Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The Life of My Dreams

Yesterday I went to a conference on homelessness. The room was filled with over 200 individuals from business, social services and the public. The purpose: To listen to radical ideas from experts who are doing it and to talk about concrete steps we can add to the city's 10 year plan to end homelessness.

I walked into that room thinking, get real. You can't end homelessness.

Truth is: without a target you won't even get close to making an impact.

One of the speakers was from New York City where they have been working on their 10 year plan for the past 3 years. When the original 10 year plan was submitted, Mayor Bloomberg, who was just starting his new 5 year term said -- great plan. Do it in 5 years.

And so the target date was shifted, timelines tightened and the hard work began.

And they're making inroads. Throughout his speech, the presenter continually referred to the date at which he must go to the Mayor and prove he's reduced homelessness to less than 1,400 individuals in New York City -- an aggressive target considering he began with 40,000 homeless individuals. That date is: Midnight, December 31, 2009.

What struck me about his speech is that the date is the key to setting everything in motion. That target date is SMART. It's specific, measurable, achievable and realistic (at least he's working towards making it achievable!) and its timely. There's little wriggle room in that date -- and in his speech he didn't spend a great deal of time complaining, justifying why it can't be met, or even trying to change the Mayor's mind. That's the date. Let's go for it is his attitude.

What I realize about my goals is -- many of them don't have a specific date or measurement. i.e. I have a goal of being 'financially secure', but I haven't attached a number or date to that figure.

To be successful, to actually be able to hit my target, I must quantify my goal. Make the dollar amount real -- it's much easier to imagine a $100 bill than it is to imagine, 'some money'. And, I need to have a 'get to' date in order to ensure I get to it!

What about you? Do you have goals that leave you too much wriggle room to miss hitting your target? Are your goals SMART?

Do you have numbers, dates attached that you can actually 'see' them, cross them off on a calendar and imagine what it feels like to hold?

Years ago I read a book on writing a screenplay in 21 days. Before creating the outline, writing character sketches etc., the first set of instructions was to create the title page complete with screenplay title, your name and address and contact info, and then insert 93 sheets of blank paper behind the title page and then a page with The End. The next step was to pick up 'my' screenplay, close my eyes and feel it, see it, imagine it as the completed document. And then -- get to work writing. I had 21 days to do it.

It worked. In 21 days I had a first draft. The first draft wasn't perfect -- but it was a first draft I could edit -- and definitely better than no draft at all, or a half completed draft I was stumbling through towards an ill-defined end with no clear idea of when I'd get there. That plan worked because I had a clear target, a set of tools to guide me in the process, I had a date I had to reach and I had a vision that was tangible of what my end product would look like.

Having a target date, a measurable goal (i.e. decreasing homelessness from 40,000 to below 1,400 in 5 years), it is possible to create a set of rules, guidelines, tools, actions that will move you towards your goal.

One of the things the speaker from NYC said that really caught my imagination affirmed what I wrote yesterday about taking some action. "Start taking action today. Let the future plan unfold as you move forward. Every plan needs to be adjusted as you get going. You will make mistakes. Be flexible. Be creative. Let the lessons from today guide your actions tomorrow. But take action today."

Wise words.

Do you have a vision of your future that isn't in motion? What are you waiting for? Get moving today towards creating the life of your dreams by writing down your goals. Make sure you attach dates and numbers so that you can imagine them every day. Create a book of dreams. In it, paste pictures of the house you want to live in by the beach. The car you want to drive. Paste in pictures of you and your family doing things you love to do -- and if you don't have pictures of you sailing around the world, cut out one from a magazine and use it! Create a book of dreams that reflects the life you believe can be yours, is yours, when you start living your dreams today. Hold those images in your mind every day and start creating the life you deserve.


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