I'm so used to most of my friends and colleagues wondering where in the world I always find time and energy to do the things I do, that I've finally decided to spend few minutes and give full answers to these questions.
The ultimate answer
First and foremost, the ultimate answer to all such questions: it's all about having a clear vision in your mind. It's about knowing where you want to be in not so distant future. It's about being absolutely conscious that no matter how good or bad the current situation looks, it's probably not the end of your journey.
I won't claim knowing a special secret about setting your goals or anything like this - after all, I'm only learning to master the art of goal-setting myself. But I'm willing to share the few things I've learned so far, and I sincerely hope these pearls of wisdom would help you make the progress in your personal development you're so hoping for.
Outcome vs Goal
One very simple thing I've learned is to think about lots of things as an outcome. Since all our achievements are nothing but the result of our self-confidence and determination, you really should be sure about what you should be doing to achieve the result you want. And what quite often happens is that we're thinking goals, as in goals which sometimes seem too good to be true, or too far away to be easily reached, or simply too complex to be fully achieved. In other words, we set ourselves such goals that they're always a possibility, but not a certainty.
You think: “Yeah, wouldn't it be great to have more time freed up for my family?!. . . I should probably try and do something to make sure I don't work late hours and don't take up more projects than I physically can. . . " So the goal of having more time sounds like a good idea. But because we're not sure how much more time we'd like to free up, and how it's going to look and feel, and when it's going to happen, it's REALLY hard to achieve such a goal. Quite simply, you're not giving yourself a chance to know when you're approaching your goal and when you've really achieved it.
But what if we consider this goal to become an outcome? Outcomes are always certain. There is no probability here at all, not a shadow of doubt about getting an outcome - whether we like it or not, we're going to get some outcome following our actions. It may not be quite the outcome you were aiming for, but it will be an outcome. We have to look at this goal and see what the outcome is going to be for us. What will really improve when you get more time freed up? How will it improve in your opinion? How much time do you really need to see such an improvement? Would 1 extra hour a day be good enough, or do you want two hours?
So just knowing that there's something you're going to get helps you look at the whole plan of yours from a completely different perspective. It's no longer a question of whether something happens or not. It an outcome now, it's a thing certain to happen. And just like that, in an instant, you see a magical transformation for a vague goal into a sharp certainty quite possible to be achieved.
Every one of us should have ultimate goals. There shouldn't be too many of them, but you absolutely need at least a few. They would be your guiding lines - something you always keep in mind in every effort you're making.
For instance, my ultimate goals are the driving force behind most of my actions. There's an odd action now and then which doesn't fall into any of my ultimate goals but that's the truth of life - you can't turn every action required and expected from you to be beneficial. Sometimes (as it happens with work, for instance), you have to do things which are part of someone else's ultimate goal or vision, but that's what you're paid for, is it?
I don't want to give you a list of my ultimate goals - partially because I'm changing them all the time, make some of them more accurate and therefore easy to follow, or just reordering them to ensure the most important goals are the first ones I work on. Also it is because no ultimate goal of mine is finite - once I reach the goal, I simply make the milestone and develop the goal into a bigger one, so that it's a constant pursuit of something bigger and better.
For me such a state of things is nothing but a pure and constant motivation. When I have a clear vision of my future, I have a list of my goals - and I know I'm always doing my best to get closer to them. But if my goals were finite, I would simply be disappointed once I'd reached them. So I always push my goals higher and further apart. This way I have the motivation to grow and continue to do what I've been doing.
Knowing where you want to be
Many of you will find that it's much easier to know where you don't want to be! That's good enough, work from there! Don't be so hard on yourself, but simply try being conscious about your current position. For me, I always know there's something else waiting for me ahead in the future. And this motivates, not disappoints me.
Every time I go to gym I KNOW it's not the last time I'm going to do it. Right now my goals could be about losing some weight or growing some muscles, but even when I do reach these goals, I'm sure I'll transform them into some other goal like making sure I stay healthy and physically active for as long as possible.
Every time I'm learning something new in my profession, I KNOW it's just another piece of useful information. I'm sure that if there's a chance to learn something else, and provided that I have enough time for it, I'll go for it. I'll never stop learning.
Every time I write an entry in this blog, I'm ABSOLUTELY SURE it's not the last one. Because there's always going to be something else I can learn to help myself grow, to try it out and to share it so that others could enjoy the results too.
So knowing where you want to be is very important. It's not a set of goals, but more like a vision. It's a number of your wildest dreams you want to come true once day. It's all these things which you're finally going to achieve. And that's the energy and motivation to keep you going even when no one else believes in you. It doesn't matter.
YOU know better what's good for you and for your goals.
What about YOU?
Do you know where you want to be? You may not have a clear vision of your future, but let me assure you - even feeling that you're not quite there is a good start! Don't stop there! Try and make the next step. Find some time and analyze your goals - both everyday and ultimate ones. See what's really important for you and start paying them more attention. This is the effort you have to make as it will eventually make all the difference for you.
Don't worry about so much work to be done. Don't be scared to dream of a better future. Don't be discouraged if something doesn't work out the way you wanted it to. It doesn't mean anything! You can do much more than you think you can, and as long as you know where you want to be and you keep working on getting there, you're doing just fine!
Gleb Reys is the author of Personal Development Ideas blog where he describes his own self-improvement experiments and writes articles on productivity, problem solving, communication skills and motivation.