If you’ve ever been confused about how to fulfill your dreams, or even where to start, you’re not alone. Many people struggle with the same problem. Like them, you probably know you need to master your mindset, build relationships and reach peak performance in your career. But when you’re unsure of how those things fuel your dreams—or even worse, you can’t visualize the end goal—it’s easy to postpone the existence you crave.
“Unfortunately, that’s most people,” entrepreneur James Whittaker says. “They’re very much a spectator in life. A lot of the work I do is to very actively get you to be a participant in life, to engage with life. Yes, we’re going to have these really bad days… But how you respond to adversity when it inevitably strikes is what separates ordinary people from extraordinary achievers.”
In this episode of Brilliant Thoughts, SUCCESS People Editor Tristan Ahumada talks to Whittaker, SUCCESS speaker and author of Think and Grow Rich: The Legacy, about how to create your dream life. Together, they deconstruct the goal-setting process and which habits enable success.
No matter what you’re trying to achieve, begin your journey with three simple steps. They’re listed below, and you’re going to need them when life gets tough.
1. Visualize your success before it happens.
When you imagine your life in the next five years, what do you see? Are you a world traveler using nothing but a laptop and Wi-Fi to earn a living? Do you own a successful business that’s about to go public? In your mind’s eye, visualize the rich relationships and the type of lifestyle you want to have.
Now, without losing focus, save that mental movie. Keep it within the depths of your brain so you can watch the replay every day. And if it helps, fast-forward or rewind to the most exciting parts of your success memory. It’s an imagined memory, of course, but that’s OK. Whittaker says your brain can’t tell the difference, anyway. A fake memory, no matter how ambitious, can serve the same purpose as your real ones.
“It means that when you’ve put yourself in a situation you’ve already seen, been through and dominated, it’s so much easier to get back to that—to rinse and repeat, and put yourself back in an optimal state,” Whittaker says.
When you feel anxious or overwhelmed, just breathe. Press play on your imagined memory to rediscover what’s fueling your passion.
2. Create a success plan by writing down your goals.
Now that you have your imagined memory, write it down. Put your goals in a journal so they seem less like fiction and closer to a burgeoning reality. After all, words on paper can become a list, and lists can be completed. It’s the same process as handling tasks at work or household chores. Your dream is just as important, and it’s something you can plan for.
“Once a year, every single person on the planet should ask themselves two questions: Who am I, and where do I want to go?” Whittaker says. “Figure out what the end goal looks like, and simply reverse engineer that to [success at] three years, one year and 90 days. Then turn those 90 days into action items. Put them in your calendar, and every 90 days, you repeat the process.”
Do you need help creating your success plan? Whittaker offers his success plan template, which you can download for free.
3. Embrace the magic of daily routines.
Good habits are the key to success, so you need a solid routine for practicing them. It’s about more than simply organizing your day, week, or month. A routine creates the momentum you need to reach small, immediate goals. You get a burst of motivation with each accomplishment, so it’s worth the effort.
Want to create the best possible routine? Focus on the way you begin each day. For most people, that means avoiding emails and the internet in general.
“By grabbing our phone first thing in the morning, all we’re doing is reacting to someone else’s agenda for our time,” Whittaker says. “Oftentimes we wake up, and we feel happy, but all of a sudden we see something that has come through, and we’re like, ‘Argh, I have to do that later today?’…. “It’s such a bad situation. You’re on the defense first thing in the morning.”
Instead of doing that, flip the script. Here’s what Whittaker recommends to create productive days:
- Save any creative work for your peak productivity window.
- Do your life’s work before your busy work.
- Acknowledge that each day is here to be won.
- Write down three things you’re going to do to win the day.
- Put yourself in some kind of adversity. Have a cold shower, do a quick workout or something else to challenge your mind.
- Set boundaries. Share your “do not disturb” hours with co-workers and family.
- Reach out to people and see if they need help. Eventually, they will reciprocate.
With a good routine, you can also rid yourself of bad habits. Things like negative self-talk and complacency are hard to keep up when you’re focused on progressing.