It’s a gift to see the morning sunrise. Although, tomorrow is not guaranteed. We often think we have time to do this or that in the future. Retirement is often positioned as the good life. Weeks turn into months, months turn into years. Our goals that require contributions over long periods of time remain nebulous in a galaxy far, far away. We are often slaves to our job leaving a small amount of precious time for anything else. We work on other people’s goals, not ours.

An addiction to social media and world events preoccupies and consumes our processing capacity. Our narcissistic tendencies fill the void with temporary vices and pleasure that only meaningful goals can provide over a longer period. We are bombarded by the illusion of success all around us, slipping us into a deeper state of inadequacy.

Tomorrow can be different.

The Goal

Pick one goal that has been on your mind and write it in a journal. The journal is critical to keeping score and collecting your thoughts over time. Achieving this goal is challenging but could significantly change your life. Just as important, it will add significant value to others and change their life as well.  You are mesmerized by just the act of thinking about the goal. You would feel a deep sense of disappointment on your deathbed if you did not achieve the goal.

Pick a goal that is personable and unique. Something you can call your own. The outcomes of your goal propel you and others to experience something very special.

The Story

Our ability to internalize and “see” the journey and achievement are critical to increasing the likelihood it will not remain a fleeting dream. Your task as the pilot of your life is to create a vivid story that will be told one day. We need to become believers and ingrain the story in our mental model right now. The pictures and snapshots in our minds will create reminders of this inspiring goal.

They emerge as we drive to work or exercise during our daily workouts. Write the story in your journal and be as specific and detailed as you can. This an opportunity to be creative and not constrain your mind – think big. Plan the impossible.

Describe a typical day on your journey toward the goal. Where are you living? What is your routine? What we the obstacles you faced and how did you overcome them? Who did you meet along the way and how did they help you? Who were the naysayers that you took note of to only prove them wrong? How did achieving the goal make you feel? How is your life different now? What are the stories of the lives you added value to?

The act of writing the goal and story in your journal will take effort and focus to translate a fuzzy idea into a vivid story.  Many of us struggle to translate ideas into written form. But this very act forms and refines the goal into something you and others can rally around.  Yes, the hard work that may challenge your status quo and how you spend each and every day ahead.

An Example Story

It was Thanksgiving break back in 2012 that I thought about synthesizing what would become a cherished goal. Over the last few years, I had been sharing career strategy concepts with fellow Microsoft colleagues and it had become more than an occasional hobby. Helping people along their career journey was a gift. It became clear that I was on an unintended journey although the goal was not concrete.

I realized that I was gaining valuable life lessons as a person and leader running career workshops across Microsoft. The career strategy best practices, principles, and life lessons could be valuable if I could organize them into a document or even a book.

There it was – the goal. A book that I could give to my kids to short-cut and accelerate their learning.  Synthesizing concepts and knowledge that took me years to amass. The gift of my learnings and those of others could save precious time and change their life. It was primarily as a practitioner through writing, speaking, and coaching sessions where this knowledge was created and distilled. I learned just as much about myself as I did about strategy and human behavior.

I still needed the visual to guide and capture the essence of the goal. A few months earlier I stepped onto the field of the renovated California Memorial Stadium at Berkeley. There it was – the visual of 63K people that I had connected with over the course of my journey that would fill the Cal Berkeley stadium.

Your visual could be a picture, a sketch, a painting – anything visual that captures the goal and drives motivation and action. You may also find it helpful to keep score and record the milestones along the way as I have in my personal quest.

Breaking the Mind Barrier

The biggest challenge to achieving our goal is paradoxically ourselves. We get caught up in trivial and non-values tasks that can otherwise but allocated to the goal. The drama and poor planning of others invade the precious 1,440 minutes of our day. Meetings without agendas or clear outcomes. It’s essential that you break the mind barrier by altering your habits, schedule, and protecting the space for making deposits toward the goal. Inspect each day to determine what you can change.

Recently, I have dedicated a journal notebook to capture everything about my goal. I carry it in my bag everywhere to capture ideas, notes, challenges, and progress.  I journal to describe what I am feeling and the challenges that must be solved. The exercise of articulating these crystallizes the key ideas and solutions.

The journal is a way of holding myself accountable. Just the act of seeing the notebook each day is a reminder to get to work. It’s a goal I can’t buy or artificially produce. Although the goal I have set is a compilation of notes (ideally a book!), the journey and all of the people I will meet along the way is equally as fulfilling.

I have also scheduled a recurring task in my calendar to work on the goal each week. Working to make it a daily routine increases the likelihood of forming a habit that involuntarily drives action.

Sharing your goal with your relationships can help in two ways. First, the act of hearing yourself describe the goal to others drives clarity and confidence. You believe in it enough to talk about it with passion and detail.  Second, people more often than not are glad to help you even in small ways. You may be surprised to hear how others may be willing to help you.  Everybody loves a good story.

Time is Precious – Stop Wasting It!

The end of the year is often a convenient time to take stock of our life. We pause our busy schedules to spend time celebrating holidays with family and friends. The act of breaking our inertia from our normal routines can help us identify something important that we have been putting off.

A challenging physical feat, a repaired relationship, an amazing vacation, a new business – something you can call your own.  Ideally, something that creates memories that will last a lifetime.

Give yourself a unique and life-changing gift this holiday season. The story and visual of the elusive goal spawn you into action.

It may be the gift that keeps on giving for years to come.