Personal freedom – from want to a plan

goal_setting

In my last post I defined what personal freedom is to me and how it is sought after by many of us, but how can it be realized? Certainly the path may be different for each of us as we have different skills, desires, and risk appetites. The one thing we can all benefit from is having some kind of goals that we can achieve which will lead us down the path towards personal freedom and financial independence.

I’ve always been a big fan of setting goals, and I have lots of experience doing it, which has led to continued growth both personally and professionally. I also realize there are limitations to goal setting and if not accompanied by action they are not very useful. So you must first decide that if I set a goal, than I intend to follow-up and do something about it. You will also need to think about your goals very carefully to ensure you have the right goals, because pursuing the wrong ones is a waste of time and precious effort. If personal freedom is one of your goals you will need to have smaller short-term goals that support it. One way to do this is to have goals that fit into at least two-time frames:

  • Less than 1 year
  • Greater than 1 year

In the past I had goals that were in three categories (< 1 year, 1 – 3 years, > 3 years), but it seemed that I was trying to plan out everything so far into the future that I really wasn’t sure what I really wanted and it did nothing but remove my focus on my short and mid term  goals. My advice is keep your goal setting in the 1 – 3 year range, anything beyond that is really speculating and doesn’t help you achieve results in the near term.

I would also recommend being specific on how you phrase your goals, and give them target dates so you have a set amount of time to achieve the goal. It is also important that you not have too many goals and goals that are due during the same time frame. While you want goals that motivate you, they must also be achievable, so be a little conservative at first when setting goals. An example of this would be say that I’m making $100,000 a year and I want to make $150,000 in within a years time. Maybe it would be more realistic to set the goal as $125,000 and if you exceed it, then great, but even if you get a promotion or a new job and you do hit the target you did great and you won’t feel disappointed with that pretty awesome 25% increase in salary. Here are 10 tips for setting goals:

  1. Make them a stretch but achievable with effort.
  2. Be specific in the way they are worded, making sure they indicate an outcome.
  3. Categorize them into time frames of < 1 year and > 1 year.
  4. Shorter term goals may support longer term goals.
  5. Make sure you have a target date to achieve the goal.
  6. Be sure and include personal goals as well as professional goals.
  7. Use some kind of task management system to break a goal down into tasks. I use something called My Life Organizer (MLO).
  8. Don’t create too many goals. When you have other ideas for a goal put it in a parking lot and think about it before committing.
  9. Make sure the goals you create are visible, so that you are seeing them everyday.
  10. Realize that your goals will change, some will be removed, and replaced by other goals as you learn more and come to various conclusions regarding what you really want to achieve.

One or more of your long-term goals will be related to obtaining personal freedom and it might be transitioning to being self-employed. Maybe personal freedom to you means being completely retired, but whatever it is you need to take some time to think about your goals. First determine what you really want and then work backwards to determine the goals that support your long term objectives. Here is an example of how this might look:

Short Term (less than 1 year)

Goal Target
Start playing guitar again 02/11/2017
Get a Brittany Spaniel dog 02/28/2017
Create Living Will and Trust 03/31/2017
Obtain XYZ certification 03/31/2017
Positive cash flow in my home based business 07/28/2017
Remodel Kitchen and replace flooring 09/31/2017

 

Long Term (greater than 1 year)

Goal Target
Start teaching project management online 03/31/2018
$3,000 income per month in my home based business 07/31/2018
Have 5,000 followers on my blogs 12/31/2018
Have 10,000 Twitter followers 12/31/2018
Have 10,000 YouTube followers 06/30/2019
Transition to self-employed 12/09/2019
Finish my first book 12/31/2020

Let’s say you wanted to manage your own business, do some writing, and teach project management in effect transitioning to being self-employed and having a lot more personal freedom than you currently have. Besides some of your personal goals you have some business oriented ones like having a positive cash flow in your home based business, increasing your social media presence on Twitter, YouTube, and your blog; all of these lead you to your ultimate goal of transitioning to self employment. This is merely an example, your own plan will be different and unique to your own situation and time-table.

You now have a starting point to begin taking action. You have considered what personal freedom means to you and have constructed a plan to get there, now you must start achieving your goals. Each goal will have potentially many tasks that go into achieving that goal, so your next step should be breaking down the goal into tasks and performing those tasks in a time frame that supports the target date for each goal.

I am personally committed to a business called MyDailyChoice that I will be working on to help me obtain personal freedom. Check it out if you have a few minutes.

In my next post we will go into more detail on goal setting and more importantly how to achieve them.

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Are you all in?

I lived a great many years in a dual existence; on one side was the healthy Joe who worked out almost every day, took vitamins and supplements, and tried to eat the right foods, and on the other side was Joe the partier.  Joe the partier seemed to be happiest spending time smoking and drinking.  Both the good and the not so good Joe had firmly entrenched habits, and this continued on for many years. More recently there came a time when I asked myself are you all in? With one foot in the fitness and health world and one foot in bad habit land, a choice had to be made.

We all find ourselves in this situation where our positive actions are in conflict with some negative behaviors that we cling on to. These don’t need to be an addiction to substances, they may be a toxic relationship, a going nowhere job, or some other action that is contrary to the positive path you are on.

Being all in means you are willing to abandon that other side, thus ending the conflict. Every time you say no to the negative behavior you move closer to being all in. For myself I struggle with being mostly committed, and if anything I tend to go too far, but that is my psychological make-up. Some people can live a dual lifestyle, but for me this just led to self loathing and regret for every time that I failed to be all in. In Texas Hold’em going all in can mean winning or being eliminated from the game. In terms of life choices going all in can only mean winning. If you can’t live a life of making great choices 80% time, and going the opposite direction the other 20% of the time then you must make a choice. Am I all in? Am I totally committed?

So are you all in?

Being present and productivity

Everyone seeks to be more productive and for some that means doing more of something.  For others it might be producing work that is higher quality, so there needs to be some definition around just what is productivity?

Live In the Present

Merriam Webster’s dictionary definition is: “the quality or state of being productive”, at Dictionary.com they define it as “the quality, state, or fact of being able to generate, create, enhance, or bring forth goods and services”. Either definition will suffice for my argument. I believe that living in the moment creates what others call flow or focus and this in turn can make one productive. The focus obtained from living in the moment allows you to create, generate, enhance, or bring forth goods and services, i.e. be productive. When are you really productive at home or work? I would guess it is when you are truly present and focused on what you are doing right now. Your mind is focused on what you are currently doing, not thoughts of the future, or some wandering down memory lane into the past. True productivity is for those people that can live in the moment, focus, and get into the flow.

Why are there so many articles written about managing your time and task management? They exist because we all have allowed ourselves to become so distracted by email, text messages, schedules, requests, that compete for our mind share right now, and the next 10, 20, 30, 60, or 90 minutes of our life. The living in the present mindset allows you to spend your time on what is important, which of course leads to greater productivity.  This is why I have spent so much time lately making a case for living in the moment, because I know we all want to contribute something to those around us and we also need to be productive for our own peace of mind. Stay in the moment, focused on the most important things and the rest will fall into place.

Namaste

Living in the Moment

I was taking a look at LinkedIn the business social media website the other day and someone had posted a quote from the Dalai Lama:

The Dalai Lama, when asked what surprised him most about humanity, answered “Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present: the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.

I thought this was a pretty profound statement by one of the greatest spiritual leaders of our time. It made me consider my own behavior and motivations. It seems our future orientation, often with a fixation on acquiring wealth, position, power, and things prevents us from living in the present. I guess most of the time I can at least claim that I do not live in the past, but I am surely not fully living in the present. I seem to be fixated on what’s next, what do I need to achieve, the next thing I need to acquire (car, phone, home), how much more money I can earn, and the future sense of satisfaction that I will feel. This is really a fools game when you think about it. Have you ever recieved a large raise or cash windfall? How long was it before whatever sense of satisfaction you felt just faded away? For me it was a matter of days, maybe even less. All the time invested in this quest for material gratification only made me less accessible and less aware of what was happening around me. I truly lived in the future and was never very happy with the present.

past-future-present

What is really ironic about living with this future oriented mindset is that you go through life as quoted above anxious about the future and not enjoying the present. I’m sure much of this future orientation comes from our desire to judge our success in terms of wealth or how much we have acquired. So the more money I make, the larger my house, having an expensive car, and spending lavishly on vacations motivates us and we buy into the idea that this makes us happy. As future oriented people we are also driven by fear; this might be a fear of not having enough money to retire or the fear that we will lose our wealth or possessions. Goals are great, but to live in the present means that the motivation to achieve these goals must be something other than accumulating wealth or avoiding disaster. How will our life change if we start to focus on living in the present.  My assumption going forward is that when you really think about it is all you have is this very moment. All my elaborate plans go right out the window if I succumb to a stroke or die in a car accident going home today. If you can live with the notion that the most important time we have is now then let me take a stab at a few reasons why we should change our mindset:

Increased happiness – Instead of spending all your time thinking about the future and what your next acquisition will be you are focused on this very moment. You are not agonizing on future choices, what you need to achieve next, or something you need to prepare for. You are just focused on what is happening all around you, right at this moment. There is a sense of calm that happens when you are not thinking about what I need to do next, and your stress levels begin to diminish and your attitude starts to improve, you are starting to feel what some people call being happy.

Being connected – If I am always talking to you about what I am going to do in the future and how I need to work on this or that for some future reward, I’m probably not even listening to what you are saying and much worse I don’t really care because I am on a quest. Do you know people like this? Maybe a co-worker, a brother, a sister, a friend, a parent, a spouse. They are very busy people, but they are not connected to you in the moment. They may have feelings for you or care about you, but they don’t have time to show you or time to listen you, they are much to busy. Living in the present allows us to spend time with people and become available, to hear what they are saying, to show empathy, and to make a better connection.

Mastery – When you look around you at those people that have become masterful at something in their life, maybe it is music, sports, writing, or teaching you find that they invest in the present. I would suggest that a great pianist or violinist doesn’t spend their time thinking about how much money they will make or what material thing they will acquire next. Instead they are focused in the moment knowing that their focus will let them acquire something more than wealth or things, but it will result in mastery. Don’t get me wrong mastery can have material consequences, but it starts with living in the moment and focus. I would suggest the primary motivation is to get very good at something, to master it someday, and this alone creates happiness.

There are many other benefits to living in the moment, and we didn’t really make much headway on how you develop that mindset, but we can save that for some other time. It is Friday night and as much as I enjoy writing and posting I think I need to go spend a few moments with some special people.

Enjoy the weekend!

 

Perseverance

According to Merriam Webster perseverance is defined as “continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition : the action or condition or an instance of persevering”.  Another definition from the Oxford Dictionaries states that perseverance is “Steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success”. Essentially perseverance is needed for something that is difficult and without it you will not achieve success. Now perseverance doesn’t gaurantee success, but without it you are almost certainly gauranteed to fail.

Persaverance Steve Jobs

A couple synonyms for persevere are persist and hang on; I would add a dogged determination to see something through, to give it your best effort, and to not give up. Now let me also state that there is a difference between between perseverance and being stupid. One perseveres when pursuing a goal that is attainable, and usually perseverance comes from passion or a deep seeded belief that what you are seeking must be achieved.

We all have lots of great ideas and most of the time we pass on them because we lack the desire to make the long term investment or to persevere. Perseverance can apply to all aspects of our lives, but let’s take physical fitness as an example. If my goal is to run a marathon, and I’m just starting a running regime then one would need one hell of a lot of perseverance to make the investment in training required to achieve this goal. I’m no expert in marathon running, but I know some people who are and they train for many months to get in shape to run the 26+ miles required to complete this race. Apply that level of determination to other activities like strength training where you are using progressive resistance and every workout gets more difficult, or your yoga practice when you crawl out of bed at 5:00 a.m. and get on the mat challenging yourself time and time again.

So you want to be more physically fit, you want to have a better body, more strength, improved aerobic endurance, but are you willing to pay the price?  I would guess that we tend to prematurely call it quits when in reality we are so close to achieving our goal and that’s where perseverance comes in. Only you know when you need to persevere and when what you are attempting is not worth the effort.

perseverance Author Unknown

Namaste

 

 

 

Embracing the Monday Goals

If you have read some of my prior posts you know that I was advocating that you set a goal each Monday that will lead to making positive changes in you life. These might be losing weight, exercising more, eating better, overcoming some unhealthy addiction, starting a business, getting a new job, repairing a relationship, and the list goes on and on. I’ve been taking my own advice and am now on my fourth goal or fourth Monday. What I have begun to realize is that most of the goals I set are ongoing and require a frequent investment in time to achieve, so they tend to pile up and require a lot of dedication to achieve them. This is a good thing, but sometimes it might be wise to throw in some easier to achieve goals in the mix. Here is an example of how you might intersperse some goals that can be more easily achieved or at least require less ongoing time to support:

Week 1: Do something everyday towards a business you have started. Clearly this will be one of those ongoing goals that requires effort overtime, categorize this as a big goal.

Week 2: Make changes to your diet to include more fruits and vegetables. This is one of those easier to achieve goals and doesn’t have a lot of overhead associated with it.

Week 3: Practice yoga six days a week. Again this is a pretty big goal and has no end date, you achieve this goal 6 days a week so we might categorize this as a big goal.

Week 4: Make a commitment to donate $500 a year to the United Way. Here is a pretty easy to achieve goal that only requires minimal effort. For those of you who work for a corporation this is simply filling out the pledge card once a year.

Week 5: Commit to calling your parents or siblings once a week. This is somewhat of an in between goal, not a huge time commitment but it does require some discipline.

These are just a few examples of goals that have an ongoing cost, and those that are a bit easier to achieve. Does the fact that a goal requires a big commitment make it more important? Maybe but take the goal for Week 2 of adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet, and Week 4 of donating $500 per year to the United Way; one might suggest these are both pretty important things to do. We all have limited time, so those goals with a high ongoing costs must be things you are extremely committed too. It is always a good idea to have some goals that you can achieve more quickly but that still have a positive impact on your life or the life of others.