Using Narratives And Lists To Set Goals

Last week, I talked about using a prescriptive list to help you lay out your goals. That method is really useful to help you find the target that’s you need to knock out to help you get to where you want to be, but what about trying to figure out what you want beyond a year or two? Where do you want to be in 5-10 years? In my opinion, one of the best ways to not only figure out what you want, but also to help you spell out what you want is to use the Descriptive Narrative.

 

I call it the Descriptive Narrative because it very much resembles a narrative. I personally use this method to figure out what my end game is. Where I hope to end up.

 

The Descriptive Narrative is fairly simple to do. Think about where you want to be in life, overall or in 5-10 years. Now describe that person. If it helps, imagine someone is writing a character bio about the future you. What does s/he do? What habits does he (using he because it’s simpler to type) have? What traits does he embody? This can be in several paragraphs reflecting a variety of situations.

 

For example, if someone is particularly shy and wants to improve, he could write:

He has no difficulty in social settings, able to keep a conversation with anyone over a variety of topics. If he sees someone he wants to meet, he walks over without hesitation and introduces himself. He has what some people describe as a warm glow to him; people just like talking to him.

And etcetera.

This can give you a more in depth understanding of what it is exactly that you want. And you can keep revising this narrative until you are satisfied with it. Now you know the type of person you are trying to be. Make sure you are honest with yourself, yes writing a couple paragraphs about the “cool future you” might not seem that cool, but it really can help you find more about yourself: what skills you want to have, what job you want to get, where you want to live, etc. Sometimes up front, you write what you think you want, and then after reading it, you realize that what you just wrote is not really what you want in life. Repeatedly going through this process can help you figure out where you truly want to be.

 

What I like about this method more than the list method is the list method falls to the temptation of “I think I want it, so let’s throw it on the list.” While I know not everybody does that, it is still very easy to think you want something and then throw it on your things to do, when in reality, that does not align with your overall goals. Maybe for some people, they haven’t even figured out their overall goals.

 

Another bonus is that the Descriptive Narrative has great potential for flexibility. Since this goal setting method is similar to writing character bio (your future self) for a story (life), we all know that life is constantly changing and helping us grow. So maybe when you review your overall goals, you realize that there is a certain aspect that you wrote, and you realize you don’t like the tone in which it was written, or maybe that entire quality is something that you don’t really care for anymore, you can erase it, change it, add to it, whatever you want to. You need to constantly be evaluating where you want to be.

 

Maybe now your descriptive narrative sounds fine, but in a few years you realize that it sounds selfish, now you know something more about yourself. Now you know that you don’t want to be selfish. So what do you do? You add in to be more giving to others. Congratulations, you just evolved as a person.

 

How to Use the Two Together

Now, I said that I use both of these methods in order to help me figure out where I want to go in life and then to make sure that I get my goals accomplished.  Luckily, using the two methods in tandem gives you the benefits of both, and the each cancel the other’s disadvantages. Let me show you how.

 

Let’s take our example of the descriptive method from above:

He has no difficulty in social settings, able to keep a conversation with anyone over a variety of topics. If he sees someone he wants to meet, he walks over without hesitation and introduces himself. He has what some people describe as a warm glow to him; people just like talking to him.

 

Alright, from this we know what we want our end goal to be. Now, we can break down these goals in a list of actions that we need to take.

 

He has no difficulty in social settings, able to keep a conversation with anyone over a variety of topics.

This tells us that we need to be well-versed in several topics. So a few goals we might set could be:

-Read one book every month on a different topic.

-Read the news every day for 15 minutes

-Listen to an educational podcast everyday

 

If he sees someone he wants to meet, he walks over without hesitation and introduces himself.

We need to not be afraid of meeting new people.

-Introduce yourself to someone you don’t know once a week

If that is too difficult for you, then start off with something like:

-Start a conversation with an acquaintance that up till now you have only said high to (ex. A secretary at work)

 

He has what some people describe as a warm glow to him; people just like talking to him.

We need to be seen as nice to people.

-Develop the habit of smiling every time you say hi to someone

-Learn to focus the conversation on the other person

-Learn how to improve charisma

 

As you can see, there are a lot of goals you can create and these goals help you to form the plan as to how to get the results. Which goals you use are ultimately up to what you think you need most. If you want faster results, you will do more. If you like a slower but steady progress rate, maybe you will do only a few of the goals you come up with. As you get better with this, you will learn to break down the goals from the life time-term and the long-term into mid-term and short term goals. It takes practice, but you will get better.

 

Happy goal setting!

 

 

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