Tuesday, January 12, 2010

What planning a grocery list and setting life-changing goals have in common

Hello to everyone who is visiting thanks to the lovely mention Wally Conger gave me in his encouraging and informative new Web site this week. Wally is the best friend I've never met and always has some intriguing ideas to offer.

I established this blog to chronicle my thoughts as we move into the world George Orwell envisioned when he wrote Nineteen Eighty Four, and I still visit our growing dystopia from time to time. As time goes on, I've become not so distracted by exterior impositions on liberty as I am by the myriad ways we can still live in freedom — because no one can enslave you without your permission. In fact, as writers like James Allen point out, it's the self-imposed limits that stand between each of us and the lives we want to live.

The transition to a new year is often seen as the time for reflection, goal-setting and preparation, but every day begins as a blank slate — every day is a good day to set goals and embark on new journeys. If the idea of setting a big life-changing goal seems too daunting, start by planning out your day.

We do that anyway. Every day has a to-do list attached. ("Call the plumber, buy eggs and milk.") I find that the days when I remember to take a couple of minutes and write it down keeps me focused. Otherwise inevitably something will be lost in the shuffle. ("I've got the eggs — what else did I need?" "Why is the kitchen floor wet?")

If it works for a day, think of the advantages of making a longer-term to-do list. Sit down Sunday night and map out the week. Now you're doing stuff on Monday that will make it easier to finish that project that's due Friday, because you took a few minutes to look beyond today and understand the big picture for the week.

Now lift your eyes a bit further and plan out the month, and then a year. Then cast out the line and think about where you'd like to be in five years. All of a sudden you're setting goals. The same concepts apply whether you're setting goals for a drive downtown or for a decade.

Discouragement contributes to breaking New Year's resolutions or abandoning goals. That's because we forget those words of wisdom attributed to John Lennon and others: Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans. So what if you didn't make it to the gym three times this week? Just make plans to get it right next week.

If a tree has fallen on the road downtown, you don't shrug your shoulders and abandon the trip; you just find another route. If your favorite grocery store is closed, you find another store to buy your eggs and milk this time — and maybe you discover that store is even better. If you have really latched onto a goal that lifts your mind to a better place — starting a new business, getting healthier, living debt-free, all of the above — expect that there will be bumps in the road and detours, but hang onto the dream.

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