Paralyzed By Too Many Goals And Ambitions? Let’s Get You Unstuck And Moving Ahead.

Prioritize Your Goals

Recently, I wrote how important it is to "set the intention"--to have clear goals scaled over different time frames.  If you haven't read that post yet, go ahead.  I'll wait.  I don't mind. 

Having a clear direction is crucial, but today I offer some additional perspective.

There is more to the art of life than just intentions.  Here is one aspect for you to consider.

Having Too Many Immediate Priorities Will Paralyze You


It is great to have goals and intentions.  However, we need to be realistic about what we can accomplish in the short-term.  If we have too many intentions (too many immediate priorities), we may inch forward on each of them ever so slightly, but never get anywhere.

Therefore, I suggest you take a moment to set priorities.

The process is simple.

Step One - Write Out All The Goals You Have In Life 


Don't overthink this.  Just take a piece of paper or open up a word processing file on your computer.  Without a lot of analysis, just write any goal, aim, ambition, or desire that comes to mind. 

Here is a quick example of a few of the items that might come up.

  • Lose weight
  • Find a spouse
  • Write a novel
  • Get a better job
  • Purchase a home
  • Start my own company
  • Learn to invest
  • Visit Greece
  • Eat better, be healthier
  • Learn to meditate
  • Learn computer programming
  • Improve relationship with parents

Most of us have a dozen or more greater or secondary goals floating around in our minds.  We want to accomplish all of them.  The fact that we have these urges is great.  This is a big part of what makes us unique as individuals and uniquely human.  We should embrace these impulses and ambitions.

But here's the trick.  Vaguely hoping to make progress on all these divergent (sometimes even conflicting) goals all at once can be overwhelming and paralyzing.

Step Two - Rank Each Goal In Terms Of Importance


So here is step two.  Take each of the goals you listed out and put a number next to it on a scale from 1-10.  (You can use 1-100 if you prefer.)

So with our example list, here is how our hypothetical person might rate each goal.

  • Lose weight--10
  • Find a spouse--9.5
  • Write a novel--4.0
  • Get a better job--8.0
  • Purchase a home--7.5
  • Start my own company--6.0
  • Learn to invest--8.0
  • Visit Greece--3.0
  • Eat better, be healthier--9.8
  • Learn to meditate--8.9
  • Learn computer programming--7.3
  • Improve relationship with parents--9.0

Step Three - Reorder The List To Reflect Your Priorities


In step three, you reorder the goals to put the highest priority at the top, the next below that, and onward.

  • Lose weight--10
  • Eat better, be healthier--9.8
  • Find a spouse--9.5
  • Improve relationship with parents--9.0
  • Learn to meditate--8.9
  • Get a better job--8.0
  • Learn to invest--8.0
  • Purchase a home--7.5
  • Learn computer programming--7.3
  • Start my own company--6.0
  • Write a novel--4.0
  • Visit Greece--3.0

Step Four - What Are Your Priorities NOW


Now we get to the heart of this post.  Run through the list of priorities that you have rank ordered and ask yourself what can you reasonably work on now--in the next days, weeks, and months.  Chances are that you will decide that putting your practical energy towards all the goals you came up right now is totally unrealistic. 

So, go through the list again and decide if the goal remains an immediate priority that you want to work on now or label it as "let go" or "incubate."  Those goals that you label "let go" are items you decide you just don't care about and are going to abandon.  It's ok to let some goals go if you want!, but you don't have to.  You can also label some of them "incubate," which means you have put these goals into "pending" or "on hold" while you concentrate on other, higher priorities or priorities that require your attention now.  Another category besides "incubate" that I like to use is to label some goals as "hobby."  It takes the pressure off.  I work on them when I feel like it, but it is more just for fun.  No pressure.

So here's our list again with "hobby" and "incubate" added.

  • Lose weight--10
  • Eat better, be healthier--9.8
  • Find a spouse--9.5
  • Get a healthier state of mind--9.2
  • Improve relationship with parents--9.0
  • Learn to meditate--8.9
  • Get a better job--8.0
  • Learn to invest--8.0
  • Purchase a home--7.5
  • Learn computer programming--7.3--HOBBY
  • Start my own company--6.0--INCUBATE
  • Write a novel--4.0--INCUBATE
  • Visit Greece--3.0

That step--moving some priorities into the incubate or hobby mode--should prove quite liberating for you.  You get out from underneath having to try to do 20 things at the same time (and probably making little progress on any of them), and you establish a clear set of finite priorities that you are working on now.

Step Five - Make It Concrete, Establish The Next Action Step


The final step that I suggest you take is to establish concrete deadlines and clear, specific "next actions" for all of the priorities that didn't land in your incubate or hobby mode.  These "next actions" are something you can do to move towards your goals this week or this month. 

For our example list, that might look like this:

  • Lose weight--10--Weigh 174 lbs by June 30 (this would represent losing 4 pounds in three weeks)

    Action Steps This Week--Throw out all junk food in the house.  Set up rules to guide eating.  Tell family and friends (make public declaration) about my goals.  Weigh myself every morning.
  • Eat better, be healthier--9.8--Consistently Eat 4 Simple Salads Per Week.  Ongoing.

    Action Steps This Week--Buy salad ingredients.  Make salads Mon, Wed, Fri, And Saturday
  • Find a spouse--9.5--Married by two years from today, June 8, 2022 (careful not to force this deadline though!)

    Action Steps This Week--Sign Up For Bumble.  Go To A Meet Up I Find Interesting.  Socialize More With Friends.
  • Improve relationship with parents--9.0--Ongoing

    Action Steps This Week: Call mom on Saturday.  Play golf with dad.  Make homemade pizza for parents on the weekend.
  • Learn to meditate--8.9--Consistently Meditate Four Times Per Week.  Ongoing.

    Action Steps This Week: Meditate each morning this week for just five minutes when I first wake up.
  • Get a better job--8.0--Get better job by December 31 (you would actually write the year here as well)

    Action Steps This Week: Put resume up online.  Contact a recruiter.  Brainstorm what jobs I'd like better and what skills I need.
  • Learn to invest--8.0--INCUBATE (no actions required on items that are in incubate mode)

  • Purchase a home--7.5--INCUBATE (no actions required on items that are in incubate mode)

  • Learn computer programming--7.3--INCUBATE (no actions required on items that are in incubate mode)

  • Start my own company--6.0--INCUBATE (no actions required on items that are in incubate mode)

  • Write a novel--4.0--INCUBATE (no actions required on items that are in incubate mode)

  • Visit Greece--3.0--Visit by December 31 (you would actually write the year here)

    Action Steps This Week: Research online the cost of flights to Athens.  Call friend to ask if she wants to join me for the trip.

By establishing hard deadlines with clear metrics, you have a concrete goal to shoot for.  In addition, by establishing clear, specific next actions, you move the goal out of abstract wishful thinking and into doing mode.

Final Thoughts - Dial In On Your Key Priorities


Many of us have lots of ideas about what we'd like to do in life, but we never get beyond wishing.  One reason is that we have so many immediate priorities pressing in on us that we remain paralyzed or never make serious progress on any of our goals.

I hope this post helps you establish a list of all the goals you have, clarify which are most important, relegate some goals into an "incubate" folder," establish deadlines for the highest priorities, and get to work with practical steps on the key priorities you decide to focus on now.

Finally, this exercise shouldn't become a substitute for taking action on your actual goals.  You should be able to complete all the steps outlined above in a day or two.  No need to overthink the process of establishing priorities!  That said, I suggest you regularly revisit your list of priorities to make sure it is up to date. 

I suggest you review this list weekly to keep your priorities, goals, and deadlines in focus.  You can then develop fresh actions steps for the week ahead.

Good luck!

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