Finding Your Life Goals

This is an exercise that may help in planning one’s future and prioritizing life goals.

Step 1:

Pick a time frame for the exercise. Usually I suggest that clients focus on their life in five years, but in different circumstances other time periods (shorter or longer) would be more appropriate.

Step 2:

Make a list of all the things that, if they were true about your life in 5 years (or whatever your time frame is), you would be pleased that they were true. This list is kind of a "brainstorming" exercise – list as many things as you can – at least 50, and 100 is ok – and include both practical type things (I’d have paid off my credit card debt, I’d be a homeowner) to fanciful or long-shot statements (I’d be living on a South Pacific Island, or I’d be a famous and successful artist ). The statements should cover all aspects of your life, if possible (e.g., financial, relationship, career, hobbies and interests, spiritual/psychological, etc) and it’s fine if they are contradictory (That is, one item might be, "I’m living in Paris", and another might be "I’m living on a farm in Tennessee".) Come up with at least 50, though, even if it takes a few days.

Put the completed list aside for a day or two.

Step 3:

Take your list of "things that, if they were true about my life, I would be pleased that they were true", and put a star next to the five most important.

In doing this, you are free to restate/condense statements from the first list. (Thus, for example, if your original list had a number of statements like "I’d have visited Peru", "I d have gone to Egypt", "I’d spend a summer in France", you could condense this into one statement like "I’d travel internationally often" ).

These five Most Important statements cannot, however, contradict each other. (Thus, you can’t have both, "I’d be a hermit" and "I’d live with a lot of people in a city" in your top five).

The five starred goals you end up represent, for this exercise, your most important goals for the future. Sit with this list for a few days and see if it feels true. If you are satisfied with the goals you’ve chosen, write up your final list and put it someplace where you can refer to it from time to time. Begin working on a list of the steps you’ll need to take to achieve these goals.

Michael Abrahams LCSW-C