I've said before that if my life is a mess, the way I get out of it is by learning to make more effective decisions. That means I need to learn to make decisions that move me in the direction of my goals and that I need goals for different areas of my life that provide clarity about the kinds of decisions I should make. Now, if you're like me the temptation at this point is to jump right into using the "latest and greatest" goal setting tool. Problem solved, right? Again, if you're like me, probably not. Here's why.
As we move toward achieving our goals, the result is that our lives move in whatever direction the goals take us. That's a good thing...as long as we like that direction. If we don't like that direction, it's good only if we learn from it. Then we can set other goals to take our lives in another direction. But, what if we don't like that direction? Well, we can set other goals to change direction again...I'm sure you get the idea. We can go through life constantly making major course corrections. Sometimes that's necessary. Sometimes we have no choice but to make a major change or shift in what we do or how we do it. For instance, let's say one of your goals has been to own and personally manage a combination dude ranch/bed and breakfast in the high country of Arizona. You're going through life, putting things in place and taking the actions necessary to realize that goal. Then, one day, you learn that you are terribly allergic to pine trees, especially Ponderosa pines. In fact, your allergy is so profound that your doctor has told you that exposure to living Ponderosa pines could lead to anaphylactic shock and your likely death. Given that the mountains of Arizona are home to the largest Ponderosa pine forest in the world, this is a significant problem. In fact, it could very possibly result in you having to abandon this goal. This is not the kind of problem I'm talking about, here. This problem isn't related to not liking the direction your life is taking. I'm talking about the kind of problem where you realize you hate cows, ranches, cowboys, bed and breakfast inns, being out in the country, solitude, the Rocky Mountains, pine trees and Arizona. All of this after shaping a major portion of your life to get something that involves all of these.
Somewhere along the way, if you find yourself having to constantly change goals and life direction, you might ask if there's not some way to avoid this. Is there not some way to at least reduce the likelihood of having to make frequent and major changes in my life direction? The answer is "yes." It comes down to knowing what' important to you. If you can clarify the values that matter most to you, then you can set goals that are consistent with those values. I've worked with a lot of clients who have set goals and either not achieved them or been unsatisfied with achieving them simply because their goals conflicted with what was truly important to them. Quite often the goals were based upon what they felt they should want or what other people told them to want rather than upon their own values and ideals.
So, the first step to setting good goals and making effective choices is know what's important to you. There are a lot of tools available to help you do this. Exercises that engage your imagination and lists of values that you can rank in terms of relative importance are available for free on the Internet. If you have trouble with these, you can hire a coach to help you work through the process. In fact, I encourage that because there's more beyond simply using the tool. Still, if a coach is not a viable option for you right now, the tools are out there for you to use. Find the one(s) that work for you and learn what really matters. Life is so much easier and far more fulfilling when what you do matches what you care about.
Change your mind...change your life.