Is how to achieve what you want in life really something you can learn from a blog post?
Let’s give it a try!
I receive a LOT of emails from people struggling to find direction. While life inevitably gets in the way sometimes, it’s essential to take ownership of your future. Otherwise, it’s easy to find yourself merely drifting from year to year: same job, same untested ideas, same questions, same frustrations.
The tips below should help you to break that cycle. While I’d never claim to have all the answers, every day I get to observe stark differences between people who make steady progress towards their goals, and those who stay rooted to the spot.
If you’re in the wrong category, you don’t have to stay there. It all starts with taking some action.
1. Work out WHAT you Want
You’ll never work out how to achieve what you want it you don’t know what “it” is!
I know that sounds laughably obvious, but almost every day people email me to ask what work they could do.
They’re asking the wrong question.
You’re not only allowed to dream about what you truly want to do when you’re a child. Yet somehow modern society seems to suggest to us that it’s a one-time choice.
You are actually allowed to continue having desires and aspirations long after that! That still applies if you’re approaching retirement and want to try something completely different.
Obviously, due to the nature of this site, most of the people contacting me at least know that they want to work from home. But that can mean anything.
There are all the obvious things: writing, translation, transcription – the list goes on. But there are myriad other options too. Perhaps you’d like to make your own artisan cosmetics, or create a course teaching people to play the accordion?
I’m using deliberately obscure examples, but people DO these things and make a living, and you don’t only need to choose ONE thing either.
There’s a really helpful article on working out what it is you truly want to do here.
2. Do the Thing you Keep Putting Off
Be honest with yourself for a moment: there’s probably something you keep meaning to do, but just never get around to.
There’s a school of thought that says that the thing you keep putting off is often the very thing you need to do to be successful.
I’m not sure whether it’s fear of failure, fear of success, or just plain human nature that makes this so – but it is.
I’m as responsible of this as anyone else. I could get a ton of extra traffic to this site and make more money if I worked on video content. Well, do you see any?! (There’s actually one video review so far, but you get my point!)
So, start the blog, apply for the job, sign up for the course. There’a a good chance it’s exactly what you should be doing.
3. Keep Learning
If you’re not regularly taking advantage of the wealth of cheap and free training resources available online, you truly are missing out.
The internet may have its disadvantages, but it’s transformed the world of learning. You can access university-standard teaching in a matter of seconds, often without handing over a single penny.
This is relevant to everyone. However, it’s particularly relevant to you if you’ve worked out that what you want to do is in no way related to what you know how to do! Thankfully, that doesn’t matter.
There are plenty of people flipping burgers by day and studying machine learning by night. Doing something you have to do to fund something you want to do is extremely admirable.
So, wherever you are in your career, keep learning. Whether that means something completely new, or simply expanding on your existing skills, it’s always worthwhile.
Some Places to Learn
- edX and Coursera are both worth a look, and offer college-affiliated courses you can take free of charge.
- LinkedIn Learning has hundreds of courses, and there’s a free trial available.
4. Sort Out your Resumé and Online Profiles
Is your CV up to date?
How about your LinkedIn? Your online portfolio?
If you seriously want to work out how to achieve what you want, these are things you should have ticked off right from the start.
Imagine a dream job or freelance gig presented itself tomorrow morning. How prepared would you be? Could you show off your work in a form you’re proud of? Could you “ping over” a resumé that showed you at your best?
When you’re permanently ready to respond to opportunities, you can actually respond to them rather than watch them pass by.
Some Useful Resources
- ZIPJob will take a free look at your resume and suggest improvements. We recently reviewed it here.
- Jobscan is an interesting software tool that helps you optimise both your resumé and your LinkedIn profile. Review here.
- We have an interesting article with some free LinkedIn advice from an expert recruiter.
5. Have Some Side Projects
A recent survey showed that nearly half the working people in the US have a side hustle on the go.
Sometimes this is born out of necessity, but increasingly it’s a lifestyle choice. I personally LOVE having lots of side gigs I can tap into. I recently dived back into testing websites and apps again, after updating my review of UserTesting.
You only need look at the screenshot above to see the financial benefit (and I have screen-fulls like that!) But it’s not only about the money.
It all feeds into a big mixture of choice, freedom and inspiration. The side gig ends up paying for the course, which gets you the first client – and so on. This can be the difference between moving forward and staying still.
For some side gig ideas, check out this article.
6. Look After your Mental Health
I’m passionate about mental health awareness, as are many people who have been afflicted with conditions like depression and anxiety. (I’ve written an article about the latter here).
Perhaps you’re fortunate enough to have no issues with your mental health, but we all have mental health, and we all have our ups and downs.
When it comes to looking at how to achieve what you want, there are numerous ways that poor mental health can hold you back – such as burnout, a lack of confidence, or a tendency towards self-sabotage.
So be honest with yourself. If something’s not quite right – work on it. Thankfully we’ve evolved beyond the point where “manning up” is seen as the solution to everything.
Here are a few books that have really helped me with my own mental health:
The Self Care Project: Great if you struggle to put yourself first.
The Power of Habit: A fantastic read for anyone who struggles with habits – not just cigarettes and alcohol, but any self-defeating behaviours.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy For Dummies: Teaches great strategies to help break away from patterns that define you – from habits to phobias.
7. Set Goals for the Short, Medium and Long Term
Sometimes you read something that changes your life. As such, I wish I could remember where I read about dividing goals into short, medium and long term – because it’s helped SO much.
All you do is create a sheet along the lines of the (made up) example below:
This technique is incredibly useful when you’re lacking direction. I often create a list like this at the start of a year, after a holiday, or at any other time where I feel I’m not laser-focussed on what I should be doing.
- In the short term column, you put down the things you want to do or have to do. These are generally the “bread and butter” things that pay the bills, and your other top priority things to do.
- In the medium term column, you choose a couple of projects you’d really like to see done in a fixed time frame. In here I tend to put things I’d like to have ticked off by the time I next update the list.
- The long term column is more for the “slow burns” – the kind of things that I personally end up doing when I have some free time in the evenings or weekends.
Over time, you will find you shuffle things from column to column. Long term aims become short term jobs, things get dropped and abandoned, and priorities and focuses shift.
The key is that straight after completing the exercise, you know exactly what you should be doing.
8. Maintain Motivation
If you’re somebody who struggles to start projects, you’re really going to have to buckle up, because seeing them through is far harder!
My recent example involves this very website you’re reading. For the first two years I experienced “textbook” growth in traffic and income. I think there was barely a week where anything stagnated or declined, other than during obvious times like the holiday season.
As such, you can imagine how it felt when everything levelled out, and I started getting weeks when things moved backwards. After two years of seeing reassuring growth, it was inevitable I’d have to go through that at some point.
That’s just one example, but it applies to a lot of things. Everything in life ebbs and flows – from money to motivation. Where a lot of people go wrong is by walking away and abandoning things at just the wrong time – just when it was all about to get good.
When you read interviews with successful business people, they almost always have a tale about a time when it looked like everything was about to crumble. I doubt there’s a single freelancer out there who can’t remember at least one time when the bills didn’t look like they’d get paid.
Resilience is everything.
- A book I really like about growing businesses is The Messy Middle by Scott Belsky. There are so many books about start-ups, it was a real treat to find something aimed at more experienced business owners.
9. Network – a LOT!
Over time, both personal and business networks develop in a haphazard way.
I have friends I was inseparable from for years who I don’t speak to now; Meanwhile, I have regular business dealings with clients I’ve now known for over two decades.
My point here is you never know which of the people you meet is going to go on to be a long term partner, mentor or friend. It’s all a bit random.
What you CAN do is increase your chance of having a solid network by doing plenty of networking. I don’t mean that ghastly, false, schmoozy type of networking. I mean making sure you make an effort to reach out to people, be polite, and reply to those who contact you.
Personal relationships matter, and the old adage that “it’s not what you know but who you know” retains some truth.
10. Recognise your Achievements
It’s really important to recognise (and celebrate) your achievements.
I’m reliably informed (by my wife!) that I’m hopelessly bad at this, so I’m thankful that she encourages me to take the occasional step back to stop, have some wine, and enjoy a short gloat.
Whether you’re celebrating your first blog subscriber or your 1000th, a completed course, your first sale, or your first Million, recognising your achievements is hugely motivating. It pushes you on and makes you keen to aim for the next victory. So don’t be afraid to pat yourself on the back now and then.
Hopefully these tips have pushed you closer to understanding how to achieve what you want. None of them, in isolation, will change your life. However, put them together and you have a pretty clear path to success.
So which of them are you going to act on today?