Life doesn't wait for us to define our goals.
We board the train of life the moment we come into the world and we remain a humble passenger until the very end. Our badass train driver, however, allows us to choose and enjoy some of the sights along the way. No sneaky terms and conditions, and we don't even have to pay extra.
Yet, if we don't take a moment to determine the stations we'd like to get off at, it's (unfortunately) entirely possible to arrive at the end of the line without having gone where we wanted to go. Not setting goals = not setting stations.
This doesn't mean we must charge from station to station without rest. Anyone who's travelled this way knows how exhausting and meaningless the journey becomes. But surely just visiting one destination is preferable to spending the whole damn time staring out the window, no?
For the homies out there who would like to begin sketching their itinerary, the following four steps map out our system for doing so. It mightn't seem sexy, but momentarily sacrificing our sexiness for the sake of a vacay in Kyoto or Maui or some obscure island in the Caribbean is worth it (we promise).
Step 1: Define the goal
It's astounding how many people — not just actors, but people in general — aren't able to articulate their current goals. This is usually for one of two reasons:
Goals haven't been set.
Goals have been "set", but in a vague, not-really-committed-to sense.
While understandable (we've 100% been there), LIFE DOESN'T WAIT FOR US TO DEFINE OUR GOALS. The train continues to steam on, day by day, minute by minute, whether we're ready or not.
So, what's our current goal?
If one doesn't spring to mind immediately, our first move is to carve out a little time and space to brainstorm. This is a comparatively small but monumentally worthwhile investment when correlated with the return it provides. If we need a prompt, we can consider investigating jealousy — a somewhat unconventional practice, but one that can elicit the insight and inspiration we may need.
Filtering and judgement aren't welcome at this brainstorming party. There are no right or wrong answers. What truly matters is that it's ours. That it aligns with our wider life vision and personal values. That it energises us like nothing else.
It's also worth keeping in mind that goals can and will change. A benefit of a goal being totally ours is that we can totally change it. In moments when we experience resistance in committing ourself to just one goal, remember the train. Choosing to alight at another station (i.e. goal) is absolutely fine — at times essential. What we want to avoid is passively sitting out the journey.
Step 2: Let's get vis-u-al
As Tony Robbins says, "Where focus goes, energy flows", so let's get some energy channelled towards our goal.
Once we've defined our goal (gentle reminder: "goal" is singular, friends — we can set a shiny new one as soon as we've crushed this bad boy), we want to lavishly litter reminders around our physical and virtual environments. As we won't, for the most part, be thinking about the goal itself on the daily (we'll get to that in a moment), these frequent reminders can make all the difference.
For some folks, simply scribbling out the goal on thirteen separate sticky notes will do the trick. For others (hello fellow vision boarders!), painstakingly curating a selection of images with a corresponding Spotify playlist is what will keep us fired up. Do whatever's needed.
Step 3: Reverse engineer success
As mentioned, we'll largely be leaving our goal behind from this point forward, hence the importance of the interior design practice above.
The difference between attaining and not attaining our goal lies in the specific actions and behaviours we execute on the day-to-day, so this now becomes our major point of focus. We need the goal so we have a destination, but our ability to arrive there successfully really relies on having a quality GPS (i.e. system).
To do this, we work backwards from our goal to clarify the individual steps that get us there. "Reverse engineering" is the technical term for this, but here's what it can look like in practice for us mere creative folk:
Pull out a blank sheet of paper (digital alternatives are also groovy).
Write our goal at the top.
Below our goal, draw an upwards pointing arrow and list the step immediately preceding it. i.e. What's the last action that needs to be taken before our goal becomes reality?
Below this step, draw an upwards pointing arrow and list the action immediately preceding this one. i.e. What's the last action that needs to be taken before this step becomes reality?
Continue doing so until all steps (that we're aware of, at least) are laid out.
Yes, we'll likely have to add or amend our long, snake-like chain of actions as we go, but don't underestimate the power of this map.
Step 4: Schedule, schedule, schedule
Traditional goal-setting asks us to set a deadline for our goals. But, if we haven't noticed, traditional goal-setting also isn't (typically) tremendously effective.
What we're going to do instead — the rebels that we are — is set a schedule. Where deadlines only provide the end date at which the entire goal is to be completed (and, as our mapping exercise has likely shown, there can be a lot of ground to cover between here and there), a schedule outlines when each step is to be crossed off. Which makes it a gazillion times easier to move towards, while accurately reviewing and tracking our progress along the way. And to quote Mr Tony Robbins again, "Progress equals happiness".
We use The Actor's Training Menu to do this here at the Dojo, but simply slotting each task into our calendar or diary is enough. "Organise your life around your dreams — and watch them come true", states one of our all-time-favourite quotes. Bonus points for also assigning a time and location to each task. Studies have shown this can double our chances of success.
In addition to scheduling the individual tasks, it's wise (and recommended) to insert a meeting or two (with ourself) to reflect, ensure we're on track, and/or make any necessary changes. This is where we may decide to alight at another station, in fact, or that we’re still super super pumped to disembark at the one we originally set.
Though it would be awesome if rolling through this system alone was enough to attain the Ambitious-Ass goals we've set, victory wouldn't taste as sweet if it were that easy. Ultimately, we've now got to show up for our schedule every day until we get there. It's the less glamorous side of success, but it works.
When we eventually arrive at the station of our choosing, ecstatic and unashamed celebrations are in order (and this is a vital part of the cycle, amigo).
Then, when we've seen all we wanted to see and collected t-shirts for the fam, we jump back on board and rinse and repeat from the top. By doing so, we guarantee ourselves one hell of a ride. The kind of ride which we can then contentedly depart at the end of the line.
. . .
Thoughts / feedback / challenges? We'd genuinely love to hear.
While we can't always reply to every message, we honestly do read each one.