For the past four exercises we have been working on vision. Now it is time to set some goals and make some plans, to make some of those visions a reality. If you did the last exercise, looking back with gratitude from the future, I hope there were at least one or two things on your list that lit a fire for you.
Start by picking ONE of the goals that sparked a strong emotion for you when you framed it with gratitude in the format of “I’m so grateful that this year I was able to (fill in the blank)” – choose the one that conjured the most detail and texture around that idea. If you need to, take a couple minutes to flesh it out a bit more – place yourself in that situation, having accomplished your dream, and imagine with clarity five things you can see, four things you can hear, three things you can feel, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. This will make it more concretely anchored in your mind.
Now get out a blank piece of paper – this one really is best done on paper, not a laptop. At the top of the page, write your accomplishment in past tense… “I published my first book,” or “I am debt free,” or whatever your big goal is that gave you the strongest emotional response.
Next, set a timer for ten minutes and write down as many ideas of things you could do help get you closer to that goal. This is what Rachel Hollis calls an “idea soup” – throw it AAAALLLL in there. Get these ideas out of your head and onto the page. List the actions you will need to take, the skills you will need, the help you could get, the mini accomplishments that need to happen before the big goal can be called complete, etc. When the timer goes off, stop! It’s easy to get stuck here and swirl forever, but that’s not where the magic happens. This is just input for the next step.
Next, you will work backwards from the destination and chart a potential journey there. Start with the big goal that you have written at the top of the page in past tense as though it is already accomplished. Put yourself there in the end state. What was the LAST major step you achieved just before you could call this thing done? Circle it. Then what was the prior major step you achieved that made that last major step possible – circle that. Do this for NO MORE than 3-4 major milestones that are 100% necessary to complete the goal. Get out a clean piece of paper and write these 3-4 major steps in reverse order of the exercise you just did (i.e, from the first to the last) – these are your mile markers.
By the way, don’t be surprised if identifying these steps makes you queasy and gives you the opposite of the feeling you got from imagining the major accomplishment. These are your hurdles or mile markers. These are the hard work necessary to get to that outcome, and the reason you need that vision so clear in your mind. In fact, you know you have picked the right mile markers if they give you a bit of dread. Silence that inner cynic, and go back to your vision of accomplishment for strength.
You don’t have to know how you will accomplish these mile markers right now. We’ll break that down in our final exercise. For now, the hard work is done of identifying the major hurdles you will need to clear. You have identified them from the destination backwards – picked out the 3-4 that are absolutely necessary to accomplish your goal, and brainstormed a bunch of “supporting ideas” that you can possibly use to help you achieve them. Give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done!
Download a free printable workbook with all six exercises here: