Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Eric Hamm of Motivate Thyself.
It’s amazing how far off course we can get when we’re not watching our steps. We just wake up one day and wonder, “Where the heck am I and how did I get so far off my intended path?”
Let’s all take a second and travel back in time to what I like to call our ‘dreaming years‘. This is the time when you’ve first opened your eyes to life as an adult. The world is your oyster and the possibilities, endless. Your desires are strong and yet simple in their structure. The chaos of life has not yet stripped away your clear vision of what a healthy, happy life should be.
For me, this would be right around the time I started my tech consulting business. I was excited about the early successes I was encountering and was just starting to move beyond the paycheck to paycheck lifestyle. I saw great opportunity ahead and started laying out my goals with bated breath.
One day I was walking some laps around my favorite park dreaming of the future. I started working some numbers in my head, thinking of what my possible income might be 5 years into the future. (I wasn’t so much interested in the money as much as the freedom that a healthy income can bring. More time to live the life I desired was what I was after.)
This day dreaming turned into some real goal setting. I did the math, made some assumptions about my business growth and came up with some benchmarks to hit from year to year. I was excited and ready to get to work!
Fast forward 5 years into the future.
My business has grown steadily with hundreds of new clients. My income has almost quadrupled and I’m known in my town for my good service and dependability. I hit my numbers and met my goals. So I’m right where I want to be, right? Wrong!
Why not? I met all my goals. I’ve reached the levels of success in my business that I was only dreaming about 5 years ago. What’s wrong with that?
Life is 3 dimensional while our goals tend to be stuck in 2D.
When I was dreaming that day in the park I had a vision of the future that left out some very important details. I never factored in our natural tendency to always live just beyond our means. Our twisted desire to ‘keep up with the Joneses’. 5 years later I found myself making quadruple the money with quadruple the dept. In other words, I was working that much harder to live in a bigger house with a few more toys. The precious ‘time’ that I was originally after had slipped through my fingers and been replaced by the mirage that is the ‘American Dream’.
So here I am, trying to feel good about my accomplishments, only to look on my desk at the pile of bills staring back at me.
Am I discouraged? Absolutely not! It is only when you are blind to your misdirection that you should be worried.
It’s been a few months since I realized my major miscalculation and I have been working hard to try to find my way back to my original path. Simplicity with a side of family and friends is what I was after and the dream is alive once again!
3 things to remember when setting your goals while dreaming of the future.
1: Life will throw you a curve at least twice a year.
There is no way of telling how often things really don’t go your way, but it seems like every six months or so I find myself in a spot that has knocked me off course. There was nothing I could have done to prevent it. That’s just life.
But if we are not setting our goals with these unforeseen ‘bumps in the road’ in mind, we will only find ourselves soon to be discouraged. So build in a buffer when you set your goals. Make sure you can withstand a few hits now and again without taking on too much water.
2: A penny saved IS a penny earned.
I leaned the hard way that increasing your income is only half the equation. Make sure you are just as aware of the money going out as the money coming in. Second and third guess your major purchases. Ask yourself if it’s truly worth the time you will be trading for the item. As much as I enjoy living in a night bigger house, I would trade it for more ‘time’ any day of the week!
3: Success comes on a curve.
I’ve found that about 75% of my initial income was made fairly easily. Building my business was a steady process that yielded strong, steady growth. But the last 25% is where the real stress comes in. As your goals/needs require you to hit higher and higher marks, you will find that your efforts must increase exponentially. Squeezing all the potential out of any venture requires much more effort than just settling for most of it.
So my advise is to live WELL within your means so you don’t force yourself to hit this drastic increase in effort. I could make a solid living with little effort and a ton of time to spare. But because I went so far off course, I had painted myself into a corner. I was now forced to work much harder to get that last little bit out of my business that my current lifestyle required.
Other goals that can easily be lost in the hustle and bustle of life.
Of course money isn’t everything. For many of us it’s staying in shape and living a healthy life. We aspire to master an instrument or raise a family the best way we know how. These and many other pursuits of life are easily diluted or completely forgotten as time slips away. So it is with great importance and urgency that we open our eyes and take an honest look around us. If we find that our intended path is no where to be found, we must re-center our minds and re-focus our hearts on the vision we once had. Start living your life as you once intended and you will soon find your way back, once again moving in a positive direction.
Where are you right now?
Are you still making progress in your life that follows the lines of your original intentions? Or is it time to open your eyes and start making some life changes?
Also: Check out Leo’s guest post on Motivate Thyself: Quick and Dirty Little Tips for Exercise Motivation.