Have you seen the movie The Bucket List? In it, two terminally ill men run away from a cancer ward and travel around the world to fulfill a list of things they want to do before they “kick the bucket.” Since the movie’s release, the term “bucket list” has gained popularity and now commonly refers to a list of all the things a person would like to do in his or her lifetime. Essentially, a “bucket list” is just a list of specific goals. If you’ve ever made a bucket list, you’re already on your way to being a goal-setter! And, goals foster motivation and intentionality in our lives.
A fresh year always inspires fresh dreams. Most successful people begin with dreams and then establish goals and plans to help make them come true. And, they know that the most effective goals are both specific and measurable (as opposed to vague and difficult to evaluate). As you start to identify your dreams for your life, it’s important to develop short-, intermediate-, and long-range goals to help get you there.
Even if you’re not naturally a goal-setter, it’s not difficult to become one. Start by imagining what you want your life to look like. What are the large-scale goals you hope to achieve? These are your long-term or lifetime goals. It’s important to set these first because they will shape your overall perspective and help frame your smaller and shorter-term goals. Think about such areas as:
- Education and learning
- Marriage and family
- Community service
- Spiritual life
- Physical goals (sports, etc.)
- Talents and skills
Once you’ve established your long-term goals, you can set some medium-term goals (e.g., five years) that will help you achieve your long-term goals. From there, you can set one-year, six-month, and one-month goals, all of which will ultimately contribute to the larger picture.
Periodically check on your long-term goals to make sure they remain high on your list. Also, monitor your progress on your medium-range goals to make sure you’re on track. (Parents, you may want to make some parenting goals … check out our new book, Parenting for the Launch, for some ideas to help you set goals and create a family mission statement.)
Finally, start making daily to-do lists. If you do, you’ll be contributing on a daily basis toward the things that will make your lifetime goals and dreams possible. Here are some guidelines as you do:
- Phrase your goals in the positive, not the negative
- Make them realistic goals—ones that are possible and achievable
- Make them measurable and specific, such as “visit five continents” as opposed to “travel around the world”
What’s on your “bucket list?” How do you keep track of what you’ve accomplished and what’s left to do? This can be fun and lively discussion with family and friends over the holiday season. Make a plan to check back with each other next New Year’s and see who has crossed the most items off their list.