By Elena Lapina
The biggest obstacle that prevents us from achieving our dreams is our own self-sabotage and procrastination. Having been a master-procrastinator myself, I only wish I had learnt this lesson earlier! It took me 16 years to finally sign up for driving lessons and get my license! No kidding!
Why do we procrastinate? When we think about our goals and dreams, we can easily become overwhelmed, unsure, uneasy, fearful and uncertain. This is usually the case because our dreams seem too big or too complex and therefore, can appear too unrealistic to obtain. For example, ‘I want to earn lots of money and travel the world’. Because this is so big, we often don’t know where to start and at times it seems like there’s no point in even starting as we can’t imagine ourselves ever being able to achieve it. So we procrastinate. We feel stuck. And do nothing.
The first step to achieving your dream is to imagine exactly what you want it to look like, imagine it in as many specific details as you can, picture it in your mind, write about it, and do whatever else you need to bring it to life in your mind. I like this quote by Dr. Wayne W. Dyer: “The greatest gift you have been given is the gift of your imagination. Everything that now exists was once imagined. And everything that will ever exist must first be imagined.”
Once you’ve imagined your ideal situation, decide on when approximately you want to achieve it and start to work backwards. Say for example, if you want to buy your own house in 5 years, start thinking where you need to be in 3 years to be able to achieve it: how much money you will need to have saved, how much extra income you will need to earn. Brainstorm how you can make that saving or how you can generate that additional income. Will you go for a promotion in your current job? Will it suit you to get a second job or will you start looking for better paid employment? Have you thought about launching your own business? Turning your hobby into an additional income? Investing money?
Say for example, you have come up with a few ideas and decided on how much money you will need. You have also decided that the most suitable way for you to get there would be to go for a promotion in your current job while looking to optimise your monthly budget to increase your savings. You’ve also decided to research some investment opportunities, high interest accounts and long-term deposit options. There you go! You have just created your first high-level action plan! And it gets easier from here! The next step is to break it down into smaller, more specific steps. In order for you to get a promotion within the next 3 years, where will you need to be in 2 years, 1 year, 6 months, 3 months, 1 month, 1 week and finally what do you need to get done today to bring yourself closer to your goal?
Here’s a quick case study to illustrate what that might look like. Based on the above example, your today’s specific action plan could be as follows:
1) Prepare for a meeting with my manager to discuss development opportunities within my company.
2) Make a list of my monthly expenses to get a clear picture of what I spend money on each month and how much I spend.
3) Call my bank to see what’s involved in setting up a long term deposit account.
It sounds pretty achievable for 1 day, doesn’t it? Congratulations!! You are now 3 steps closer to achieving your dream!
Your tomorrow’s specific action plan could be as follows:
1) Sign up for job alert emails to get notifications when new jobs are advertised within the company.
2) Call my friend who can help with some career advice.
3) Review the list of my monthly expenses to look for opportunities to reduce the expenses by 10%, 15 %, 20%, etc. Make a list of these opportunities (for example, stop buying take away coffee and use a free coffee machine at work instead).
Your next day action plan could include:
1) Book a meeting with my manager to discuss career opportunities.
2) Start to use the free coffee machine at work from today instead of buying take away coffee.
3) Fill out the application form for the high interest long term account and submit to the bank.
You get the idea!
Small actions on a daily basis can generate some big momentum and in just 1 week you could achieve more than in 1 month!!
Let’s do some simple maths. Completing 3 actions per day makes it 21 action steps per week and about 90 action items per month!! That’s 1095 per year!! Imagine what you could achieve in 1 year and how much satisfaction you would get from seeing the results of your actions. If you follow through with it, I bet your future life, a year from now, would look very different compared to what you are experiencing right now.
Here are some things to consider before you get started:
- Keep it simple! Don’t overwhelm yourself. In the example above, it could be as simple as making a ‘smart’ shopping list to maximise your weekly savings.
- 3 is a good number! Take 3 small steps each day (it really doesn’t matter how small!) but always keep your bigger goal in mind (Why are you doing it?).
- Make these steps actionable and realistic. If it is not realistic, break it down even further until it becomes manageable to complete in 1 day.
- Write it down. It becomes more tangible once on paper and you will get a feeling of satisfaction when you tick it off at the end of the day.
- If you get off track, simply start again. Don’t beat yourself up; just start fresh the next day. Small action is better than no action at all.
- You don’t need to know all the details of how your dream will come about. Make the first step and the ‘how’ will be revealed as you go.
- Be flexible to change and adjust if your goal is no longer relevant. Regular revision, some tweaks and changes along the way will help ensure that you continue moving in the direction that you want.
And the most important step is to start now! Just start! Don’t wait for perfect conditions.”The time will never be ‘just right’. Start where you stand, and work with whatever tools you may have at your command, and better tools will be found as you go along” (Napoleon Hill).
Off you go!