How To Re-Evaluate Your Life And Create Proper Goals
When your life takes an unexpected sideways turn, it’s easy to make a hasty decision and end up regretting it later – here’s how to make sure you’re reaching the goals you want after a big upheaval.
The need to re-evaluate your life can come from a lot of different scenarios – perhaps you’ve just lost your job or been made redundant, maybe a long-term relationship has ended, or maybe you’ve just found yourself depressed, unsatisfied or antsy with your current situation. Hot news – every single one of those has happened to me this year, so there’s some lived experience in this article.
Re-evaluating your life is usually the first step in making a major change, a positive step towards a more suitable career or living situation or even mental attitude. However, it’s making sure that you’re making the right change that’s tricky – often the situations that require a flash life re-evaluation are ones in which our critical faculty are somewhat impaired, from an excess of sadness, from stress or even from shock. When this happens, we need to make sure we’ve got the right critical framework set up so that we don’t make rash, wrong or just plain dumb decisions.
Don’t stop believing
The first thing you have to do is stop in and consider what your big, amorphous, grand life-goal is. This is the thing that keeps you going – perhaps it’s to become a famous actor, or to become the CEO of an international diamond brand or to have a successful not-for-profit startup – whatever. It might be to have a happy life or to experience all you can, the important thing is that it’s bigger than a simple task-based goal. It’s a goal with many levels, like a spiral staircase – you’ll probably be climbing it in one form or another until you’re dead, and that’s fine. It’s just that big.
Now that you’re re-evaluating your life, it’s worth checking in on this goal. Does it still inthrall you? Do you still respond to its sweet siren call? Or is it perhaps a little tarnished, and filling you with a feeling of inescapable dread? No answer is wrong.
If this is still a dream you believe in, then it’s about shifting your methods of reaching it, trying new tacts and renewing your energy in some way (we’ll touch on that later in this article.) If for whatever reason you’ve decided your dream is ultimately toxic or bad for you, then that’s a strong, important step. Write out exactly what it is that’s providing you with a negative experience, and put it to one side. Then write out what it was that you wanted in the first place and put it to another side.
An example, plucked from nowhere could be: you love writing theatre, but you hate the community. Is it actually theatre that you love, or is it the act of writing? Is it the collaborative nature? Perhaps you can find something new which has those traits, but doesn’t involve hanging around with the same bad people. The important thing is not to rush though – this is the sort of thing that deserves time.
Lists are the key to creating a realistic set of steps to help you reach your major goal.
Once you’ve got a direction to head towards, it’s time to work out how the hell you’re going to get there. I like to work with a five-year plan – it’s essentially ludicrous to think you can actually plan past that. You’ll probably find that things start getting messy around the two year mark, but you can always stop, re-evaluate and listen.
Work through the five year plan in a linear fashion – give yourself places to work towards, achievable and functional plans that require work and provide substantive results – and don’t get confused with your overall motivation, which hangs over this all like an inspirational cloud. These sorts of things could be moving cities, increasing your training or studying, applying for grants and opportunities, travelling and more.
Most importantly, pack out your immediate future – from the next month to the end of the year – with potential tasks. At this point, it’s not so much about having a realistic schedule, but to surround yourself with opportunity. Each of these opportunities has to help you get towards your overall goal in some way, in either tip-toes or leaps and bounds.
Pros and Cons
Once you’ve got a whole bunch of options, it’s time to work out what the best ones for you are – after all, you can’t do everything, and it’s harmful to even try. The best way to do this is with a nice, complete pro and con list. The trick with a pro and con list is to think both of the realities of what you’re deliberating, and also the less definable criteria.
For example, you may be discussing taking a job in a new city, so the points you might think of could be: increase in salary, better living conditions, and a more interesting role in the company. However, don’t be afraid to also think about things that aren’t strictly related to the job itself. In the con list, you might have: further away from family, the new city is always cold, you hate canals. While these points might individually not be deal makers or breakers, when viewed holistically they can help sway your decisions.
Essentially what all this does is provide you with a list of goals, but more importantly, gives you a sense of cohesion and determination about both why you’re working towards them and how to achieve that. Even if the actual physical act of making lists and pro and con columns isn’t something you stick to in the long run, you’ve taken the time to sit down and consider your trajectory. You’ve removed the temptation for irrational, spur-of-the-moment decisions, and you’ve started the journey of re-evaluating your life. And then, next time you have to think about what to do next, you can pull out your last re-evaluation and contrast and compare.
Patrick Lenton is a writer and digital marketer. He runs Town Crier, a social media and marketing consultancy for authors.