All of us have dreams we’d love to make reality, and stretch goals that we’d love to accomplish. I have a friend who wants to learn how to play piano, proficiently, at the age of 55. Another is just dying to find some time off a grueling schedule to backpack China for a month. These dreams and goals are of course challenging exactly because they are stretches. Our life’s routine, and more tricky, our habits, tend to get in the way of actually achieving them.
Here are five things you can do to actually increase the likelihood of reaching your dreams and stretch goals.
1. Collect, Collect, Collect
You should have a central place where you track and manage those goals you have that are not for today. This can be in a notepad, in an Evernote notebook, or in a project in your ToDo list manager. Are you seeking to enrich yourself and find stretch goals? Look at popular websites like StumbleUpon, Pick the Brain, Guy Finley, Lifehacker, and our own TaskCurrent. When you come across something that inspires you–a goal or dream you wish to implement–make sure to write it down.
2. Out of Sight is Unfortunately Out of Mind
For your dreams and goals to be taken seriously, you must schedule a monthly review of your list. Try and keep the items on your list organized by how badly you really want to do them. Each month weigh the goals. Consider them. You will probably find that many of them are not actually top priority. Those that consistently float to the top of your list are the keepers, and it’s those we want to focus on turning into a reality. Over time, toss the dregs, and start highlighting the cream that’s floating on the top.
3. Make an Actual Plan
After a few months of keeping and reviewing your dream and stretch goal list, sit down with your calendar (and significant other if relevant) and start cobbling together an actual plan. If your dream is travel, set aside a piggy bank for some extra savings, and book time in a year. If you have a stretch goal–i.e., waking up and writing three mornings a week–start thinking about what it will take to actually achieve that goal. Importantly though, pick only one or two items to work on at a time.
To accomplish one of your dreams or stretch goals you’re going to need some help. Once you’ve decided on the item you want to pursue, and sketched a basic plan, use a reminder service like Remember the Milk, or even Google Calendar to keep it front and present. Remmeber, out of sight is out of mind. For fun, you can set a Monkey on Your Back [http://monkeyon.com/], which will nudge you until you do it.
5. Get Even More Help
Sometimes you need outside pressure to achieve a goal. Research shows that phone calls from real people are very powerful motivators. Therefore, ask a friend or family member to work with you to actually deliver on your goals. Moreover, ask them to be tough with you – reminding you regularly and pushing you to deliver on the commitments you’ve made to yourself. If you like, ask them if you can put a monkey on their back to help them remember. Most importantly, don’t get annoyed if they’re reminding you to do something that’s hard. That’s what you want!
You can accomplish dreams and stretch goals, but it’s not easy. Remember though, if you will it, it is no dream, and if you do it, then it will happen! The discipline above will help position you to be more successful in pursuing dreams and stretch goals. Let me know how it goes so that I can send a big congratulations to anyone who uses this to make a dream come true.
Aharon Horwitz is the co-Founder of TaskCurrent [http://www.taskcurrent.com], an iPhone/iPad application [http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/taskcurrent/id501131814?ls=1&mt=8] aimed at helping you discover and implmenet actions worth doing from across the web.