (like opening your own restaurant, getting your PhD, or owning a house on the beach) into smaller, very approachable short-term goals. You’ll be much more likely to take action toward achieving your big goals if you can break them down into easily achievable baby steps.
When you create your action plan, focus on just the coming year. Look at each of your long-term goals and consider what you need to do this year to make progress toward your vision. Do you need to:
- Start saving money for a future purchase? How will you build this into your monthly budget?
- Enroll in school? When will you apply?
- Get a new job? When will you update your resume and start going on interviews?
- Do more to take care of yourself? What changes do you want to make, and how will you fit them into your daily routine?
When creating your short-term goals, the more specific you can be, the better. I like using the SMART goal approach, attributed to George T. Doran and described in his 1981 paper “There’s a S.M.A.R.T. Way to Write Management’s Goals and Objectives.”
SMART stands for:
Specific: Let’s say you want to get in shape this year. If your goal is to “get in shape,” that’s not specific. To make your goal more specific (and therefore more likely to be achieved) you should specify what type or types of exercise you plan to do (running, weight-training, etc).
Measurable: Make your goals measurable so that it’s clear when you’ve achieved them. If your goal is to “take up running,” that’s not measurable. If you set a goal of running three miles three times per week, you’ll know exactly what you’re working toward and you’ll know when you’ve achieved it.
Attainable: Is your goal something that a human being can accomplish? Is it something that you believe you can accomplish?
Realistic: For a goal to be theoretically attainable is one thing; for it to be realistic is another. If you currently run a few miles once or twice a week, is it realistic that you could be physically ready to run a marathon in two months? Probably not. How about in 10 months? That’s much more realistic.
Time-bound: Set a time by which you want to achieve each short-term goal. For example, “I run three miles three times per week by March 30th.”
Short-term goals should be less intimidating and seem more realistic than long-term goals. Whenever you feel like a goal is overwhelming or impossible, keep breaking it down into baby steps until the short-term goals become approachable.
You’ll be more likely to take action when you set a short-term goal because you’ll know that you can do it. You’ll also have a sense of accomplishment whenever you complete a short-term goal! Feeling successful along the way will keep you on your path toward your long-term goals.
The SMART goal and action plan approach work very well for most people, but above all remember that these are YOUR goals—so write them in a way that is meaningful and effective for you.
Sometimes people feel scared to write down their goals, because they’re hesitant to make a commitment or worried that they’ll fail. But there’s no need to feel this way. Your goals are not written in stone—you can revise them anytime you want (it’s your life, after all). And if you don’t accomplish a goal, who cares? At least you tried, and likely learned something while trying. Some failure now and then is good for us!
Lastly, Post and Share Your Goals
After you’ve written down your goals, post them somewhere in your home or workplace where you’ll see them on a regular basis. Research shows that people who write down their goals are more likely to succeed than people who simply think about their goals. People who then share their goals and action commitments with a friend are even more likely to succeed.
Whenever you look at your goals you should feel happiness, excitement, and anticipation! If you feel a sense of dread, stress, or wanting to avoid them, then they should not be your goals. Throw them out and start over.
Brain imaging has shown us why professional athletes use visualization to improve their athletic performance. When you visualize yourself performing an action, your brain goes through the planning and preparation phases in the same way as when you prepare to physically carry out the action. This mental preparation actually creates and strengthens neural pathways in your brain, making you more likely to be successful when you actually do the action.
The benefits of visualization extend beyond athletic performance. You can visualize yourself accomplishing anything—completing a degree, getting a new job, moving to a different city—and it will increase your chances of success. When you train your brain to believe that something is real, you prime yourself to act in ways that are consistent with what you’ve imagined.
In my experience, I find that the things I can’t help visualizing are the things I am most passionate about achieving. If you find that you have to force yourself to visualize accomplishing a goal, it could be a sign that you don’t really want to pursue it. It’s the goals that you can’t get out of your head—that you can’t stop dreaming about—that you should be pursuing.
What would you do if you knew you could not fail?