Last month while a friend and I were sharing a meal, we decided to turn a "wouldn't it be nice if ... " conversation into an opportunity to create a list of recreational activities we wanted to do-a quasi bucket list. The list would not be tempered by yielding to the priorities required by daily life, deep financial pockets or a belief we "didn't have time." If we wanted, fantasy could take the lead.
We took turns until the list was ten lines long.
Much was revealed by that written exercise. Although there were a few extravagances oriented to lavish pleasures: a week with family in a private home on a Greek Island, box seat tickets to the US Open, tickets to every show on Broadway, most of the choices were about self fulfillment and efforts to remain mentally and/or physically fit: opportunity to learn a new language, a series of hikes (picnic lunch included) in the Superstitions when the wildflowers were in full bloom, or season tickets to the opera.
I was struck by how little effort would be required to take life to higher levels. It seemed that, money notwithstanding, the only limitation was a product of our mind; "I have to take care of my mother," "I am committed to teaching a class," or "If I have free time I simply want to take a nap."
My friend urged we shorten or modify our original list with three each achievable goals that would make our spirit soar. Because my career has been oriented to supporting life change I knew there were well known criteria for reaching for your brass ring. The acronym SMART is the pneumonic most often used for this goal setting process.
S=Specific: A goal must be SPECIFIC so you can know you have achieved it. "I want to travel," is a vague statement. Instead state your goal in clear terms. For example: "I want to spend Christmas in Hawaii."
M=Measurable: Without a map and milestones to assess progress, it's not easy to know you are on track. A MEASURABLE goal might be, "I want to spend a week over Christmas 2014 at the Grand Hyatt hotel at Poipu Beach on the Hawaiian island of Kauai."
A=Action-Oriented: You need to take ACTIONS to move you toward your goal. That action plan should include three things you will start, stop or keep doing to reach your goal. For example, you might start spending ten minutes a night looking for hotel properties or stop listening to naysayers in your life and keep a log that records your activities.
Realistic: Successful goals are REALISTIC and attainable. For example, if retail sales is your family business a trip during holiday season might not be realistic.
T=Timely: Successful goal achievement doesn’t happen overnight. Will you have the time to make the effort to make your dream a reality? If a goal is not timely this part of SMART might be a benchmark for re-evaluation.
Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson starred in the comedy-drama film, The Bucket List. In it, the characters, who meet while sharing a hospital room. These two, who come from very different backgrounds but face a common terminal illness, head off on a road trip with their list of to-dos before they die. Their last wish was, "witness something truly majestic."
If you haven't created your own wish/bucket list, what are you waiting for? You'll discover that whether they are fulfilled or not, the planning is often more than half the fun.
Live long, live well
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