THE BLOG
03/06/2016 12:02 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

4 Easy Steps to Setting Your Life Goals

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"What are your life goals?" is one of those questions that can put people in an uncomfortable position pretty quickly. Most answer this question by laughing it off and responding with something like "eating pizza with no pants on while watching Netflix - that's what I really want."

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The thing is, nobody wants to take the time to write down their life goals. People live busy lives, and when they do have the time, they'd rather kick it in front of the TV or lay on the couch playing with their phones.

From personal experience - take the time, it makes a world of difference.

What exactly are life goals? Simply put, they're the things you would like to accomplish in your life. Life goals are the big things to work for and accomplish such as getting married and having a family, starting your own business, becoming a big-time executive, or traveling the globe. Life goals are essentially everything you want to do in life before passing on. They're the stuff people remember you by when you are no longer around.

Why are goals so important? Setting goals gives you purpose, and they help you to guide your life. Think of life goals as your North Star. They'll guide you where you want to go, but it's still on you to choose the path to get there.

Now that you've got a better understanding of what life goals are, let's talk about how to set and start working towards them.

Setting life goals in 30 minutes or less

Most people already have a decent idea of what they truly want in life, they just haven't taken the time to write it down. If that's you, great. If you have no clue what you want, that's okay too, I'll walk you through it.

Even if you've already gone through a similar exercise as I'm about to describe, try not to brush off the following activity just yet. Maybe it's been a while and some of your goals have changed. Maybe there's a few more things you really want that eluded you before. It may be worth it to go through and rework your plan a bit.

Let's dive in.

1. Brainstorming your life goals

Find a quiet place to sit and work on this section for 5-10 minutes. If you find yourself hitting a roadblock, try getting up and going for a walk, or perhaps taking a shower. Some of my most inspirational thinking has come from my time spent in the shower.

  • Think about everything in your life that is really important to you.
  • Think about the couple of things you've really been pondering lately or your biggest struggle in life.
  • There are plenty of areas of your life you can set life goals in: careers, family, friends, other relationships, schooling, spirituality, traveling, fun, charity, money, health, and many more. These are just some to get your brain churning.
  • Write down anything and everything that comes to mind - all of the things you'd like to accomplish and those that sound fun or exhilarating to you.

2. Setting your life goals

The things you come up with during this exercise, by no means, have to be your definitive life goals for the rest of your life. As I said before, people change and so does what's important to them. Just try to focus on the things that are important to you currently.

  • Look at what you've written down from your brainstorming session.
  • Narrow that list down to the things you absolutely couldn't live without doing - those are your life goals.
  • Next try to clarify each of your goals with a specific target and a clearly defined outcome. You should be able to picture what your life will be like when you achieve the goal.
  • Pat yourself on the back for identifying what's truly important to you.

3. Building a plan to achieve them

Once your goals are defined, the next step is creating a plan to get there. Many life coaches recommend using the Simpleology system devised by Mark Joyner. It's called backward planning and is a method used by the US military.

To summarize, think about the last step needed to accomplish just one of your goals. If climbing Mount Everest was on your list, then literally your last footstep onto the summit should be what comes to mind.

Before that, you'll need to come up with a team to do it with, a conditioning regimen to prepare yourself, travel plans, and much more. Work all the way backwards until you land on the first step that you need to take. It should be something actionable and achievable in the very near-term.

If you've done the exercise correctly and wrote everything down along the way, you'll have a step-by-step plan for exactly what's needed to accomplish your goal.

The rest is making it happen.

4. Getting after it

Once you've planned out each one of your life goals, you may feel slightly intimidated, and that's okay. After all, these are your life's biggest accomplishments to-be. The best way to start checking them off your list is to work on them one at a time.

Let me repeat. One at a time.

Choose just one of the things you'd like to accomplish, preferably the one that's most important to you right now, and put your plan into action. Start adding the steps you drew out in the previous exercise onto your calendar and deciding when you're going to take each step.

If your goal is something that's going to take several years to accomplish, what can you do this year to get that much closer?

What can you do in the next few months?

Your goals become a lot less daunting when you focus on the smaller, more accessible steps you need to take to achieve them. Believe me, I feel overwhelmed in the little things I have to do day-to-day. I'm constantly reminding myself to take things just one step at a time. It makes everything manageable.

Once you've got all of your preparation done, it's on you to go after it. Remember to choose just one life goal and focus as much energy as you can into it. If it's something you truly desire, then motivation shouldn't be a problem.

Ride that wave of energy and watch yourself accomplish amazing things over the course of the next 5-10 years.

Tom Casano is the founder of Life Coach Spotter. Learn more about setting your life goals and achieving them here.