How often do you take time out of your busy life to think about and plan for the future? When we become parents, our personal and family goals can be overlooked, put aside or simply forgotten as we get caught up in and consumed by the day-to-day demands and responsibilities of parenting. As a result, our hopes, dreams and aspirations are put off to a time when we imagine life will be less stressful, we’ll have more time or we’ll ‘get around to it one day’.
Having a clear picture of your vision and ideal life is an important first step towards turning your dreams into reality. A vision provides you with focus, clarity and direction, enabling you to form a strategy and set goals towards achieving desired outcomes. Creating your own personal ‘road map’ or family ‘flight plan’ helps you plan and take action, inspiring, motivating, and empowering you towards achieving what you truly want in life, sooner.
Begin by taking time out alone, together as a couple and family. Visualise your ideal life: what do you want to achieve in life? What’s important or missing from your life right now? Where do you see yourself and your family in one, five or ten years’ time? What changes do you want or need to make? With a clear vision, your goals (steps taken to achieve your vision) become apparent and follow.
Consider all possibilities – put aside any barriers, obstacles, limiting beliefs or excuses, Try not to think about reasons why ‘you can’t…’ – focus on positive thoughts and action instead.
Write your thoughts down, or draw or use images, to identify your vision and display where it will be seen regularly. Describe your vision using positive, future-tense language as if you’re already there – when you begin with the end result in mind, you move towards your vision and who/where you aspire to be. Examples could include: “calm, happy, confident parent”; “loving partner”; “good friend”; “fit and healthy”, “happy, healthy, well-behaved children”; “financially independent”…
The difference between having a dream and achieving a goal is writing down specific goals with a step-by-step action plan to achieve them. Goals aren’t only big-picture, long-term aspirations; setting small, simple daily goals helps you get through your ‘To Do’ list and gives you a sense of purpose, direction and achievement.
Start small and simple by identifying the one area of your life that you want or need to focus on first, e.g. health and fitness, career, finances, relationships, home environment, parenting skills, family communication, work/life balance, time-management, getting organised, confidence, ‘me’ or ‘couple’ time. Focusing on one goal at a time will help avoid feeling overwhelmed, stressed or anxious about where to begin or the amount of things you want to achieve and get done.
Identify, prioritise and focus on your short-, medium-, and long-term goals by writing down the top three things you want to achieve or change in the next 30, 60 and 90 days. Write down a specific plan for achieving each goal, setting realistic timeframes.
One of the main reasons goals are often ineffective is a failure to plan and follow through to completion. To be successful with your goals, it helps to:
- Be 100% committed to making changes and achieving what you want. Believe in yourself – you can do it! Maintain strong self-discipline to focus on and take action towards your desired result.
- Follow through and track your progress. Monitoring and reviewing feedback provides you with momentum to achieve more.
- Plan and write down your goals in advance. Display somewhere visible.
- Use positive language, e.g. “When I exercise every day I feel good, look great and am full of energy.”
- Eliminate any negative self-talk. Learn to quieten or ignore that little voice in your head that keeps talking you down.
- Identify what motivates you. Remove any barriers, obstacles or limiting beliefs and take action. Provide yourself with an incentive to get started, remain focused and motivated.
- Visualise the end result, using your emotions to see, feel and experience the joy and satisfaction of achieving what you want.
- Begin with the end in mind and then identify, plan and write down the specific steps and action you need to take to achieve your desired outcome.
- Set yourself up for success with realistic goals, supporting you to achieve what you truly want.
- Have coping strategies in place to deal with any problems or setbacks that arise. If you slip up, refocus and get back on track quickly.
S.M.A.R.T.E.R. techniques for effective goal-setting:
Specific – know exactly what it is you want to achieve.
Measurable – measure your success so you know you’ve achieved (or are on your way to achieving) what you set out to do.
Achievable – make sure your goal is something you can and want to achieve. Eliminate all thoughts of guilt, ‘should’ and ‘have to’ – these will only undermine your success.
Realistic – ensure your goals are realistic and relevant. Break down your ultimate goal into smaller goals when necessary. Challenge yourself when setting goals but not to the extent that they become unrealistic or overwhelming.
Timeframe – establish a timeframe or deadline for when your goal will be achieved or break it down into several steps towards achieving your overall goal.
Enjoyable – work towards something enjoyable and fulfilling.
Reward – acknowledge your progress along the way and reward yourself when you achieve your goal or reach milestones. Have fun and enjoy your goals. Focus on what you do achieve rather than beating yourself up for what doesn’t get done.
Establishing family vision and goals is not about reaching a single destination – they provide you with a clearly defined process to guide you through life and your parenting journey. Your ‘life plan’ is meant to be reviewed, updating your vision and setting new goals as you grow as individuals and as a family along the way.