If you don't know where you are going, it doesn't matter which road you take.
Almost everyone wants to be well organized, yet that dream is continually elusive for some. Becoming organized is not something you can roll up your sleeves and "do" in an afternoon; it is an ongoing process. This chapter has been designed to assist you in getting in touch with the dreams you want to fulfill. The following chapters will help you learn how to assess your organizing style and how to go about making your dreams a reality.
The Power of Choice
Everyone has the power to take control of his or her life, but not everyone takes advantage of it. This is the power of choice, and it's the greatest power in the world. Your power of choice can be your most noble ally or your most fearsome enemy, depending on how you CHOOSE to use it. You use your power of choice every day of your life. You choose what to wear, what to do next, how much to eat, what to say, whether to agree or disagree with those around you; you are making choices all the time. Even when you are doing nothing, it's because you have chosen not to do anything.
How you are organized is also a result of the choices you make on a minute-by-minute basis. If you choose to file papers away when you're finished using them, you'll tend toward better organization. If you choose to leave papers lying on your desk when you're finished with them, you'll end up with piles of papers on your desk.
The Power to Succeed
You also have the power to succeed. Some people succeed and some don't, and the difference is in the choices they make. The people who succeed are the ones who make the right choices. At first glance that sounds logical - but wait a minute! How do you know what the right choices are?
By knowing what you want.
"But how do I know what I want?" you argue.
By thinking through what you value in life.
If you don't know where you are going, it doesn't matter what direction you take. We ask, If you don't know what you want in life, how do you know what to do next?
Floating Through Life
Do you just sort of float through life, grasping first one opportunity and then another? Imagine the seeds of a dandelion puff blown into the wind. Do you try to grab at all the seeds - with the majority of them quickly floating farther out of your reach? After you've run and run, chasing these whimsical opportunities, do you return breathless, with empty hands? If you identify with this image, you need to understand what is happening in your life. It's time to take stock of where you are and where you want to go.
Or perhaps you are well directed in certain areas of your life, but not in others. Many people tell us that at work, for instance, they are able to focus on what they need to do almost perfectly, yet they exercise little or no direction in their personal lives.
Knowing what you want, and staking out a path that will get you there, helps you make the right decisions about what to do next. Rather than wildly pursuing many goals at once, focus on planning ahead. Consider carefully selecting cultivated seeds in order to create a flower garden of those dreams you most want to bring to full bloom.
Fantasizing for Success
One way of getting in touch with what you value in life is to fantasize for a minute. Picture yourself in the most perfect role you can imagine in your life:
Don't be limited by anything in your dreams - time, money, miles, age, or what you've been able or unable to do in the past. If you had unlimited amounts of skill, energy, materials, physical abilities, resources, and self-confidence, what would you do? How would you like to spend your time?
Visualize for a moment exactly how your home, office, or studio would look. Picture the inside and the outside. What would the setting be? How would it sound? What scents would prevail? Would you be alone or with others? Who would those others be?
Consider even more questions. When you die, what will you have wanted to accomplish? Will you be disappointed because you wanted to do some things that you didn't even try?
According to the noted psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, "I made a living but I never really lived" is the single most common regret of the terminally ill. Evaluate what "really living" means to you. Don't be confined by "limited thinking." (After all, a goal is nothing but a dream set within a time frame.) Someone has said, "Those who can see the invisible can do the impossible." If you can open up your mind to dream of any possibility, you will be less likely to look back with regret on missed opportunities.
When you have carefully thought about the above, you are well on your way to goal-setting - to making choices that will aim you toward your success.
When we refer to success in this book, we are not necessarily talking about money or advancement - or even about being "perfectly" organized. Success means whatever you want it to mean. It means accomplishing whatever you want out of life. It's all right not to consider material wealth as having paramount importance in your life. In fact, we believe those who choose not to chase after unending wealth are more content than those who do. What is important is that you build your own castles in the air, whatever they may be, and strive to make them real. A Spanish proverb says, "If you build no castles in the air, you build no castles anywhere." So castles in the air are fine - wonderful, in fact. But if you want them to last, you must build a foundation under them, or they will be gone with the wind.
Setting out your goals in writing provides the foundation for ensuring the permanence of your castles in the air. Laying that foundation will give you a picture of your future. Whether you dream of becoming a famous surgeon or artist, or of starting your own business, you will become the person in your dreams if you lay a solid foundation and build on it.
You will never achieve true success - that is, a deep feeling of satisfaction and contentment - if you only work to fulfill others' expectations. If you've been raised to take over the family business, for instance, but have little interest in the daily dealings of that company, you'll never be happy. Innumerable people have become doctors, lawyers, or ministers because it was a "family tradition," only to find that those medical, legal, or religious professions did not suit them. We are not suggesting, however, that you just walk away from present commitments without making alternative arrangements.
Do Activities to Achieve a Goal
You don't "do" a goal; that would be like "doing" a dream. A goal is something you achieve or accomplish. It's something you work toward, usually over a period of time, and it's achieved by doing a series of activities.
If you want to become a surgeon, for instance, your activities would include researching what premedical courses would be necessary, which schools would be best, applying to the schools, taking the required courses, and so on. Someday, after completing all those activities, you would indeed accomplish your goal of being the surgeon of your dreams.
The person with little foresight - one who tends to "live for today" - will have difficulty sticking with doing the necessary activities to achieve a goal. For example, it's sometimes difficult for this person to see how saving money on small, out-of-pocket expenses today can help toward starting a much-wanted business in the distant future. This is one of many reasons for putting your goals in writing. Keeping an eye on your goals helps motivate you to complete the activities that will achieve them.
"It’s Too Late"
You may think you're too old to realize your dreams. "That may be fine for younger people," you say, "but I'm too old for all that now." Perhaps that's true - and perhaps it's not. Although you may not reach the degree of success you visualized in years past, it's usually working toward your goal that brings true satisfaction. Consider some of the following:
A woman in her late thirties, with a family, applied for medical school. When the counselor reminded her she would be forty-four years old when she graduated, she replied, "Sir, God willing I'll be forty-four years old anyway, and when I get there I'd rather have that degree in my hand."
An eighty-three-year-old woman graduated from a college in Michigan. During her schooling she worked four hours a day, five days a week, and overcame a heart attack and breast cancer.
An eighty-year-old Michigan woman rode 2,800 miles on her motorcycle during 1989. "Honda Honey," as she is known, also snowmobiles and water-skis, which she took up at age fifty-seven. "Don't just sit and relax," she said. "Take the challenge."
Although you need to reach for the stars, don't set impossible goals. You can't regrow an arm or move an ocean. Trying to attain the impossible only sets you up for failure. If you take an oath to lose ten pounds in one week, you may end up starving yourself and still probably lose only six pounds. (And at the end of the week you may binge on food because you are so hungry). Once more you'll be down on yourself because you feel you'll never attain the goals you set for yourself.
Instead, keep your feet on the ground by setting small, attainable goals. By doing a little at a time, you can feel successful. Before you know it, these little steps will add up to incredible achievements. Instead of going for ten pounds, decide to lose one or two pounds a week for five weeks. Then, if you end up losing only four pounds during that time, give yourself credit for losing that much. Rather than considering yourself a failure for not losing ten, realize you made worthwhile progress and you are four pounds lighter than when you began. That's success!
Channeling Your Efforts
Now that you understand the importance of making choices, why you need to know what you want in life, and what goal-setting will do for you, it's time to consider which of your many dreams are most important to you. Let's say that as the most important things in your life you have chosen to make money, to have a quality family life, and to help others in the form of volunteer work.
Imagine that your efforts, energies, and opportunities fall in the form of rain, and you are standing in that rain holding an umbrella. Even though the raindrops are abundant, you aren't catching any of them.
But suppose that underneath the edges of the umbrella is a circle of buckets. As you stand holding the umbrella perfectly straight, most of the raindrops fall off the edges down into the empty pails, with some falling in between.
If these buckets have no purpose, they will have no meaning for you, and the opportunities represented by the raindrops will be wasted. So let's label three of these pails "Making Money," "Family," and "Helping Others." If you want to focus on only three buckets (goals), you can tilt your umbrella so that the greatest amount of rain will fall into those three pails.
Now think about the activities you can do in order to make money. Envision a different set of buckets beneath another umbrella. Imagine taking your "Making Money" bucket and pouring it out over the second umbrella. You have labeled this second set of buckets with possible ways to make money. Perhaps one is labeled "College," representing going back to college to get a degree in interior decorating; another might be "Sales," for going into a new sales position; yet another might be "Present Position," for staying in your present occupation and figuring out ways to earn more money there, and so on. You have the power to tilt your second umbrella at will to direct the "rain" from your "Making Money" bucket into whichever surrounding buckets you choose.
Tags: Personal Growth