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How to Figure Out What You Really Want

H.L. Hunt observed that the first ingredient of success is to decide exactly what it is that you want. This page describes several tools and exercises that you can use to help you figure it out for yourself.

Goal Setting Result Areas

Before you start, I suggest you divide your life into several result areas that represent the major dimensions and roles of your life.

Instead of trying to figure out what you want in all areas at once, you can start small and focus your attention on the one area that, if improved, would have the most immediate and significant impact on the quality of your life.

After you've gone through the exercises for that one area, you can schedule some time a few months down the road to repeat the process for some of the other areas. Eventually, you'll discover what you want in all of these areas and incorporate them into your overall strategy.

While developing the Achieve Planner goal setting software system, we came up with the following list of result areas:

  • Romance - You get to define this for yourself. It could be your relationship with your significant other, your dating experiences, or your search for a soul mate.

  • Children - Your relationship with your children and your parenting style/skills.

  • Health & Fitness - Anything related to your general health and well-being including nutrition, exercise and physical appearance. Also includes sports or other physical activities.

  • Family - Your immediate and close extended family.

  • Fun - Fun & recreational activities, hobbies, general interests, vacations, adventures and material toys.

  • Friends - Close friends and general acquaintances.

  • Relaxation - Personal rest and relaxation. May also include certain vacations, renewing hobbies or interests.

  • Personal Development - Continuing learning, building skills and abilities, personal growth goals, etc.

  • Spiritual - Whatever this means to you.

  • Financial - Financial responsibilities, security, investing, and wealth.

  • Career - General career path. May also include work related learning and job skills.

  • Home - Related to your home environment.

  • Community/Legacy - Your community involvement and services to others.

  • Work - Your main work/job responsibilities.

This is just a suggested list, feel free to add, change or remove items based on your own personal preferences/needs.

The purpose of using result areas is not to segregate or compartmentalize your life, but rather to serve as reminders of all the parts of your life that are important and meaningful to you.

Keeping all of these areas in mind helps you find opportunities for synergy between them. For example, a weeklong hiking vacation in a national park could easily support your children, romance, spiritual, fun, relaxation and even health/fitness areas at the same time.

As I mentioned in the Tactical Time Management article, all of these result areas are heavily interrelated because each affects and influences the others. People are now realizing that managing your life as a whole increases your overall productivity and effectiveness.

In a work setting, in addition to your overall 'Work' result area, you could have different result areas representing your company, process improvement efforts, and your role as a  manager or owner.

Define Your Major Definite Purpose

Another useful tool to help you figure out what you really want is to define your major definite purpose, which represents your central or main mission in life. This is a term coined by Napoleon Hill in his classic Think and Grow Rich.

Process to Discover What You Want

After you have compiled your own list of result areas, select the one area that, if improved, would give you the most significant benefits over the next six to twelve months. This will be your focus area for the exercises that follow.

One process to discover what you want in each result area consists of the following steps:

Step 1. Create a mission statement and vision statement for this result area. This will describe your ideal destination or end result.

Step 2. Use wish brainstorming to get ideas about what you want, desire, and need in this result area. Once you have a list of wishes, you can then organize and prioritize this list based on what is most important to you.

Your wish list will give you many ideas about different dreams and goals (what's the difference?) that you could pursue. How do you choose between them?

My suggestion is to start small. Pick a simple "warm-up" wish that you can achieve in a couple of months using the goal setting process.

Think of goal setting as a muscle. Like any muscle, the more you use it, the stronger it gets, but you have to be gradual about it.

What would happen if you go into the gym and try to bench press too much weight? You would strain or tear your chest muscles. To get stronger, muscles need gradual increases in resistance. Goal setting is the same way: you have to start small and gradually build up by pursuing more and more challenging goals and dreams.

Step 3. Another useful tool to help you figure out what you want is SWOT analysis. You can use this tool to gain insights into your current situation and the things that you can do to move you from where you are now to the destination outlined by your mission/vision.

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