Time management Monday: Breaking down life-changing goals

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Wonderful Ach

If you could do anything at all that you wanted, what would that be? And where would you start? In this post I’ll help you think through big goals and how to get there.

The truth is, in real life reaching your goals is rarely a linear process. What really works is to increase your chances of having the opportunity to realize your goals. Here’s what I mean:

For example, say you want to live and work in Spain. How are you going to do that?

Will you seek out a placement agency? Do you know someone who lives there? What are your work visa requirements? Do you speak Spanish?

There are lots of things you can do to increase your chances of having an opportunity to work in Spain. But before you can apply to jobs you’ll need to do some background work: Figure out the work visa situation. Learn Spanish. See what the demand is for your profession in the country. Network with anyone who might be able to connect you with someone who lives there.

Once you have the background work done, search for jobs. Maybe even go to Spain for job hunting. This will get you closer.

The thing is, it won’t happen overnight. In fact it might take a long time. But if you keep searching for jobs, keep networking, keep at it, something will open up eventually.

And then you have to make a decision.

Do you jump at the opportunity? Or do you let it go by?

There’s never going to be a perfect time to drop your life and move to Spain. Maybe a job opportunity comes just when you’ve received a promotion at work. Or when you’ve started a new course of study. Or when you’ve just bought a house or a new car.

Moving to a different country is a really big deal, and an example of a big, life-changing goal. But even less extreme changes require preparation and planning.

Imagine whatever your life-changing goal is, and break it down into steps like I did above:

  1. What information do you need to find out? (Do your homework)
  2. What preparatory work needs to be done? (Do your background work)
  3. Search for opportunities. Keep plugging away.
  4. Congratulations! An opportunity has come up! Are you going to take it?
  5. Yes? Great! Now the real work begins!

As another example, say you want to go to graduate school:

Step 1 would be deciding what program of study you want, and which universities offer those.

Step 2 would be finding out what their entry requirements are: do you have the correct coursework, high enough grades, and test scores? Sometimes at this step you have to do some work. A friend of mine wanted to become a veterinarian but his undergraduate grades weren’t good enough to get into vet school, so he had to get his Master’s degree first.

Step 3 would be to apply to graduate schools.

Step 4: You’ve been accepted! Are you going to go? Is it your first choice school? Are you going to drop your current life and possibly move to a different location for grad school?

Step 5: You’ve decided to go! Now the real work – your graduate school program – begins!

For any multi-step goal, you have to keep plugging away at the steps because if you stop at any point, you’ll never get there. You’re not going to magically get into graduate school or get a job in Spain if you never apply.

A standard practice is to give yourself a timeline for these steps. For example if you need to learn a language, sign up for the course and give yourself a certain amount of time to reach the level of fluency you need. Give yourself a deadline for applications.

Step 2 is where it’s easiest to get bogged down. Give yourself weekly goals. Because if you put them off, you’ll find they can get put off indefinitely and you could discover later it’s too late, you’ve missed your window of opportunity.

Because these types of goals can simmer on the back burner forever, you need to assign urgency to them in order to get them done. Make your goals into priorities in your daily life (see this post for tips).

By prioritizing your goal steps, you can turn big life-changing goals into manageable actions that will open up opportunities for you.

So now you need to decide: what will you do?

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