Albert Einstein was once quoted as saying, "If you want to live a happy life, tie it to a goal, no to people or things".
The goals that we set for ourselves have as large of an impact on the outcome of our lives as any other influence that I can imagine. Why is that? Simply put, it's because whatever we decide to work towards for our future is a reflection of how we perceive ourselves and our abilities. It dictates who we surround ourselves with, the type of attitude that we have for ourselves and our lives, and it largely influences that quality of life that we live.
Let me give you an example. I'm sure that many of you can choose someone you know that has worked hard to because successful in their chosen fields...A biologist, an engineer, a physician, or an entrepreneur. Whoever it is, they decided years ago that they would start on the path towards that goal and that they would do whatever it took to see it through. This type of individual always seems to have it "together", don't they? They're composed, confident, and can tell you where they see themselves going in five years.
Additionally, I'm sure that you can also find someone that you know who has simply given up on life. They've found a job that pays them enough that they can live comfortably and they've settled in that job, or even worse, they bounce from job to job with no drive and no desire to improve themselves our their situation. This individual has no goals for their life, they see no future and live each day of their life within that specific 24 hours. They often appear lost, frustrated by mediocrity, or complacent.
So what separates Person #1 from Person #2? Is it genetics? Was Person #1 born from parents who were Doers? Did Person #1 have financially successful parents who were able to provide better resources and more opportunities for their children? Possibly...but what truly separates individuals who reach success and those who simply "float" through life with no desire and no passion is the formation of goals. Having a clear, concise idea of where your life is headed can drastically impact the outcome of your life. Confidently believing in yourself and your abilities can alter how you perceive the world, and it opens up doors of opportunity that you would never imagine opening before you became clear about your life.
But for those who do not have an understand of where their life is heading, how do you start? Well, at the beginning, of course! Before you can have a detailed goal, you must have a general one. So:
Step #1. Decide what it is that you'd most like to accomplish in your life. And to be clear, this doesn't have to apply to your career. This type of goal can be more general, such as "Visiting 5 different countries before my 30th birthday" or "Run a marathon in 10 different states" or even "Start a non-profit organization for underprivileged children in my community". Whatever it is that you dream about accomplishing, pick a goal.
Step #2: Write it down! Write it down! Write it down! When the idea of writing down my goal was first presented to me, I laughed it off and told myself, "Why should I write it down? I know what my goal is. I wont' forget". The purpose of writing it down is not so that you won't forget. It's so that you have a physical, daily reminder of your goal that you can look at to use for motivation. Pin it up on a corkboard in your office. Put it on your fridge so you see it every morning when you're getting ready for work. Wherever you put it, write it down and look at it daily. Remind yourself what it is that you're working towards.
Step #3: Learn the process. What I mean by this is that you must take your goal and break it down into smaller, more manageable steps. Using the example of running a marathon in 10 different steps, you must first be prepared to run 26.2 miles before you can move forward with this goal. So create a running plan that gets you in shape. If you can only run one or two miles at a time, create an Excel spreadsheet and run 2 miles every two or three days for a few weeks, and then bump it up to three or four miles. Then gradually work your way to 26.2 miles. Or look online and find a suggested running plan. Whatever you do, just make sure you break your goal into small tasks. This will help alleviate the pressure of accomplishing a larger-than-life goal, and it also creates smaller milestones for you to check off of your life.
Step #4: Set a timeline. Once you've detailed how you're going to accomplish this task, you must set a timeline for yourself. This will help create a sense of urgency for your work. And you must be tough on yourself in regards to this timeline, as it is easy to tell yourself that you'll simply "do it tomorrow". Do you know what tomorrow holds? The dreams and wishes of those who never succeed. So tell yourself that you'll run your first marathon in six months times...Circle it on your calendar...Tell your friends so that they can keep you accountable. And however long your timeline is, make sure you have small checkpoints that you can use to measure your progress. If you want to run your first marathon in 6 months, you should probably be able to run 15-18 miles by month #3 or #4.
Step #5. Get to work! So you have your goal, you have a detailed plan of how you're going to accomplish it, and you have a timeline...What are you waiting for? Start working. And as someone who has a number of life goals that I'm currently working on, I will admit that the hardest part is starting. I understand that taking on such a daunting task can be challenging, frightening, and seemingly impossible. What if you tell your idea to your friends and family and they laugh? What if you don't finish? What if you do finish and you fail?
While I can't give much advice regarding your friends and family, I will say this: Any task worth doing will require you to develop thick skin, because there will be people who doubt you. Even your friends and family will tell you to "be smart" and "have a Plan B", but you have to believe that what you're doing is worth doing. You must believe that you will succeed, because otherwise, what's the purpose of even beginning if you don't believe you will be successful? If you're not 100% convinced that you will come out of this a winner, don't even start down the path, because your heart has to be in this completely. And in regards to failure, I have always considered anyone who gives an honest effort more noteworthy than those who simply hide in the shadows.
So step out of that comfort zone and try something new. Don't settle for that job that pays the bills just because you're afraid to leave your hometown. Go...explore...and set ambitious goals. And if your goals don't scare you, they're not big enough.