So, it has arrived. My final Change-Your-Life Challenge for (Georgia USA? My 30s? The old ‘status quo’?) this period of my life. In brief, my life has been roughly divided into home-schooled, hanging-with-the-fam era (birth to 25), and then the hanging-with-my-sister, learning, growing, preparing era (26 to 39). Now, baby, watch out — 2019 is here and I’m ready to give myself one heck of a 40th birthday present (Nov. 1st, 2019 BTW) — this year I’m seriously working toward the life of my dreams.
2019 seems to have a special magic to it, and when I decided to invest six months (26 weeks or 182 days) in this process, I decided to envision it as a quest. I have been reading The Happiness of Pursuit by Chris Guillebeau and was inspired to have a timeline (by Sep. 15th, 2019), an audacious goal (‘Audacious’ is the word of the year), and a series of steps to get there (183 steps actually).
So, one Saturday in March I wrote out all 183 habits, goals, activities etc that I wanted to do in the next six months in order to be ready for ‘Phase 3’ of my life (40 to ‘Oscar’ winning screenwriter?). It encompasses everything from getting 26 hours of writing in a week to visiting a national park.
While I won’t share all 183 steps with you, I’d like to offer up some categories in case you’d like to start your own ‘2019 change-your-life five month goal’. There’s still a lot of time and magic left in 2019!
How to Create the Life of Your Dreams This Year
- Have three goals. As you’ve probably heard, if you have more than three goals, you don’t have any. So figure out what three areas of your life are your biggest potential ‘wins’ (or losses) this year. Mine are writing, health & fitness, and [[secret: redacted]]. Your three goals should be things that, if accomplished, would make the year a huge win (probably 80-95% of your hopes for the year should be related to these three).
- Plan the plan-y plan. Once you know the three big wins you’re looking for (these should be things you can accomplish, like ‘Send out 100 resumes’, not things other people control like ‘Be hired by Disney’), you need to sit down and write out the steps to get there for each goal. What needs to happen each month, week etc to stay on track. Remember, people who write down their goals are 80% more likely to complete them than people who don’t.
- Fake steps 143 through 183. Listen, it turns out one hundred and eighty-three steps is a lot. So I started listing smaller minimizing goals from around the house and eventually broke up my steps of looking through/getting rid of 50 books into small bits. I still felt good about having a step for each day of the six months, but now, some of them were a little easier to accomplish. 😉
- Look at your life as an ‘outsider’ would. I tried to imagine what I’d tell a stranger in my place if they showed me the same goals I have. The answer surprised me and pissed me off… and it might be the same for you. They told me scary things to do, and other things that I’m resistant too (affirmations… oh noo!). But I do think ‘other me’ is offering good advice, and not the stuff I’d usually just decide to do in my own life.
- Consider giving up six ‘pacifiers’ for the next five months. Another ‘outsider’ insight: What six habits would you tell someone in your position to drop in order to hit their goals? I’m giving up fast food, sugar, time-wasting entertainment, non-business internet surfing, buying meaningless things, and complaining at work (retail day job [I don’t complain about writing]). It can be hard, but isn’t pausing your Netflix account for five months worth it, if you got your ideal 2019 out of the sacrifice?
- Break it down. Five months is too long — you might burn out. I’ve found the perfect ‘goal sprint’ is between four weeks and eight weeks. So this time I did 4 weeks, then 8, then 8, and lastly 6 weeks. I suggest you too start with a smaller goal nestled inside your larger one, then celebrate when you hit it!
- Indulge in ‘Peak’ experiences. I used to do ‘exceptions’. Exceptions are a dangerous word for me; I can justify them very easily. Now, I’m all about ‘Peak’ experiences. Even though I’m not having sugar for all intents and purposes I will be having a couple of peak experiences a month with my sister — kind of too-good-to-turn-down events like dining at a fine restaurant while traveling to a Pete Buttigieg town hall (Woowoo!) or visiting our favorite restaurant (Fromage in Clayton, GA) when we take the rare day trip over there. If I started driving 2+ hours all the time just to get at these peak experiences, then I would need to rethink things, but right now, a once or twice a month gourmet treat while on an adventure (or celebrating a huge writing win) will be allowed.
- There is only today. You don’t need to eat well, exercise, or cross off that list for 183 days in a row (or five month’s worth); you just need to hit 100% today. And then it will be another ‘today’. And another. Think of these 24 hours as a country, master the journey, hit all the goals for today, and then go to bed satisfied. Don’t think about next month or the family reunion or denying yourself your favorite snack for weeks and weeks. Just win today. That’s all you have to do.
- Have a plan for when you fall. Everyone falls sometimes, but the important thing is just to get right back on track — that day if possible. If you snapped at someone and your goal is not to, take a walk and use the time to think about your big goal, why you fell off this time, and how you’re going to ‘make up’ for the setback (say something nice to ten strangers). To err is human, to forgive yourself and get back on track is divine.
- Read the sample of Live the Best Story of Your Life: A World Champion’s Guide to Lasting Change by Bob Litwin. See if you like it as much as I do. I just recently re-read it and I love his ideas about telling yourself a ‘New Story’. I’ve been on my ‘New Story’ for a while now and man, it really helps to see yourself as someone who has everything it takes to ace this year. Onward!
It doesn’t matter — at all — how many times you’ve tried before; what matters is that you get excited, write down a plan, and rock out the rest of 2019 and beyond. Because once your dreams start coming into being, you’ll wonder how you ever did without them.
And then, my gosh, we’ll have to make some great plans for 2020!