I'm on a call with Neil Murthy, a successful entrepreneur and mentor in Houston. I have my list of questions, most of which focus on prioritizing goals in the very early stages of a business.
Like a good mentor, he takes that line of questioning and blows it up to the stratosphere. He says, “I want you to step back from this week, month or even year. Your biggest goal should be that which you cannot complete in your lifetime. What impact do you want to leave behind? Then you work back from there.”
We may think that’s crazy talk, but in reality, it is a truth that is simply asking us to be intentional about our biggest life. When we die, it’s not like all trace of our life here on earth is wiped away immediately, right? What would you like to see still up and running the day after you are not? If your biggest goal doesn’t make you a little bit embarrassed to talk about, its not big enough.
If you have tried and failed with starting from today to map out a path to a big awesome long term goal, you are not alone. Our fear based brain undermines us quickly with overwhelm and doubt. Instead, start with the end in mind.
A note about being realistic about your goals:
For your biggest dream, go ahead and be crazy. I'm not saying that to be trite. There is a practical reason for this that I explain in a minute.
If you want to be an astronaut, put it down. If you want to be president, an elite athlete, a movie star, the best doctor on the planet, a real estate mogul - go ahead and write it down as if it has happened.
Then work backward in the way we’ve described above to what you should be working on today to make that happen.
Does this mean that by starting at 40 or 50+ years old you will actually be able to become an astronaut in 10 - 15 years? Probably not.
But don't let it stop you, and here is why:
In the process of breaking open what that big dream contains, you will discover the do-able thread that isn’t really about becoming an astronaut after all. It will likely be about something related to science, or teaching, or adventure that is eminently doable. There are thousands of steps one must take to become an astronaut, its in the journey that you will find the true outcome reveals itself.
Will I ever really own and run a gorgeous retreat center in nature? Maybe not, but that dream is rooted in some of my core values, and so I trust that letting it dictate some of my direction will lead me to meet the right people and take the right actions.
It provides part of the motivation that keeps me investing precious time and money into building a business when I could settle for living on a beach somewhere, work a lot less and scrimp my pennies until Social Security kicks in.
That wraps up the first step to setting the stage for Midlife Transformation - figuring out where you are going. Why doesn’t everyone do this? Why do we lose enthusiasm? Because its scary and involves risk. I talk about that in this blog post: How our Cave Woman Brain Keeps us Stuck.
In an interview with Oprah, Jim Carrey tells this story about achieving his dream. Years ago, he put the number $10,000,000 on a piece of paper and carried it around in his wallet. One day, after the movie Dumb and Dumber had become a commercial success, he found that piece of paper he had forgotten about, still in his wallet. Guess how much he had made from that movie? $10,000,0000.
Of course it was not a magic piece of paper. The magic was in the hard work in between. The point that both he and Oprah agreed upon is this: You can’t just "put your dream out there". You have to see it as a goal. A goal is a dream with an action plan. As he put it, “You have to do the work, you can’t just go have a sandwich”.
Do you set goals? Whatever the answer, step back for a minute and think about how you are different now versus a few years ago. On the one hand, most of us have limiting beliefs we have carried around for years. “I’m too old, I don’t have enough time or money, I don’t know how, it’s too late.” There are ways of getting around our limiting beliefs, as I detail in this 10 part series on midlife limiting beliefs.
On the other hand, we know a hell of a lot more than we used to. Every experience you have had in your life happened to bring you to this point.
One thing I do know - goal setting is essential for most of us if we want our life to have impact. Perhaps there are gurus that wake up every day and just react to their routine and surroundings. I did that for years and it led me to depression, not enlightenment.
I wasn’t tapping into my inner guides. For years I did not even know I had another inner life. I thought I was my thoughts. We are not our thoughts. What we “are” is our deepest truth and inner wisdom.
If you are over 40 and do not set goals tied to your inner brilliance that wants to be expressed, you are literally at a crossroads. From my research and observations, if we continue on auto-pilot into our later years, we will spend the last half of our life spinning around the same set of issues. Growth slows. It doesn’t necessarily mean that life will be terrible, it simply means it will be a ghost of the brilliance that is possible.
The first step in the 5 part Not Your Mama’s Midlife transformation system is to get Intentional - set your long term goal and see how your mid and short term goals flow from that.
People talk about goals being SMART - specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time defined.
Forget about that for a minute. We’ll come back to it but for now, try this instead:
Before you set your goals, be sure you have a technique for getting that guidance out of your soul and into your life:
Start to really pay attention to what shows up in your life
Here is just one of many examples of the way it works for me:
It’s 6:00 am in early January. The room is cold, I’m tired, a bit uninspired, but I’m showing up to my morning routine.
Guess what signing up for that race has done for me? Made me ACCOUNTABLE. I have been slowly progressing but I have not missed a training run since that time.
Obviously, practicing accountability and focus is the message for me for a few weeks.
So that’s the formula - engage with your inner self on a regular basis, cut out negativity as much as you can, be as present as possible in the moment, and your goals will evolve differently.
Speaking of goals, In the next post, we talk about how to set your goals in a way I bet you haven't experienced before!