You’ve heard the saying “see it to believe it.”
And this definitely rings true when it comes to visualizing your plans and reaching your goals.
We’ve all struggled with meeting our goals. Sometimes it’s because the goal is so big and overwhelming, we have no idea where to begin. Or we don’t manage our time well and have to play catch up at the end of the year. We may have a million reasons for why our goals fail, but it usually boils down to just one thing:
Lack of clarity.
One of the main culprits for unsuccessful goals is ambiguity. When we don’t have a clear vision or action plan for our goals, it’s easier for them to slip away. Or we set vague goals like “success” or “dream job” but we’re not really sure what that even means. Having a vague goal or plan is like trying to get to a vague destination. If we don’t have a specific destination in mind, then we’re kind of just aimlessly driving around, emptying our tank, and growing frustrated.
Visualizing your goals gives you more awareness of what you need to do. You have a clear picture of your timeline, your action plan, and your obstacles. And when you have clarity, you have tangible action steps you can take to get closer to your goals.
Start with a specific goal
To visualize your goals, you need to start by making your goal crystal clear.
What is it that you want to achieve by the end of the month or quarter or year?
You can use the S.M.A.R.T. method to make sure that your goal is specific and therefore, more achievable.
- Vague goal: Be successful.
- Specific goal: Get promoted by the end of the year.
- Vague goal: Be healthy.
- Specific goal: Eat fruits or vegetables with every meal for a month.
- Vague goal: Run a marathon.
- Specific goal: Run a marathon in 2023.
You’ll notice that specific goals have a clearly defined result and time frame. We don’t just want to be successful, we have a specific role or job that we want to attain. We don't just want to run a marathon at some point in our lives, we want to run it by a certain time.
So take a moment to identify your specific goal by using the S.M.A.R.T. method.
Visualize your timeline
An important aspect of successful goal setting is to create a timeline.
We might think that deadlines add unnecessary pressure. Or we might think that all we need is a solid to-do list. But if you want to make sure that your to-do list gets done, you need to give yourself a deadline.
Yes, deadlines add pressure. But sometimes, pressure is a good thing. Deadlines put a little fire under us and motivate us to act. Otherwise, without a deadline, we could procrastinate and drag our heels all year. If you want to avoid putting too much pressure on your goal, the trick is to give yourself a deadline that is realistic.
Some goals already have a time commitment to it. For example, if you’re applying to grad school you need to submit your application by a certain date. If you’re running a marathon, you need to show up at the specific date and time.
Other goals, like writing a novel or making a career change, have more open-ended timelines. There’s no one there telling you when you need to finish it, so it’s up to you to create your own finish line.
So take a look at your current goal. What is a realistic timeline for you? Could you accomplish it in one year? Six months? At the end of the month?
If you give yourself a year-long deadline, you’ll want to give yourself little mini deadlines along the way. This way, you won’t risk letting the year go by and wonder what happened to your goal.
You can break out your notebook or goal planner and start plotting out your timeline.
Working backwards, what are the goal posts you need to be hitting throughout the year? What do you want to accomplish by the end of the year? The end of each quarter? Each month? Each week?
Identify your obstacles
Visualizing your timeline not only helps you see how your work will unfold over the course of a year, but it will also give you a sense of the obstacles and conflicts you might encounter along the way.
For example, maybe you’ll find that certain tasks need to be accomplished before the rush of the holiday season. Or maybe you’ll see that your vacation plans coincide with quarterly tax deadlines and need to budget accordingly.
Doing this prep work in advance will save you from getting blindsided later on. You can reassess your strategy, shore up your resources, and adjust your timeline as necessary.
See the big picture
While it’s important to focus on our goals, it’s also essential that we don’t get so fixated that we end up with tunnel vision.
When we have tunnel vision, we only see what’s directly in front of us, and that can prevent us from seeing things more clearly or objectively.
Here are some ways to take a step back and look at the big picture of your goal.
Measure your progress. It’s alway a good idea to check-in on your goal and review your progress. You can do this at the end of the week or month. Ask yourself: What’s working? What’s not working? What are the small gains that I’m making? If something’s not working, now’s the time to refine your strategy. Are you not running as often as you’d like? Maybe this means adjusting your workout times or giving yourself a motivating running playlist. Sometimes just a little tweak here and there can improve your progress.
Use setbacks to move forward. No one likes experiencing rejection or failure, especially when it’s related to a goal that we care about. Let yourself feel your anger, frustration, and sadness, but try not to dwell on it. This is when it’s good to look at the big picture.
You’re going to experience lots of failures in the pursuit of your goal, and while they may feel painful and personal, those failures are little blips in the grand scheme of things. If you’re an actor, one bad audition doesn’t mean you’re not a good actor. If you’re an entrepreneur, a rejection from an investor doesn’t mean you have a bad idea.
Maybe these failures are random, or maybe there are useful lessons to be gleaned from them. But no matter how you interpret it, it’s important to know that this failure or mistake won’t put an end to your dreams.
And perhaps over time, you’ll see that your mistakes, failures, and rejections are diminishing or that you’re taking away key lessons from them. In other words, you’re growing and developing.
Having this wider perspective of your goal will give you the resilience and determination you need to keep going and to keep learning.