No matter how wise we are, we’re tempted to do things we really shouldn’t. Then there are the things we do (or don’t do) that aren’t truly negative, but they just don’t help us reach the big goals we’ve set for ourselves.
So how do you break the cycle of temptation, and learn how to work towards the things you really want? Like almost everything, it helps to have a plan – not a blueprint, just an honest assessment of where you are now, and where you’d like to be. Then, you can act accordingly, and hopefully, resist temptation now and then.
Plan for success
Some people measure success in terms of money and careers. Others measure it in terms of possessions: houses, cars, jewelry. Some even measure it in physical terms (health and fitness). No matter what your goal – or even if you have goals for your career, possessions and health – a good plan will help you get what you need, and make the things that tempt you a little easier to resist.
Let’s say you want to be Vice President of an accounting firm, and right now, you’re a low-end manager in the accounting department of an Internet company. Or maybe you want to be a fine artist, but at the moment, you’re working as a graphic designer to pay the bills. Perhaps you’re a lawyer, but what you really want to do is professional ice dancing.
We all have to be realistic about our goals… and dreams. Maybe what you want is attainable with hard work, and maybe it’s something that you can try all your life to achieve, but never quite make it at. Does that mean you should give up on your ambitions? Of course not! If it’s something you really want, you should at least try. Just stick somewhat close to reality. If you want to be a professional ice dancer, but you actually can’t skate for more than five minutes without falling down, despite years of training and practice… well, maybe you should try to make partner at the law firm, instead.
If your goal has a direct career path, planning is that much easier – do good work, make sure everyone knows you’re doing good work, and try to meet the right people. Take jobs that will give you the straightest path to your goal – even if they’re not the jobs that pay the most right now. Make sure the jobs you take either have room for you to move up, or will prepare you for the next level of success. Finally, plan to devote a great deal of your energy to your career – the more energy you devote to it, the faster your ascent will be.
If your goal doesn’t really have a direct career path – like the graphic designer who wants to be a fine artist, or any job related to the arts or entertainment – the best thing you can do is plan to practice your craft, and try to meet people who are in the business (or the actual job you covet!) themselves.
Your plan should also include constant reminders of what you really want, and what you should be working towards. The graphic designer might get an offer to become an art director for a t-shirt company. It would mean more money in the short-term, but also more work, and a bigger drain on her creative energies. She’d probably want to remember that she never wanted to be an art director – she wants to be a fine artist. And if she’s creating t-shirt designs all day, chances are she’s probably not carving too many sculptures at night and on the weekends.
Plan for plenty
If it’s possessions you’re after, you’re in luck. It’s really easy to plan for big purchases. Just find out what something costs, then plan to save your cash until you can afford it. Yeah, easy to plan. Harder to actually do. Still, some people find they are able to save money if they plan for it. Some employers allow you to direct deposit portions of your check to different accounts, making it (sorta) painless to save the $20, $100 or $1000 dollars a paycheck you want to. If you don’t have that type of automatic option, you can still set aside a portion of your paycheck to your vacation fund, house down payment, or whatever you’re desiring. A separate account is the safest – it’s definitely harder to resist spending something that’s connected to your debit card, or even worse, stashed under your pillow.
Once you’ve started to make a dent in your goal, it’s a bit easier to resist temptations, like those $250 shoes that are super super super-cute but also super super superfluous. Knowing that those shoes will set you back three weeks in your goal to get to Paris just might keep you from giving in to your shoe craving. And if it doesn’t, well, at least you’ll look mighty cute when you hit the Parisian nightclubs.
Plan for health
Most of us have heard a friend (or ourselves) wonder aloud how they gained 10 pounds, or how they’re shocked that they can’t make it up a flight of stairs without losing their breath. For the majority of people, the reason these things happen is because we’re too sedentary. Maybe we’re also eating a bunch of junk. Be honest with yourself. If you can eat a box of Ho-Hos and then pretend it never happened, well, you’re in trouble.
So, you’ve faced that you’re not as healthy as you could be. Great! Now you can plan to change all that. Any change to your diet or exercise patterns should be cleared by your doctor first. While you’re there, you can get your doctor’s advice on the best exercises for your fitness level, and what a realistic weight or fitness goal might be. In fact, some doctors will even help you plan for your diet and exercise goals.
A solid plan can help keep you on the straight and narrow path to health. Yes, this is definitely a part of life that is pretty easy to plan for but a whole lot harder to stick with, but without the plan you’re really setting yourself up for failure.
If you set a goal of 250 minutes of walking a week, or three visits to the gym, you’re more likely to actually do it than if you merely keep telling yourself “I really need to get moving.” And it’s a lot harder to rationalize your third donut of the morning if you have a daily meal plan hanging on your refrigerator, or hidden under your blotter on your desk.
No matter what your goals are – career, possessions or health – you can reach them, if you make an honest assessment of where you are, where you want to be, and what you need to do (and not do!) to achieve them.