If you don’t know where you’re heading, you’ll just wander around in circles.
In his book Atomic Habits, James Clear said, “Many people think they lack motivation when what they really lack is clarity.” You see, most people procrastinate not because they lack motivation, but because they don’t know crystal-clear what to work on and which direction to go in life. This lack of clarity leads to inaction. On the other hand, when you have clear goals and a clear vision for your life, motivation tends to follow as a natural byproduct of this mental clarity. Just like when going on a holiday, you have to know your end destination so you can plan and follow the correct route to get there. If you don’t know where you’re heading, you’ll just wander around in circles.
It Starts With A Clear Vision
Your bigger life vision is a mental image of where you want to go, what you want to achieve, and who you want to be. Basically, it’s that mental image you likely already daydream about.
I want to note that you don’t need to have your entire life planned out already. In fact, your dreams and aspirations will likely change many times as you get older — that’s part of growing.
Nevertheless, it’s incredibly useful to at least have some sort of vision of what you want to do with your life in the coming three to five years. Anything beyond that might be uncertain — but you can likely make a good prediction of what you want to do, be, and achieve in the next few years.
The clearer you get on this bigger vision, the more you can structure your days and weeks around making this vision a reality. This level of clarity provides a huge boost in daily inspiration, motivation, and productivity. It’s one of the strongest antidotes to inaction.
To help you clarify your bigger life vision, I recommend you ask yourself the following questions:
What would the perfect average day look like for me in the future? What would I be doing? What projects would I be working on? What would I do outside of work?
Where would I want to live, and what would I want my home to look like?
What thoughts, habits, and actions would be my standard a few years from now?
What skills and knowledge would I love to master?
What goals would I love to have achieved three to five years from now?
These questions help you shine a light on the things you desire in life — this is your bigger vision. You can put this vision onto paper to make it more tangible, and so you can review it daily. Here’s an example of a bigger vision written out: “I want to earn at least six figures a year writing — and be able to write from anywhere in the world. I want to be incredibly fit, healthy, and energized so I feel confident and live life to the fullest. On top of that, I want to build a loving, supporting relationship together with my wife.”
Bigger Vision + Specific Goals Where your bigger life vision is an abstract mental image of where you want to go, your goals are tangible and specific stepping stones to make this vision a reality. You need both to succeed. If you have a clear vision but no specific goals, you’ll stay stuck dreaming about the future without taking consistent action towards it. And if you have no long-term vision but you do have specific goals, you’ll end up being busy but potentially work on projects not aligned with the future you deeply desire. But when you combine a crystal-clear long-term vision with highly specific goals, you’ve unlocked a powerful combination for peak performance. You know exactly where you’re heading and what specific steps to take to make it a reality. Just having this clarity alone might be enough for some of you to break the chains of procrastination for good.
The 90-Day Goal-Setting System
Based on your bigger life vision, it’s time to set some goals. Remember, goals are the specific stepping stones to make your bigger vision a reality. I recommend you set goals with a 90-day timeframe, not any longer. Setting goals with a longer timeframe (for example, one-year goals) is a recipe for failure.
In fact, a study from the University of Scranton has shown that 92% fail to achieve their yearly goals and resolutions. This is because there’s one major issue with yearly goals: An entire year is such a long timeframe that it allows for too much time-wasting, procrastination, and distractions.
There’s hardly any urgency experienced with yearly goals, which leads to ineffective use of time. Aka, a lot of procrastinating.
As Brian P. Moran, author of The 12-Week Year, said, “At the heart of annualized thinking is an unspoken belief that there is plenty of time in the year to make things happen. In January, December looks a long way off…We mistakenly believe that there is a lot of time left in the year, and we act accordingly. We lack a sense of urgency, not realizing that every week is important, every day is important, every moment is important. Ultimately, effective execution happens daily and weekly!”
All in all, there’s simply not enough time-pressure experienced to take daily action towards your goals when their timeframe for achievement is months away. This is why, instead of using a one-year timeframe, I prefer to use a 90-day timeframe for my goals.
A 90-day period is short enough to feel a healthy sense of urgency, but long enough to still get meaningful things done. It’s the perfect antidote to procrastination and inefficient use of time.
Again, to quote Brian P. Moran, “We behave differently when a deadline approaches. We procrastinate less, we reduce or eliminate avoidance activity, and we focus more on the things that matter.”
All in all, take a look at your bigger life vision and ask yourself the following question:
Which three goals, if achieved within the next 90 days, will help me get a big step closer to fulfilling my bigger life vision?
Make sure you get as precise as possible when setting these goals. Leave no room for ambiguity. Ambiguity leads to inaction, while clarity leads to action.
For example, don’t say ‘I want to write a lot of articles’, but formulate the goal as ‘I will write at least 30 articles to grow my audience and make more money’. Don’t say ‘I want to exercise more often’, but formulate the goal as ‘I will exercise 45 times to boost my energy and fitness’.
The more precise you set your goals, the better your can measure your progress. The better you can measure your progress, the more likely you will get the results you desire.
Breaking Your 90-Day Goals Down
Now that you’ve set your 90-day goals, it’s time to break them down into even smaller checkpoints to create a true system for success. I recommend you break your 90-day goals down into:
30-day goals (monthly goals)
7-day goals (weekly goals)
1-day goals (daily goals)
By breaking your 90-day goals down into these smaller checkpoints, you make it even easier to achieve. Honestly, when you apply this in your life, your level of focus and productivity will skyrocket. Let’s look at an example to show how streamlined this goal-setting system is:
(In this case, we’ll use a simplified bigger life vision and just one 90-day goal for the sake of keeping this example clear. In reality, you might have three 90-day goals, and, therefore, three monthly goals, three weekly goals, and three daily goals.)
Bigger Vision: To make a full-time income writing articles and books, and being able to write from anywhere in the world.
90-Day Goal: Publish 30 articles to Medium.com to grow my audience and earn money through the Medium partner program.
30-Day Goal: Publish 10 articles to Medium.com.
7-Day Goal: Publish 3 articles to Medium.com.
1-Day Goal: Write 1000+ words for a rough draft for one article.
In essence, as you can see from the example, all you have to do is focus on accomplishing your daily goal and you know you’re making progress towards your 90-day goal (and, thus, towards your bigger vision for life). When you create this level of clarity, you’ll be more productive than 95% of most others. Most people just wander around, being reactive to the mood of the day. But, by using this system, each day is purposeful, intentional, and focused on the bigger picture. It’s a game-changer.