Welcome to the new decade and new year. This is when we set big lofty goals to accomplish changes in our lives and careers. Unfortunately, we often set these goals and they remain as just that — goals. They stay in our heads, in our journals or in our hearts. Commonly, at this time of year, we also tend to feel many regrets that another year passed and we are still nowhere closer to our goals or, worst case, even farther away.
To quote one of my all-time favorite songs:
Dumbed down and numbed by time and age,
Your dreams that catch the world the cage.
- “I and Love and You” by The Avett Brothers
Sometimes, we might think this is the only way life is lived; big dreams are swept away by life and time moves on. In this new decade, we can accomplish so much more. It all comes down to the millions of small choices we make every single day.
At HPP, we call it “conscious choice-making, life by design or life by default.” It is one of the five values we share as a company. When life sweeps away our goals, we are allowing our lives to be lives by default. We are not focusing on the small choices to get us to our dreams and goals. However, when we are conscious of our choice-making, we align our small choices with the larger things we want to accomplish.
For example, we will make a personal goal of losing weight. Life, by default, is staying in the warm bed in the morning, telling yourself that you’ll start when it is not so cold out. Life by design would be making the small choice to work out to accomplish your larger goal of weight reduction or, even better, a healthy lifestyle.
At work, what does this look like? It often takes the form of less important things controlling your daily agenda versus choosing to remain focused on the important actions that move you closer to your goals. You know these days — the ones that you look back on and feel like you accomplished nothing. Yep, those are the days to avoid!
What does it take to accomplish life by design? I always thought I struggled in many areas because I lacked motivation. In reality, it was much simpler than that. Here are a few ideas to be the designer in your life.
People who effectively make millions of small choices aligned to their goals have discipline. They hold themselves accountable to high standards. These traits cross over from personal to work. From an outsider’s perspective, these people seem to make considerable sacrifices in their lives: good food, sleeping in, saying “no” when it may not be seen as the correct thing to do, etc. These are the people at work who block out their calendars proactively to get important work done. These driven people may forego attending meetings when they could use their time more productively elsewhere. They firmly understand that it is the small daily choices that, if made effectively, will help them reach the finish line.
Recognize small wins.
We might wait until a huge milestone toward our goal is accomplished to celebrate, but people who are designing their lives react differently. They celebrate the minor wins and build upon them. By celebrate, I am not talking about a party necessarily, although you could recognize your accomplishments that way. It is more akin to acknowledging the success, why it occurred and using that momentum to continue pursuing your goals. You will see these people journaling, recording their achievements on social media and having a tribe of people (perhaps their team at work) with whom they can celebrate similar victories.
Face even the smallest fears.
When people focus on conscious choice-making, they have a firm understanding that when you live your life in fear, you are already dead (please excuse another Avett Brothers reference). Fear is often an excuse for not accomplishing a goal. These fears could be related to major life changes such as leaving your job or taking a new job that is less known. Choices like these have the potential power to change the entire path of your life. However, designers of life practice facing fears in small practical ways on an almost daily basis. So, when the seemingly larger fears creep in, they are equipped to handle them. Some examples of small fears would be saying “no” to less important things, having a difficult conversation with someone or even taking a different route home from work. They recognize their fears and prepare a plan to face them.
For 2020, you can be the designer of your life. Start with one goal and practice the three tips above. When you become more conscious about the daily choices you make using discipline, recognition of success and facing small fears, you’ll be ready and confident to tackle those big dreams one small choice at a time.