Fuck, guys. Ambition. Goals. Things that in younger years defined yourself, like “What’s your favorite color?” They were the things you asked and wore, a badge of honor.
While ambitions were things so current, a part of you, ironically they were also things of Distant Future, where a Nameless You would deal with – and conquer.
My personal version looked something like this: “I’m going to graduate high school and study Ancient British Archaeology in college and graduate with honors and do a dig in Ireland and move to Britain and get my MA degree and write a book and work in the British Museum and be a world respected curator.” How I would get to these places, I had no clue. But I knew that Future Self would figure it out. Because she had to.
As all great things can do, though, sometimes ambitions can get lost. Somewhere between the advent of Netflix and discovering a love of gin, adulthood becomes wrapped in the day-in, day-out. A fact that only came to me recently, when encountered with colleagues my age with far, far greater accomplishments than me.
“She’s written a book,” I explained to Stag when I got home. Collapsed on the sofa. Wide eyes looking up at him, pleading. “She’s 30 and only blogging for 3 years and got sought after for a book deal.”
Stag ponders. “But that’s also luck.”
“Is it?” I shrug. “I want to write a book.”
“I think you should write a book.”
“I think I could write a book.”
“I think you could write a book, too.”
I sit. Consider. “I don’t think I have any goals. For me, or for Wolf & Stag.”
And there, like a weight of bricks, I said it. Previously studious, ambitious Eire, who was always the teacher’s pet, graduated with distinction, set to do great things: suddenly arrived at the ripe age of 30, with no goals?
I mean, sure, sometimes I come up with lofty blogging goals (you know these goals: these are the ones that you can write in January in a fresh white notebook, big and bold, boasting proudly from the page because Future You will somehow, magically — like a montage in a rom-com — get it done. Those ones).
And, of course, I have my daily goals. The ones I scribble every morning on a to-do list, like “Get dressed you lazy cow” (check!) and “Walk to bus stop” (check! I’m on fire!) and “Take a shower” (whoops.. missed that one).
And while both forms of goals are useful, the most useful of all? They fall somewhere in between. Achievable, relevant, middle goals. The ones that can break down into bite-sized tasks but are abstract enough to keep you focused on the long-term.
How to Find Your Middle Goals and Ambitions When You Fear It’s Too Late
1 / Consider not just what motivates you, but how you’re motivated.
This may seem like the most pointless point, but trust me, it can feel like the hardest to overcome. Finding motivation is not easy — heck, I’ve written a whole blog post about it and still struggle with it, daily. So yes, easier said than done: find what motivates you. But, more than that: find out how you feel motivated. Is it from having accountability? Is it from starting something new, or finishing something? When thinking of your goals, it’s important to be realistic about not just what they are, but how on Earth you’ll approach getting them accomplished.
Tip: Read Gretchen Rubin’s book, Better than Before. While it’s not the best for actionable advice, her explanation of the different categories of people’s habits (and thus motivations) is incredibly useful. It helped me realize I’m someone motivated by finishing things, and I desperately need accountability.
2 / Get SMART with your Goals
This is something I learned in the Corporate World, a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. However, the SMART method of goal setting is something that can be used by anyone, applicable to all types of goals. For many of you, this is an obvious yawn-fest, but for those of you new to this method, here’s how to approach it:
/ SPECIFIC. Goals should be, well, specific: clear, easy to understand and able to provide direction.
/ MEASURABLE. Can you easily measure the success or accomplishment of your goal? Be as specific as possible with numbers, amounts, or what success looks like.
/ ATTAINABLE. This is a hard one to balance, because goals that are too out-of-reach can demotivate, whereas too-easy goals are not useful. A useful question to ask yourself: is accomplishing this goal within my control? i.e. does it require the motivation of others in order to achieve?
/ RELEVANT. Keep your goals relevant to each other, to what you want out of your life or work, and to what you can feasibly accomplish.
/ TIME-BOUND. Deadlines, deadlines, deadlines. Goals need them; you need them.
3 / You don’t need a bullet journal to set goals.
You guys: between bloggers and their perfect lives, Instagram showing-off, pretty pictures GALORE, the struggle is so real. I feel it, too, constantly. The need to try new methods and make pretty notebooks to get organized packs on the pressure to be perfect.
For me, it began with a goals journal from Kikki K (never filled it in). Then, it was the bullet journal, of which I got so overwhelmed that it made me feel even more like a failure. You know what I like best? A simple, boring notebook. But you know what? It works for me. My best advice: find what works for you, because something on a plain notebook is better than procrastination in a blank bullet journal.
Tip: The tools that have worked for me the best in terms of goal setting and achieving are Trello, a whiteboard in my office, and a daily to-do list pad. I recently bought a Productivity Planner from Anthropologie to help make my productivity more streamlined.
4 / Don’t just set goals; make an action plan, too.
Years in the corporate world and years of freelancing have taught me one blatant fact: ideas are not the difficulty; it’s the execution. How many times have you been in meetings where people brainstorm ideas, and the ideas go nowhere? All. the. time. Arguably, having an action plan is the most important part of goal setting. It’s a loaded question: how will you accomplish this goal? Simple, and yet very, very difficult to answer. I haven’t quite figured this one out myself. I’m hoping that productivity planner, mentioned above, will help!
Do you regularly set goals? Yearly, monthly, life, or some other amount? What do you use to make and track your goals? Would love your advice!