My first weekend in Warsaw, Poland was a fun one. Throughout it, I was able to do loads of activities I enjoy – explore a new city, view some museums and palaces, eat some damn good pancakes, and enjoy a little bit of what the Warsaw nightlife has to offer.
On Saturday night’s one of my guilty pleasures is to go out dancing at night clubs. Not for your normal male reasons of finding a beautiful local girl or getting wasted out of your mind, but because my friends and I just thoroughly enjoy tearing apart the dance floor and an upbeat EDM playlist.
While tearing apart said dance floor at a white chique rooftop club overlooking downtown Warsaw, I was told something that started a whole thought process of what the key to my (or anyone’s) happiness is and why the hell was I always so damn happy. Something I’ve never really thought about before.
That sentence was this:
“You seem too happy… Like you have a huge smile and are always smiling”
I stopped in my tracks, my hips stood still for the first time in the night, and I responded with a smile on my face and eyes wide open “Of course! If I wasn’t happy with what I was doing I would leave or do something else. There’s no point in doing something that doesn’t make me happy.”
Although a great point and I agree 100% with my knee jerk reaction, I don’t feel it encompasses everything and what happiness is all about.
The Simplest Key To Happiness – In Any Part of Life!
I want to preface this with that it doesn’t matter what part of your life this is in. This framework works for every major section of your life including:
It will also work in any part of your journey. Whether you’re young and just starting out or already where you think you want to be in one of these areas. It can help clarify the remainder of your journey or your starting point.
Your happiness correlates directly with your achievement and success.
It’s Not What It Sounds Like!
Hold up! Now that sounds super narcissistic and selfish to say that the only way to be happy is to have success and achievement.
The main point to get across is that it’s not about the outward achievement that you are picturing. It’s not about achieving money, fame, sex, power, trophies, or anything like that.
What I mean by this is the easy way to be happy is to achieve the success that you want to achieve – however you define it! Not how others define it.
Your own internal goals, your own vision of your future, your own dreams is how you define success in your life. And when you achieve or are on your way to achieving those things, you find true unfiltered happiness.
Find Your Definition Of Achievement And Success
The most difficult part of this whole equation is finding out what your internal vision of success is. What makes you happy. And being able to weed out everything that others and society are giving you to look at your true goals, not others.
There are two processes you can use that can help you determine your definition of success.
- Writing Out Your Goals
1. Writing Out Your Goals
Goal setting is a crucial step in order to truly figure out your own desires on your road to happiness.
Think of writing out your goals as a GPS to your dream life.
Yes, of course, you can get to your destination by navigating yourself, trying to read street signs, and read the sun using your hand like a sundial (if you don’t have a compass handy dandy) so you know if you’re going north or south.
But it would take a lot more effort and a bit longer correct?
And just imagine if you didn’t even know where your destination was?!
So now you are driving aimlessly towards a destination that you don’t even know what it is. Sounds like a sure fired way to get lost and waste a lot of gas (years) just trying to figure out where you are supposed to be.
If you’re anything like me, that last scenario hits home. For too long I was lost in my life without clear direction. I was taking turns for no specific reason other than I thought this might be good for me or get me to where I want to go.
And even if I was at a perfect destination or where I was supposed to be, I wouldn’t even have realized it! Because I didn’t know what I was looking for!
If you’re at this stage, it’s okay. We’ve all been there and 80-90% of people on this earth are there right now. It’s not your fault.
But now you know where you are, that’s the first step of knowing where you are going.
Use Your Goals Like A GPS
Let’s think about this scenario and a more likely one when you are traveling in 2019.
You hop in the car, you know the exact address of where you are going, you select the route that takes up the least time and gas, and you head on your way.
You navigate turns and directions with ease. Never second-guessing a decision because the map knows. Shit, you barely need to think about your next decision, it happens almost automatically.
Upon the arrival of your destination, you know exactly what it looks like and where to park.
You get there even faster than the GPS said because who the hell doesn’t go 7 mph over the speed limit?
Sounds like a better scenario doesn’t? And a lot more enjoyable and less stressful?
How To Start Writing Out Your Goals
The second scenario is what it’s like when you have clear goals that you can stick to. When you have the end destination clear you can then start to work backward to create the steps and turns you need to take to get there as efficiently as possible.
You then a have a guiding light that can lead your decision making.
Many individuals categorize their goals and separate out on a time. Such as looking at your goals based on when you would like to achieve them.
For instance, having a goal by the end of the month to lose 10 pounds or quitting your job and starting your own business in 5 years or getting married and having kids by 30. Each goal different in a different section of your life at a different time, but all equally as important.
When putting pen to paper or keyboard to Evernote, there’s a well-known framework to get the most out of your goal setting.
It’s the acronym SMART. It’s best to have SMART goals (because stupid goals are well… stupid lol).
Creating SMART Goals
(A quick video going over SMART goals when it comes to fat loss in particular for my fitness clients)
S – Specific
M – Measurable
A – Assignable
R – Realistic
T – Time-Related
This is what SMART stands for and all your goals should follow this specific framework.
You should make your goals as granular as possible. Keeping them specific instead of broad can help the end destination be clearer. To bring back our last example if you just say you want to go to a restaurant, you could end up at Subway or a 5-star steakhouse.
But if you select that you want to go to a Tex-Mex restaurant that takes reservations that’s open at 9 PM on a Tuesday (for Taco Tuesday of course) then you’ll get exactly you want and expect.
Now there is a fine line on long-term goals that can’t be overlooked. You want to broadly specific with these.
Because if you narrow yourself down into a corner you might get stuck or not keep yourself open-minded to new opportunities or possibilities (thanks to a good friend Ken for teaching me this.)
Take the same example for the restaurant. If you say three years from now on a Tuesday night at 9 PM you want to get Tex-Mex and Margs.
Next thing you know, three years from now you moved down to El Paso, Texas and you’re sick of Tex-Mex but this new Italian place just opened up that you want to try. But because you set such a specific far-out goal, you’re now backed into the corner and either you complete your goal even you don’t want to or you don’t complete it at all.
Obviously an extreme and ridiculous example. But a general rule is this:
Keep your short-term goals specific, and long-term goals broad enough to keep yourself open-minded to possibilities.
All of your goals should be measurable. This one may be tough for each goal but what gets measured/tracked gets progress.
Multiple studies have shown in weight loss that those that tracked their weight once a week lost more weight in general than those that never or rarely step on a scale. This does two things: it not only makes you cognizant of where you are but also see progress as it happens. This can then put together a snowball effect for continued progress.
For most of your goals, they are yours so you can assign someone to them… YOURSELF!
For company visions and goals, you may have to assign others to them such as assigning a goal to a salesperson to hit 10 sales this month to make him responsible for the success.
In these terms, you need to assign all these goals to yourself. Take full responsibility for the success and failure of each achievement. We don’t want to leave your happiness up to outside forces or chance.
Look, I’m all for shooting for the stars and you’ll hit the moon!
We just need to be realistic on all these goals especially in a specific timeframe. If you have yet to make a single dollar in your business, your 1-month goal shouldn’t be to make a million dollars. Although definitely possible, I wouldn’t call it realistic.
Now your 5 years or even 1-year goal, now it’s more realistic! If it’s too unrealistic you won’t take it seriously and cave when others around you don’t as well.
I can’t stress this enough. There needs to be a deadline!
If not then it’s arbitrary when you’ll achieve it and you’ll continue to push off and procrastinate. Whenever I’ve told myself, I’m going to do this I just don’t know when it’s never happened.
I’ve been telling myself I wanted to travel the world for 3-4 years now. But never set a date on it. And at the end of 2019, my good friend and I finally put our feet down. Enough is enough and if we don’t do this now, we never will. So we signed a pact saying when our leases were up in Miami (July 2019) we are buying a one-way flight to travel the world.
We both had jobs at that point that we’re located dependent on us being in Miami. But because of this SMART goal, we pulled it off no matter what came in the way.
Structuring Your SMART Goals
Now that you know how to format and write out your goals and how you should be tracking them to ensure you are progressing and accountable for your success.
The next step is figuring out the structure or buckets to place your goals.
Giving another big shoutout to Ken Mosesian on this one as he’s helped me structure and bucket my goals into specific categories.
Putting your goals into specific buckets allows you to focus on each separately and ensure you stay in a good life balance. There’s nothing worse than focusing too much on one part of life to lose the rest (think rich with mansion but no one to share it with).
6 Buckets of Life
Yours might be different and that’s okay. But these are the six buckets that I like to categorize my life and goals to give you a starting point (in no particular order).
- Fulfilling Work
To myself, if I’m hitting all 6 of these or even a majority, I can consider that a success and am happy with the way my life is going. If I start falling short or become unhappy, I can then pinpoint which part of my life I’m missing and initially put more time into that bucket.
Time Periods of Your Goals
I then like to create SMART goals for different time periods in each bucket. This is what allows me to pinpoint where my unhappiness or stress steams when it does arise.
There are plenty of good cadences. Weekly, Monthly, Quarterly, Yearly, etc. I like to think of myself and who I am into 3 time periods.
1 – My current self
This is my weekly goals. This is the day to day tasks I need to do in order to drive health, wealth, love, work, have fun, and keep my spiritual self on track.
2 – My near-future self
This is then my quarterly to yearly goals. What I would like to get done in the next 3-6 months. This then becomes a bit higher-level business strategy, broad travel plans, budgeting, and more.
A quote that I love by Peter Thiel is this, “Why can’t you complete your 5-year plan in the next 6 months.” And the way I like to take this is why can’t I complete my yearly plans in the next 3 months (quarter). This allows me then to collapse timeframes instead of elapsing them and challenges me not just in hard work but in creativity on how I can build a strategy to get myself to my yearly goals quicker.
3 – My future self
These are the broader goals and visions I have in my life. For me, these can be anywhere from 10-50 years out on what kind of legacy I want to leave behind, what kind of father, husband, businessman, family member, and friend I want to be.
Like I mentioned in the beginning, you don’t have to run with these timeframes, but this is my method and a great starting point for you to think about how you’d like to structure your life and time.
An Example Goal Chart To Get Visual
To make things visual and to get everything down on paper, I wanted to show you my goal chart. My goal chart – especially in the current and near-future self changes rapidly. But the far future self stays relatively consistent even as I change location, careers, etc.
First, I don’t chart out my current goals. Why?
Because they change so rapidly.
My current goals get placed into a to-do list each week. Bucketed into each client, business, or task. I then plan out my weeks on Sunday night based around this to-do list.
It gives me the satisfaction of checking things off (which is proven to increase productivity as you feel accomplished) as well as makes sure I don’t forget any important tasks throughout the week.
My Current Goal Chart – August 2019
|Bucket||Near-Future (3-12 Months)||Future (10+ Years)|
2. Visualizing Your Goals
Woo! Finally onto step two. (I promise this section is a little shorter but equally as important!) This one is a little more creative and in your mind than on paper. All you have to do is start thinking about what that would look like, what steps you need to get there, and what the journey will look like along the way to your goal.
If you don’t have your goals written down in step 1, I highly suggest you create a chart like the one above and just jot down your initial thoughts – it should only take 5-10 minutes.
Don’t worry I’ll wait….
And now that you do have your goals written down, this step will be much easier. Visualization is best when you have a clear vision vs. when the vision is fuzzy, unknown, or wandering.
Day Dreaming Vs. Visualization
That clarity in your vision is what separates these two concepts.
By definition, daydreaming is a series of pleasant thoughts that distract one’s attention from the present.
But visualization is the act or process of interpreting in visual terms or of putting into visible form.
The key in daydreaming is the fact that it distracts one’s attention from what is currently going on. Daydreaming is a form of dreaming and wishing. But that’s not what goals are. Dreams are in essence goals that are never acted upon.
Goals are the end toward which effort is directed.
And with visualization, we are simply putting the effort and the end into visual form so you can feel, touch, and see what it will be like when you reach that end. The clearer your end goal is, the clearer the visual images you can create.
Proof Behind Visualization
Now it doesn’t sound that powerful or that hard to do. All I’m telling you is to think in your mind and create a visual image of your end goal.
But just because it’s simple doesn’t mean it’s not powerful!
There have been numerous scientific studies on the power of visualization but the most famous has to do with my favorite sport, basketball, and shooting free throws (a very mental part of the sport).
In this study an Australian Psychologist divided individuals into three groups to shoot free throws:
- Practiced free throws every day for 20 days
- Only practiced free throws on the first and 20th day
- Only practiced free throws on the first and 20th day AND visualized shooting free throws for 20 minutes each day
Group 2 made no progress at all.
Group 1 as expected got better (practice makes perfect) and shot 24% better than the first day.
This is where the results get interesting!
Group 3, who practiced no more than Group 2 but visualized shooting free throws every day, shot 23% better than the first day!
Meaning in this study (and countless others) that visualization yield close to the same results as actual practice!!
Strategic visualization towards the end goal is a crucial step to getting to your goals as efficiently as possible.
How To Practice Strategic Visualization
You got your goals written down. Your vision is clear and you know this works.
Here are some general tips on how I visualize and how to get the most out of this process:
Get To A Quiet Or Comfortable Place
Make sure there aren’t many distractions and make yourself comfortable so you can focus. Personally, I love having some light music in the background as I sit by the water or on a park bench. Many love doing this in the confines of their rooms or home as well. Whatever makes you comfortable and most in tune with yourself, do.
Read Your Goals To Yourself
Read them all or choose one specific goal to read. This will clear your mind of anything else happening around you or in your life and allow you to focus on one thing. Prepping your mindset for your vision.
Reflect On That Goal
This is where I like to ask myself questions to make it easier to visualize in my mind. Here are a few starters to make it easy:
Where will you be? Who will be with you? What will you be doing? How are you feeling?
From there you can see the visualizations start to come to life as you close your eyes, watch the clouds or the leaves blow in the wind.
Consistency Is Key
If you end up doing this once and never again, you won’t be seeing the results. This a strategic/deliberate practice and you don’t master anything by solely practicing once or on occasion.
In the study above, Group 3 visualized for 20 minutes each day. And although there wasn’t a group that only visualized once on day 2, I can almost guarantee their results would be more like Group 2 than any other with no real progress.
Lastly, Turn Your Vision Into Reality
If you’re doing this to escape your reality, that’s where daydreaming comes in to play. But if you’re doing this deliberately to put your goals into a vision and turn a vision into your real life that’s when visualization has its results.
So in your visualization practice, if you find some to-dos, next steps, or think of any as your processing it afterward, write it down and put in your weekly to-do lists so you can take action on your vision and start taking steps towards your goal.
An Example Vision
Lastly, I’m going to share a bit of my vision around a few of my long-term goals so you can see how real they become.
This vision to come has been something I have deliberately practiced and seen in my mind since I was around 10 years old. I don’t know why but it’s always been with me.
And because of this practice, it feels real and I can see it just around my future. It also serves as a guiding light in my decision making as I can look at each step in my life as getting me closer or farther away from this goal.
Steps that take me closer I take, steps that push me farther away, I pass on.
My Love/Relationship Vision at 33 (10 years from now)
I’m sitting on a white/tan sandy beach. It’s partly cloudy and the suns behind the clouds currently. The dark blue water has small rippling waves, just big enough to create little white caps that crash close to shore.
I turn over my right shoulder. Sitting a few feet away I see my beautiful wife. Hair flowing just a tad in the wind and a little messy from being outside all day. Her smile glimmers as she giggles a little bit starring out into the ocean.
As she smiles at the ocean, I turn my head to see my two children playing in the water – splashing and roughhousing. The older one picking on the younger one per usual.
From there I turn my head over my left shoulder as the sun starts to peek out of the clouds. I see my large white modern house with floor to ceiling glass windows directly behind me. 4 bedroom two-story sitting right on the edge where the sand starts to touch the green grass and tall trees.
My Wealth and Work Vision at 33
As I sit on the beach, I think about how far I have come.
My business is flourishing at over $1 million per year. The beauty of it all is that it’s a business that doesn’t need me, but it wants me and I want it.
I work because I enjoy it. I enjoy my employees and coworkers, my clients, and the challenges and growth opportunities it gives me on a daily basis. It’s a company and business that truly makes me a better and happier man.
I work in it 20-30 hours a week. Going into the office to socialize, manage, and work on higher-level strategy. With that, it’s freed me up to be a large part in my wife and children’s life.
It’s not about the finances that it gives me and my family, but the freedom to help others and live how we see fit. Giving us the freedom to enjoy travel, each other’s company, and help other’s in need along the way.
I plan to continue the work of my company for years and years to come. I can retire when I see fit if I wanted, but that’s far from my desire.
So now that you’ve seen my structure SMART goals and how I structure my visualization process. It’s time for you to do the same.
Figure out what buckets you would like to structure your life with (what areas are most important to you!). For example, mine are:
- Meaningful Work
Create your timeframes on when you would like to measure your success/achievement and hit your goals. Mine are labeled into 3 categories:
- Weekly Goals – My current self – Put into a to-do list
- Quarterly/Yearly Goals – My near-future self – Put into my chart
- Life Goals – My future self – Put into my chart
Write out your SMART goals in each segment of your chart. So think about your goal scenario in each area of your life for that time and write what first comes to your mind.
After writing out your goals, set some time 5-10 minutes every day to visualize and reflect on those goals. Make it a priority and set some time in your schedule to stay consistent and be comfortable as you strategically visualize your goals.
Wrapping It All Up
As mentioned in the #motivationmonday video and in the beginning, happiness steams from achievement and knowing you are taking steps towards your goals and dream life.
It’s not to say that happiness steams from outward achievement and what society deems success to be but your inward achievement. What you deem success to be in accordance with your goals.
The beauty of setting these goals now is that it makes your vision of success and achievement crystal clear. And it makes your everyday decision making easy. Because if you know your weekly, quarterly, and life goals you can look at these as a guiding north star of decision making. Then every time you are confronted with a decision or challenge you can take your action based on what you believe is taking you toward that star.
When your decision making and actions are leading to your end goal and your absolute dream, it’s impossible not to smile. Even though the struggle, process, trial, and pain if you know that you are achieving your own greatest and getting closer to your end goal, you can smile happily through it all.
And it makes the achievements, high points, and when you reach your goals that much more beautiful and joy-filled.