What is the most important thing to you right now?
This question should be an integral part of your morning routine.
Once you’re able to answer it each morning, then each day you will be able to do something that puts you on the path to achieving that goal. Each daily step then becomes deliberate, pushing you towards the inevitable conclusion: the attainment of these goals.
Setting your macro-goal
However, without knowing what your goals are, how can you orientate yourself and work out what is important and what isn’t?
There is no simple answer for this, unfortunately, as the journey of discovering what your main goals must be in life is one that never ends — it evolves throughout life, changing based on new information, new experiences or a new context.
The important thing, however, is to have a goal. Spend half a day journalling on the theme or just scribble down some ideas on a notepad as a start.
If you have no idea where to start, then what’s your first assumption? What has made you happy in the past? What does your peer group do that makes them live fulfilled lives? Just choose something and start moving towards that goal.
Breaking it down
Goal attainment is not easy and will not be achieved in a day. Unfortunately we see far too many overnight success stories in the media ignoring the years of handwork and personal improvement required to set the premise for success.
The people that make everything in life look easy almost always have powerful habits and practices in place that they have deliberately cultivated over years.
Do not let this dishearten you, however. It should be seen as an opportunity. If you take one small step every day then you will, one day, achieve whatever you set out to do, whether that be writing one page of a novel every morning before work or reading one article a day on entrepreneurship.
Let’s start with two very simple steps:
Building goals into your morning routine
When we talk about morning routines, many are put off or intimated. You read about successful people who wake up at 4.30am, meditate for 30 minutes, run a half marathon & have 10 raw eggs for breakfast — all done before the time you even drag yourself out of bed after hitting ‘Snooze’ 3 or 4 times.
What we tend to forget, however, is that these habits are built up very gradually over years. At least take the first step. You can’t make excuses to not at least try one of the following for 30 days:
- Meditate on your goals: Use an app like Headspace to ease you into meditation for 10 minutes every morning. Whilst meditating, I usually define my goals clearly, speaking them aloud in my head and repeating each day. This could be something very specific, like ‘Today I will write a 500-word blog post’ or a focus on a more macro-goal.
Personally I tend to get specific in my journal (which I’ll come onto after) whilst repeating a meta-level, personal mantra aloud in my head:
‘I want to be happier, more productive & more present, so that I can have a greater impact on others, through my personal interactions & through the work I create.’
This means that I start the day with clear motivation and clear direction in whatever I decide to do, whether that be writing a blog post or making sure to spend time developing a new skill through reading or practice.
(Note: this is the point where most people say, ‘Well I don’t have time in the mornings’. Either go to bed 10 minutes earlier or actually get out of bed when your alarm goes off, rather than hitting ‘Snooze’. If you don’t have 10 minutes free per day then you should reassess how you are using your time.)
- 2-minute journal: Gary Keller, author of ‘The One Thing’, makes a very good point that, in the modern world, we spend so much of our time distracted, whether by social media or others’ demands on our time, that being ruthlessly focused is the only way to effectively achieve what you set out to achieve.
Greg McKeown, author of Essentialism, also sees huge value in reducing what you do and focus on to only those tasks which align with your essential intent (i.e. your life goals).
Therefore rather than thinking of goal attainment as this really complex, blurred issue in your life, just break it down into a singular daily action and a single goal.
Every morning, create a note (whether on Notes, Evernote or Bear) with the question, ‘What is the most important thing I can do today?’
Spend 2 minutes thinking of the one thing that will get you closer to your life goals and write down a short, concise answer. This can literally be one or two words — or even a paragraph if you want to clarify why it is important to do. Some examples from my journal: ‘Write blog post’, ’30 minutes learning to programme in Swift’ or ‘Be more present with friends later’.
There is also absolutely no way to excuse not doing this. You can write the note on your phone whilst commuting, it takes under 2 minutes & is not mentally demanding. By just stopping for a moment each day, you’ll find much greater mental clarity, however, and you will start a habit which you can build up towards a fully developed journaling habit in future.
If you’re reading this article, then you — whether you know it or not — have already taken that first step.
In the pursuit of knowledge and self-improvement, you are one of the 1% who take responsibility for — and action to — improve their lives. So congratulations.
Now take one more small step in order to keep up your momentum. Go to your calendar and create a daily reminder to write for just stop for 2 minutes to define what the day’s priority must be in order to achieve your macro-goals.
Let it become a habit you develop and use to prosper.
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” ~ Lao Tzu