I spend a lot of time talking to people about how to balance living mindfully with achieving goals. One of the most common questions I’m asked is ‘if you’re living mindfully, doesn’t that mean you’ll never achieve anything?’.
The short answer is, not at all.
The key is to create mindful goals and as well as being focused on achieving those goals, remembering to enjoy the here and now.
Over the years, I’ve discovered five simple strategies that work best for me.
1. Align your goals with your values and strengths
Sometimes we go after the wrong goals. We choose things that matter to other people or goals that require strengths that we simply don’t have.
I did this myself for a while. Around five years ago I worked with a business coach who had a vision for my business that was somewhat different to my own but I let myself get swept along because I saw him as a role model. He had created a successful business working with a team of coaches and corporate clients and he loved what he was doing so he felt that the same business model would be perfect for me. I ignored the little niggles and went along with this vision for a while – until I realised that it wasn’t making me happy and I wasn’t using my strengths.
Coming back to my values of inner harmony and creativity helped me to realise that working long hours in the city managing teams was definitely not for me. This freed me up to focus on the strengths that I already had and on the ones I was actually interested in developing.
Make sure you know your strengths and your values and choose goals that are really right for you.
Take a strengths test
If you’re not sure of your strengths, take the VIA Signature Strengths survey. The VIA part stands for ‘values in action’ so once you have completed the questionnaire, you’ll have a clearer sense of both.
2. Break your goals down into actionable steps
Once you’ve chosen the right goals, writing them out as SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-framed) is important but goals are nothing without action steps.
Choose one small thing you can do today
Start by thinking about one thing that you can do immediately to move you in the direction of one of your goals – and do it. Revisit your top three goals every morning and identify one small action step for each of them every day.
Remember, don’t talk about the actions – do them.
3. Don’t sacrifice today for tomorrow
Living mindfully means enjoying the journey as much as the destination. Try to avoid the ‘I’ll be happy when…’ game and be careful not to judge yourself harshly as you go about achieving your goals.
Remember to look for the things that are already wonderful in your life that you could miss if you’re solely focused on the future. It’s important not to wait until another day to choose happiness.
4. Hang in there
One of the most common mistakes people make with goal setting is to give up too soon. I know when I started out in my business, I set some lofty goals and then felt pretty deflated when I didn’t achieve them in my ideal time frames.
Step back and double-check that your goals are realistic. If they are, review your action steps. Are you doing the right things or can you try something different?
Rather than beating yourself up – spend some time every day focusing on what is going well to keep your energy positive.
5. Get some support
Reach out and ask for help – you don’t need to do everything on your own.
At different times we need different kinds of support. If you’re anxious or depressed, speak to a psychologist. If your energy levels are low, talk to a naturopath. If you need to build your confidence or create more calm in your life, maybe we can help.
You may not need professional assistance – reach out to a friend and let them know you need a hand. People love to help, sometimes we just need to remember to ask.
We would be delighted for you to reproduce our articles as long as they remain intact and contain the author’s details as follows: ‘Kate James is a coach, speaker and writer. She works with people who want to live confident, creative lives. Kate can be contacted at www.totalbalance.com.au.’