There is a lot of literature on how to achieve your desires in life. Much of it focuses on setting S.M.A.R.T goals: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-based.
For some folks, SMART works well. Funders and businesses like to see SMART goals in proposals and strategic plans. But many other folks have a hard time creating and accomplishing SMART goals. Generally some of the criticisms include:
- Finding the process dry and unexciting. A good 90% of working toward any goal involves the repetition of boring tasks. SMART goals don’t always inspire and motivate you to do the mundane work on the way to achieving your aspiration.
- Some folks get hung up on trying to measure their goal. If you aspire to meet more people in your line of work, for example, is it helpful to specify you’ll meet one new person a week for the next 3 months? Probably not. It’s not about the numbers, it’s about the quality of the relationship. How do you quantify quality?
- Still, for other people, the time-based piece is problematic. Some activities are ongoing daily, weekly or monthly. They don’t end. This is especially true if you’re trying to make a change in yourself such as learning something new, losing weight or quitting a bad habit. You’re making a lifestyle change and it has to be permanent. There’s no end date. Also, sometimes a task just takes as long as it takes. It’s hard to pin down timelines when you’ve never done something before. Missing deadlines frustrates a lot of people, even when they’ve been working hard. There are times when deadlines just don’t make sense.
When I understood that people in my communities wanted help with learning how to plan to achieve their aspirations I developed my own acronym: D.E.P.T.H. for creating goals: Dream-inspired, Exciting, Practice-based, Transformative and Honourable.
- Dream-inspired means you need to spend some time dreaming. What will it look and feel like when you achieve your desires? Remember it. Draw it. Write about it. Breathe it. Keep it front and center in your mind. That way you’ll stay inspired, motivated and …
- Excited. Set goals that light you up. Think about engaging with your passions and having fun in pursuit of your goal. Think about the people you’ll help, the places you’ll visit and the good you can do in the world. Stay excited.
- Practice-based is about understanding your goal won’t happen tomorrow. You have to work day after day to achieve what you want. Aim to create habits that help you do that rather forcing yourself to power through. Self-discipline is a matter of training your brain and it only takes 21 days. Want to swim as part of your wellness goal? Go to the pool every day for 21 days. Create the habit. In the beginning you can swim for a mere 15 minutes, then work your way up to 20, 30 or 40 minutes a day. As long as you’re in the habit of going at the same time every day your mind will remind you rather than argue with you about it. Particularly if you stay connected to your dream and your excitement. And you’re getting adequate sleep and nutrition.
- Transformative is the piece that recognizes you have to transform yourself to achieve your goals. Something about you must change. Maybe you need to learn something, create new habits, change your mindset, alter your routine, or connect with different people. Clearly, you can’t do what you’ve always done and expect new results. You have to reconsider what you think, say or do. Start small. Introduce one change at a time. Just recognize that you have to transform to achieve what you desire.
- Honourable. Are your goals aligned with your values, beliefs, words and actions? Do your goals uplift others in some way and contribute without harming life? Do you have to dishonour yourself or anyone else to achieve what you want? If your goals aren’t honourable you won’t feel excited by them. You’ll feel empty and without purpose. You won’t be able to commit. So honour your own sense of integrity.
If the DEPTH process helps you, use it with my blessing. Here are more tips for achieving your aspirations:
- Write down your goals. Research shows that people who write their goals are more likely to achieve them.
- Have an empowering morning routine that energizes and inspires you for the day. Maybe it’s exercise, prayer, smudging, meditation or journaling. Again, research shows that folks who energize themselves first thing in the morning are more productive.
- Make lists. Check things off. It helps you remember what needs to be done and feels satisfying when you’ve completed the tasks.
- Use schedules, reminders and timers. Research says they help keep you on track.
- Eliminate or minimize distractions while you work. Close the door, turn off the phone, stay off social media, even if only for a few hours, so you can focus. You’ll be more productive.
- Create habits rather than rely on your willpower. We covered this above. Entrain your brain.
- Organize around your own priorities first. Don’t put the desires of others before your own. That’s a recipe for burnout and frustration. Put what’s important to you into the calendar first and then schedule other stuff around it. It’s ok if keeping your job and taking care of your kids is important to you. What’s important to you can overlap with what’s important to another. But there are other things that you desire to accomplish for your own joy and wellness. Put them first and you’ll have the energy for other tasks that are important to you.
- Associate with supportive people who want to see you succeed. Say goodbye to or spend less time with people who criticize, judge and bring you down.
- Learn from people who have done or are doing what you want to do. Most people will be happy to help you and honoured that you asked.
Celebrate your achievements. You deserve it.