‘Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom.’ Victor Frankl
Life is about change. The adage, change is constant is true for all of us at any stage of our lives. Certainly, there has been a great deal of change and disruption globally. The domino effect of this major disruption has seen fundamental changes to the way we live our lives, the way we learn and the way we work.
At the end of the day, change is inherent to life. Without change, our lives would be very dull and boring. Change is necessary and inevitable. However, we need to acknowledge that change can be hard at an individual level. We are in fact hard-wired to be resistant to change.
Our brain is wired to minimize threats and risks. We take the fight or flight response when we are in danger or feel anxious in any way. It is interesting that the part of our brain responsible for thinking clearly and logically can shut down in times of anxiety.
Our emotional and memory parts of the brain take over in these times. We have hardwired our past patterns and habits over many years.
In this roller coaster ride of a life we are all on, with so much fundamental change taking place, many of us have used this time as an opportunity to take stock, evaluate our lives and rethink what it is we want for a better and more balanced life in the future.
This is indeed a precursor to living a more fulfilling and meaningful life, in this increasingly interconnected and chaotic world we live in.
One of the most powerful processes we can use utilise as we go through life is to consciously work out our own personal purpose and meaning in life, articulating a personal vision and then setting goals to achieve that vision.
Making a commitment to change helps us grow as a person. It is not just about achieving these goals but going through the process enables us to make powerful, internal and lasting changes, rewiring our brains. We learn more about ourselves and have a greater mastery of our emotions.
Through greater self-awareness we build our emotional intelligence and this gives us the potential to lead a more fulfilling and satisfying life. Daniel Goldman, in his famous books on Emotional Intelligence, acknowledges that EQ can be a greater determiner of success in life than IQ.
Articulating our life purpose and having conscious goals to work towards create energy for change and give us momentum. Often our goals can change through our life journey.
Whether we achieve those particular goals or not, or whether our goals change, it is important to note “success is a journey, not a destination.”
Clarifying our purpose and meaning in life and setting goals to achieve this purpose can be a powerful, life-changing and liberating process. We are challenging ourselves to reach our full potential.
However, what is significant in doing this, is the knowledge that it is not just about the achievement of those goals themselves. It is also about the self-mastery you gain and the person you become as a result.
But how do you actually set goals?
However, being able to set effective goals and work towards them is a skill and like all skills, needs to be learned and needs practice. Life gets in the way and our willpower can ebb and flow. At times it may seem impossible to break a lifetime of habits and patterns of behaviour.
Having a defined vision and keeping focused can help us have our own insights about changes we need to make. This will help us rewire our brain and thus embed new connections and neural pathways.
So, what can you do to make lasting and inspirational change in your life? What can you do to be your own ‘coach’ in your life journey?
Below are ten steps you can follow to achieve your goals and create an authentic and meaningful life you love.
1. Make a conscious decision to commit to change.
Articulating your life purpose and how you can lead an authentic life with conscious goals to work towards, creates momentum and energy for change.
The first step in this journey is you making the conscious decision to commit to making sustainable change. At the end of the day this boils down to cultivating new habits and breaking old habits. Not an easy thing to do we know!
2. Assess where you are right now.
Before you start on the self-coaching journey of setting goals and working towards them, you need to look very objectively at your current life. This is a step that many people miss to their detriment.
How do you know where you want to end up if you do not know where you are in the first place?
Until you have clarity about your current reality, it is hard to be able to articulate your personal vision and goals.
What you are doing here is a personal inventory of your life. You will learn more about your core values that guide you in your everyday living and helped you get through challenging times. This is in essence how you are true to yourself.
When you have challenges in your life and things just aren’t working out for you, if you are living your life according to your core values, you are actually living a successful values-based life.
A life satisfaction audit is a very effective way of examining different facets of your life and where you are presently at with them. It will help you define what parts of your life you want to enhance.
The Life Satisfaction Audit I have in my Life Journal 5-week online course is comprehensive and covers 8 categories and 23 specific areas of focus. The categories are Overall Life Quality, Inner Wellbeing, Health and Fitness, Relationships, Career and Work, Lifestyle, Living Environment, Finances.
3. Create a compelling vision for your future.
Here you work on your inspirational personal vision for the future, for your successful and fulfilling life, incorporating all that is important to you.
There are many ways to develop your personal vision. It is a time to reflect on where you want to be in the future, whether it be in 12 months, 2 years or even 5 years.
It is also a time to reflect on what you are passionate about and what gives you energy. This is an opportunity to do some reflective writing in a personal journal, write freely and with imagination about your vision.
Two exercises I have in my Life Journal course you can do to work on your vision, will help articulate what you want in your future life. The first exercise is a letter to yourself in the future and the second one is your eulogy.
The first exercise emphasises more your external life circumstances such as your work, living environment, health and fitness, relationships, how you want to spend your time.
The second technique focuses on your inner (emotional and spiritual) wellbeing, how you interact with others, your beliefs and your values.
4. Choose your areas of focus and set your SMARTER goals.
Now that you have reflected on where you are currently at with the different areas of your life and you have worked on a compelling vision for your future, it is time to choose your areas of focus and set the goals that will support you to achieve your own vision of success.
Focus on where you want to improve your life. Normally you would not set more than three goals. These goals form a blueprint for your successful life, personally and professionally.
However, there is one important stipulation. One of the areas you choose must be about your inner world. This is how you are as a person, how you live your life. It is about your emotional and spiritual wellbeing and your attitude to life itself.
Therefore, in choosing three areas of your focus and setting goals against them, two areas can relate to your external circumstances and one area to your inner (emotional and spiritual) wellbeing.
The goals you set need to be compelling and stretch you beyond your comfort zone.
They need to be SMART (S specific, M measurable, A achievable, R realistic and relevant, T time-framed).
They also need to be SMARTER (E stands for exciting and R stands for rewarding).This is from John Lees, author of Secrets of Resilient People.
It is particularly important the goals you have chosen, resonate deeply with you, and you are enthused and energised by them, and where they will lead you
5. Develop your personal action plan.
Once you have finalised your goals, take some time to work out your overall strategies and then you can complete your personal action plan which includes details of your goals, strategies and your weekly actions.
Your action plan needs to include a way of measuring your progress with your goals. This is very important as it helps you clarify how you are going. This is a detailed plan which makes you accountable to your actions and gives you the momentum to take effective action.
6. Take action and monitor your progress.
This is essential to achieving success and involves both holding yourself accountable for your actions and learning to reflect on what you have learnt about yourself in the process.
Your actions need to be clearly defined and achievable but at the same time challenge you to step out of your comfort zone. These actions need lots of perseverance, practice and reinforcement.
You need to commit yourself to reviewing your actions and monitoring your progress on a regular basis. Keeping a journal is a great way of doing this and in fact research shows journal writing can be a powerful tool for change and can be cathartic.
7. Use the power of cultivating positive habits to make sustainable change.
At the end of the day, setting goals and taking effective action generally involves creating new habits which you need to embed in your life. Changing ingrained habits takes courage and perseverance.
It is about building a positive system of habits, even if they are small behaviour changes that when combined deliver significant results.
There has been a lot of research on the power of cultivating positive habits and evidence-based techniques, that by making small positive changes step by step, these are then a catalyst for major changes in your life.
In my Life Journal course, there is a range of evidence-based tools and techniques from highly renowned experts about the power of cultivating positive habits and breaking bad habits. You will also learn a how to integrate mindfulness and self-compassion into your daily life.
8. Celebrate your successes along the way.
It is vital you reward yourself for making progress, no matter how small or insignificant you think it is. We are all good at letting our inner critic take over at times and berate ourselves for failure at not achieving exactly what we wanted.
The ability to rethink the way we explain circumstances in our lives and the way we choose to focus on failure or success can have a major effect on who we are and how we live our lives.
9. Evaluate and take stock.
This is an important part of the coaching process and involves more than monitoring your weekly actions. This is a great time to do some journaling on how you are going, on how you feel about your progress and what you have learnt about yourself,
This is also an opportunity to make some tweaks to your goals. This is a time of self-reflection on what you have learnt about yourself and how you have grown.
As we learn more about ourselves and grow, we develop a greater self-awareness of what it is we really want out of our life and importantly how we want to be.
10. Start the cycle again.
This is where the process starts again. By following these steps, you are learning a powerful cyclical process to coach yourself, which, you can use throughout your life.
You will have your own personal mental training studio – a place you’ll always be able to access to find a source of calm, strengthen your inner wellbeing and reassess your goals so you can continue to pursue your dreams, no matter what obstacles life hands you.
You are the creator of your own life. By going through the steps above, which are a summary of what you would learn in my 5-week Life Journal course, you can make deep and impactful changes to your life.
You will learn more about yourself in the process and your life will be richer and more fulfilled.
It will give you a greater understanding of yourself, what it is that will make your life fulfilling and it will give you the momentum to make those changes.
Check out my Life Journal course here.
We acknowledge there are many circumstances and events in life we have no control over. Ultimately, what we do have choice over is our attitude to the way we live our lives, what our life purpose is and the actions we take.