What is your biggest dream? The one that you keep hidden away and only comes out at 3am on sleepless nights?
For some people, it’s travelling the world and visiting that place they’ve dreamt about for years. For others, it’s creating something amazing, like a book. And some people want to build a foundation for a strong future, like buying a home.
We’ve all got different dreams. But how do we actually achieve them?
I thought writing a book was something that happened when I magically had six weeks off work in the mountains somewhere and could focus on my craft. In reality, that’s time will never appear for me unless a genie comes along and grants me three wishes. It’s just not going to happen.
But you know what I do have? Thirty minutes every day. Yes. That is realistic in my life. And that is time I could use to write a book.
And you know what? I did it. I wrote a book, edited it and published it. Because I broke it down into teeny tiny steps.
A big dream is achieved by breaking it down into teeny tiny steps that are achievable. At happymess, we know that from little things, big things grow.
Here’s our essential guide for reaching your goals…
Identifying a tangible goal
The first step is to set a really clear goal. Pick yours, even if right now, it seems impossible.
It helps to make it really focussed. I like the framework of a SMART goal: make it crystal clear, define the details, and create a deadline.
For example: I want to go to Thailand in December, 2020, for two weeks.
Plan the Stages to reach your goal
The first step is to write down all the things you think you need to do to achieve that goal. You might want to divide it up into stages if there are lots of things you need to do!
For example, for our trip to Thailand:
- Stage 1 is having enough money for the trip.
- Stage 2 is researching the places you want to travel.
- Stage 3 is booking specific hotels.
Break down each Stage into steps
For each Stage, break them into smaller steps.
For example, let’s break down Stage One of our trip to Thailand: “Having enough money for the trip.”
Step 1: Work out how much money you will need.
Step 2: Start saving that much money
For example, the first action item for Step 1 is would is to research how much money you’re likely to need.
Even if it’s not perfect, it sets you in the right direction. You might think you need $2000, but in the end, you only need $1500 – either way, it gives you a place to aim for, and start your planning today. You can always refine it over time when you get more information.
Step 2 is to start saving money. And $2000 is a lot of money from thin air. So, let’s break down this stage into smaller, achievable goals.
- If you have one year to save $2000.
- This means that each month you need to save $166.
- And to reach that, each week, that’s saving just $41.
Sounds doable right?
Create an action plan for each step
So once you’ve turned your big goal into little goals, it’s time to create an action plan. Some things aren’t just done by research, but my action. Make it easy by giving yourself actions to achieve those smaller goals.
How are you going to get that extra $41 a week?
You could ask for a raise, get a second job or have a garage sale to earn more. Or you could spend less – one approach is to look at your sneaky splurge items to trim down your expenses.
You’d be surprised how little changes make a difference: if you DIY a coffee each day instead of getting a $3 latte, you’ve got $21 in your back pocket. Pack your lunch twice a week and I bet you’ve hit that weekly goal of $41.
Another pro tip is if you’ve got a financial goal, automation is a great way to reach this goal. If you open a fee-free bank account, you can automatically transfer that $41 each week so you don’t accidentally touch these savings.
What don’t you know?
So, perhaps your Stage 3 is light on details right now. Don’t let that stop you from working on what you can today on Stage 1.
For example, you might not know the exact costs the entire trip will take. Just get a ballpark figure and start working towards it. Don’t let not having all the details yet stop you from saving your money this week.
It’s totally cool that you don’t know how to do everything yet. If you come across something that leaves you a bit stumped, just write it down on your plan: “Research how to…”. Come back to it later.
If you’re doing something for the first time, of course, you don’t know how to do everything! Don’t let that stop you. Just set aside time with Google. I bet someone has done something similar before.
Who can guide you?
There’s a lot of value in having people around who have done what you want to do. They will guide you around the tricky parts. Often, just chatting to someone who has done it before will give you heaps of insights for what to keep in mind.
Make a list of the people who have done something similar, and ask them to share their experiences, what they learned, and if there’s anything they would do differently.
There are also plenty of blogs and YouTubers who share their experiences of what has worked for them. use that knowledge and learn from their mistakes.
Practise makes progress. Not all of us are going to be amazing at making the changes we need to reach out goals. It takes practise to get better at things. For example, you might forget to pack your lunch a few times. That’s okay!
It takes time to get better at things. If you reflect on where you slipped up, come up with a way to reduce the chances of it happening next time.
You could also do a practise run of your whole trip, too. Instead of saving up for Thailand, why not save for a trip to the Blue Mountains for the weekend? Experience the process of saving, planning and going on the trip so you’re better prepared for the Thailand trip. You’ll learn a bunch of valuable things about yourself that will be helpful for the real deal.
For big projects that take years, it’s hard to keep motivated over a long time. We’re used to getting things ‘right now’. But having things ‘right now’ means that we lose out on the gaining amazing things that we can do that takes time and hard work over years – like saving for a holiday or writing a book.
Here are a few ways to keep motivated through tough times:
- Keep your goal visible. Whether it’s a Pinterest board, or a photo in your bedroom, make sure you know what your actions every day are working towards.
- Reflect on how it ties in with your values: are you someone who appreciates other cultures? Lives for adventure? Loves to create? Remembering why your big goal is important to you and how you want to live your life is key.
- Have a support team. No one does incredible things on their own. Everyone – everyone – who has done amazing things has had a family or friend group cheering them along the way. This is especially important when times get tough.
Face your fears
Let’s get real. Humans are complex creatures. Sometimes we self-sabotage so we don’t reach our dreams. We tell ourselves “it’s not possible, so why try?”. Or we tell ourselves that we’ll humiliate ourselves. Or that we’re being indulgent with our dreams.
Let your dreams be stronger than your fears.
Learning techniques for conquering negative self-talk is a really useful tactic that has helped me work on this. You deserve to let yourself achieve your dreams. Don’t let yourself get in your way.
What’s your big dream? Make it specific and break it down into small steps, go one step at a time. You will amaze yourself when you get there!
What’s your big dream? Turn it into a SMART goal. Create an action plan, and break it down into small steps. Then – conquer!