Goals.

It’s such a small word but it can strike fear in the hearts of so many.

What do you think of when you hear that word? Big? Looming? A mountain that seems impossible to attain? Something that appears to be off in the distant and feels aspirational, but you are not sure if they are reasonable?

I get it. Goals can feel very overwhelming and while they are nice to set, you wonder if there is really any way that you will come close to reaching the target. You see what everyone else around you is achieving and you wonder why you just can’t get it together. Which makes you feel like a failure and even more less inclined to set goals and then you feel like you are not moving forward with your life and then there is more comparison. It’s a dark place we can find ourselves in.

However, I know that you are more than capable of achieving your wildest dreams. Yup, I said it. You have all the tools you need inside of you to accomplish your greatest dreams. All you need is a little guidance to unleash all that you are capable of doing.

I’m going to let you in on a secret: most dreams require some sort of financial backing. Whether that means devoting cold hard cash or your time (which is a financial cost), you have to create some sort of an action plan to make those dreams a reality with the resources that you have – or plan to have in the future.

So how do we make the process a little less painful and a little more enjoyable

1. Clearly spell out what is important to you. Find some quiet time on the weekend or during your lunch hour to think about the things that are most important to you in your life. Your family. Your friends. A certain cause. Your faith & spiritual life. Your health. Maybe you have a particular hobby that you are passionate about pursuing. Whatever it is, write out all of those priorities in your life.

2. Brainstorm the things you want to accomplish or achieve under each of these categories. Think of as many things as you can during your brainstorming session. Make sure to not edit yourself – let the ideas flow freely, no matter how big and crazy those dreams may be. Don’t worry if you are able to come up with more goals under one area or another. The idea is to get you to dream big and be open to many possibilities.

3. Once you have finished brainstorming, take a look at your list and prioritize. What are the most important things that you want to accomplish? Prioritize the goals that speak to your heart. Maybe traveling the world as a digital nomad is a bigger goal than owning a home. Maybe you have always wanted to volunteer more or start a non-profit. Whatever your goals are, make sure they align with what YOU want for your life, not necessarily what everyone else wants. It’s also important to note that you can leave goals on this list that may not be a priority now but may be in the future. Leave them on the list, but just lower in the pecking order.

4. Now that you have your list prioritized, create a preliminary timeline. This means categorizing your goals into time buckets, such as three months, six months, a year, or greater than five years. Hopefully, the prioritization exercise helped you think through the timeline that it will take to accomplish these goals.

Some may be easy to categorize. For instance, one of your goals may be to have a certain dollar amount when you retire in 20 years. This goal already has a timeline built in. However, other goals may offer flexibility in when you decide to accomplish them. Is one of your goals to own a home? Great! When do you want to be a homeowner? This year? Next year? Five years?

Maybe you have always wanted to go on an African safari. Do you think it’s feasible to reach that goal this year? Or do you need more time to plan out the trip and save to pay for it? Part of the categorization process also challenges you to think about how quickly – or slowly – you will be able to fund these goals.

5. Finally, map out your plan to fund your dreams to come true. Think about what it will take to pay for these goals. Research and calculate out ALL the costs associated with reaching the goal. If you are planning the African safari, you need to do some research as to what costs go into a major trip like this. Airfare, lodging, excursion fees, paying for a passport (if you don’t have one already.)

It’s during the dollars and cents step that you may find yourself re-prioritizing your goals. This is perfectly OK! Sometimes we have no idea what a goal will cost until we do a little research. You may also find that you are willing to put off other goals that are farther down the list so that you can afford the big goal that may cost more. And that is fine too. The whole idea of this exercise is to get you thinking about what is important to you and how you can make those dreams come true.

Goal planning can feel overwhelming and stressful and sometimes discouraging. But it doesn’t have to be. All you need is a little organization and your imagination to create amazing goals to accomplish. Taking the time to go through the steps that have been outlined will allow you to have a clearer picture about how you want YOUR life to look like and to take the amazing path you were meant to walk. It’s time to start dreaming big and put those dreams into action!