When trying to be more intentional about living a full life, it can be hard to know where to start. In the past when I’ve thought about what I want to accomplish in my limited time on earth, I’ve found it helpful to go through eight different kinds of goals. It aids me in my efforts to account for what I truly want out of life when I run down this list and write out (or simply make a mental note of) everything I hope to do in each category.
There may be some categories where you have multiple goals. At the same time, there may be other categories where you have no goals at all. That’s perfectly fine. Your objectives are just that: yours! They should be entirely personal and reflect your own values, as I discuss in my last post. Also, some of your goals may fall into more than one category.
1. Consider the experiences you’ve always wanted to have.
New experiences are one of the things that makes me excited about living, and perhaps you feel this way as well. I am always seeking out new places to go, events to attend, things to see, and adventures to have. Newness and variety stimulate the parts of me that get bored easily by the mundane day-to-day. I’m convinced that making memories while trying new things with friends is one of the best ways to make life meaningful, and I always try to think about what experiences I want to have that I haven’t had yet. Have you always wanted to hike the Inca Trail? Attend a poetry slam? See that new art exhibit the town over? Eat at that pho place on the corner by your apartment?
2. Think about your physical aspirations.
It seems that everyone these days has fitness goals. Whether it’s slimming down, bulking up, or maintaining weight, a quick scan through Instagram’s Explore page will reveal the heavily physical goals people tend to set for themselves. Fitness is one physical goal that’s good to think about, but perhaps there are others that are valuable to you. Maybe it’s ensuring you get enough sleep every night, caring for your mental health more seriously, running an ultra-marathon (or your fifth) just to show yourself you can, taking advantage of rest days from a bodily strenuous job, mastering that new foot skill in soccer, or something else.
3. Reflect on your social life.
One day I hope to write more on this, but studies have shown that the happiest people have quality social networks. Clearly, our social lives are a major part of a full life. Lately I’ve been aiming to be a better friend, but you might have other goals that mean a lot to you. Are you hoping to expand your social circle? Spend more time with people who fill you up rather than bring you down? Find new friends or a life partner? Invest more emotionally in the wonderful people you already have in your life? Call your parents on a biweekly basis?
4. Tap into your creative side.
Many people have an impulsive need to express themselves through art or another medium, and many others desire to develop a stronger connection to this kind of outlet. If this description resonates with you, there may be a few creative goals you are considering, such as submitting more writing to literary magazines, opening an art gallery, performing at more open mics, making a CD or publishing a book, breaking into the professional performing arts, or mustering up the courage to start guitar lessons.
5. Contemplate your professional life.
I feel that this is a common one. American society in particular stresses work, and it may be important to you to consider what your goals in your job are about. There are a range of things to think over, from getting a promotion, changing career tracks, developing new skills or broadening old ones you’ve already mastered, or figuring out what the heck you want to do for a job anyway.
6. Take into account what kind of impact you’re having to make the world a better place.
To me, this one is incredibly important, but it may not resonate as much with you. I frequently consider how I’m making the lives of others more fulfilling for them (hence this blog and my desire to move into social work!). You may have a cause that’s important to you, such as environmentalism, racism, sexism, international development, or something else and you’d like to start doing something about it. Perhaps you just want to change one person’s life in a face-to-face relationship with them. Or maybe you envision starting a nonprofit or working at a macro-level to alter systematic injustices. There might be a cause you’re scared to jump in on because it’s controversial or your not sure how, and your goal could be to simply go to an informational meeting about what you can do to help. It’s also possible there’s an issue you have little background knowledge about and you’d like to learn more, or that you have not volunteered as much as you’d like and you’re hoping to start. For many individuals, changing the world in big or small ways is an incredibly fulfilling experience.
7. Review your intellectual objectives.
Stimulating your mind might be a goal of yours. This could be through committing to read a book every month, obtaining a degree of some kind, exposing yourself to new ideas by engaging more frequently in conversations with people who disagree with your political or social viewpoints, or gaining more knowledge on a field you know nothing about.
8. Spend time examining your spirituality.
Different people will think about this one in different ways. You may be very religious or spiritual and you desire to pursue your faith with more diligence by reading a spiritual text more frequently or attending a service in your faith background more regularly. On the other hand, you might not have put much thought into spirituality before but you desire to figure out where you stand through research or personal conversations. There’s also the possibility that you are completely content where you are spiritually and you have no goals to change anything in this realm of your life.
9. Ponder skill-building opportunities.
I have always wanted to learn Spanish just because I think it would be cool (and very useful for my professional and personal life as well, so this is kind of a multi-category goal). Maybe you’ve always wanted to take up woodworking, knitting, or even the art of latte-making (you know what I’m talking about – the kind of drink where the barista draws a kitten or some other cutesy design on top).
I hope these points were thought-provoking! I know they always help me when I’m making new goals. What’s one goal you’ve been thinking about recently that you’re hoping to act on soon?