It is important to set goals in life. Research shows that we need goals at every stage of life in order to have a sense of purpose and feel fulfilled.

So, how do you go about setting goals in life?

In this article, I am going to talk about two important steps to determine your life goals and how to set them.

And, without further ado let’s delve into them.

Two Important Steps to Determine Your Life Goals

1. Have Self Awareness

The first step to setting your life goals is to have self-awareness.

Because, if you don’t have self-awareness and you set an arbitrary goal then there is a high chance that you will fail in achieving that goal.

Or worse, you may actually achieve that goal after years of toiling and then realize that it was not what you really wanted in life; that it doesn’t truly make you happy.

Take my own example for this. In my early twenties, I had set myself a goal of getting a well-paid corporate job. Yes, that’s what I had in mind. A “well-paid” corporate job.

So, I took Engineering and MBA degrees from top universities and got recruited by a multinational company with a decent pay package, thus achieving my goal after years of hard work.

And, guess what? I was not happy at work. It was misery to be honest. I did not really enjoy the work and was constantly put under pressure by my bosses. It was so unfulfilling that every morning I had to drag myself to the office. I ended up being depressed and burned out in a year.

So, did I succeed in achieving my goal?

Yes.

Did it make me happy?

No (Sometimes this hurts more than not achieving the goal at all).

And, this is why having self-awareness is so important.

Instead of setting an arbitrary goal like getting paid via a corporate job and following what everyone else was doing, I should have figured out the type of work that I would love doing and that was aligned with my natural strengths. Or, at least one that wouldn’t make me miserable.

And then, I should have matched those findings with what I could get paid for by the market. I could then have found my niche and got myself educational degrees as and when required (finding your niche is a topic for another article).

Now, I am more enlightened in setting goals. But, a part of me still worries whether I would be truly satisfied once I achieve my goals. Actually, this is one of my biggest fears at present. That I will achieve any goal I set but I won’t be happy once I achieve it.

I’m working on overcoming this fear by being more self-aware, having a positive outlook, and learning to trust my gut feeling.

Hence, be self-aware before setting goals. Know your core self. Understand your personality type. Explore what makes you come alive and develop the skills you need accordingly. Consult your family and friends to know what you are already good at. And, seek professional help from a life/career coach if you are struggling to uncover your authentic self.

2. Visualize

Now that you are self-aware, the second step is to visualize your dreams and imagine your life as they became reality.

Visualization is a powerful technique used by successful people in all walks of life; from entrepreneurs and executives to athletes and writers.

So, why is visualization so powerful?

Because it activates your creative subconscious to quickly perceive and become highly aware of the resources that will help you achieve your dreams.

To illustrate this, let’s say that your dream is to work independently from any location in the world. Once you visualize yourself doing this your brain will now become super-active in perceiving all real-world opportunities to make this dream a reality. You will start noticing new entrepreneurial or freelancing opportunities that you never knew existed before. You will suddenly find mentors who have already achieved what you desire, and tribes that think the same way you do.

So, this is the power of visualization and your subconscious mind. This is also popularly known as “the Law of Attraction” at times.

Now that you have understood the importance of visualizing your dreams, how do you go about doing it?

It’s simple.

Just close your eyes and imagine that you are living your dream life 10 or 20 years in the future. Remember, it is said that we overestimate what we can achieve in a year and underestimate what we can achieve in a decade or two.

Now, looking through the eyes of Future You, what do you see? Try to vividly imagine the scene around you in as much detail as possible.

Where do you live? How does your home look like? Is it a big house, or is it an apartment? Is it a well-decorated home? Or, perhaps a cottage on top of the mountains?

Who do you live with? Are you happily married? Are your children playing and running around the house?

What do you do for a living? Are you working in a job, or are you an entrepreneur or freelancer? Are you an artist or sportsperson? What is your passion? How are you impacting the lives of others? Do they look up to you as a mentor?

How much income do you generate every month? Or, have you achieved financial independence already?

How does your physique look like? Are you physically and mentally healthy?

So, you get the idea. This is the standard visualization technique; imagining your future life, in all its glory, with an abundance mindset.

Now, if you find yourself confused and visualizing too many things at once, this is where self-awareness comes into play. It will help you prioritise what you truly want and weed out those dreams that won’t make you fulfilled in the long run.

If you still feel like your brain is imagining too many things and you are struggling to determine what you truly want, then you may try a technique called “Anti-Vision.”

This technique is similar to the standard visualization technique, the only difference being imagining what will make your future life miserable, instead of fulfilling. In other words, it is about imagining an “anti-life”.

Now, you might feel like this process is rather negative and why anyone would recommend doing it.

Your concerns are absolutely valid. I felt this way too when I first heard about it.

But later, I understood that it is useful whenever you get stuck or lost while doing the standard visualization technique. Because the “Anti-Vision” technique lets you focus on what you need to prioritise to make your future less miserable.

To illustrate, let’s say that you are visualizing 10 years into the future and your “anti-vision” shows you that you would be really unhappy if you are obese and unfit. Now, you know that losing weight and exercising is a priority for you. So, that becomes one of your primary goals.

Finally, whether you are comfortable with the “Vision” or “Anti-Vision” process, it is beneficial to incorporate the visualization process in your daily or weekly routine. Ideally, it is best when combined with a meditation session.

Setting the Goals

As we discussed, the process of setting goals comprises both self-awareness and visualization of dreams.

After you do these steps, you can set long term and short term goals accordingly.

Long term goals are the aspirational 3-year or 5- year or 10-year goals in alignment with your visualized dream life. They help you keep an eye on the big picture.

Short term goals are the immediate 3-month or 6-month goals in alignment with your long term goals. They will take you one step closer to your long term goals.

Now, I would like to conclude this article with the following quote from C. S. Lewis.

You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.

C. S. Lewis

So, what are your goals? I would love to know them in the comments section.