I was twenty years old and partway into college while doing a service mission on the East Coast. A study at Yale had just concluded that the single determining factor in success in life was writing down goals and so I drank the Kool-Aid. I wrote yearly goals. I wrote two-year goals, I wrote five-year goals, I wrote ten-year goals, I wrote fifteen-year goals, I wrote twenty-year goals, and then I wrote end-of-life goals. 

When I met my sweetheart and got married we resumed the practice and actually added a bunch of goals to the list. And indeed we put the end of our life at 2012. Well, I’ve now arrived at 2012. I’m forty-seven years old and it doesn’t feel like the end of my life, nor do I WANT it to be the end of my life. I still believe very strongly in goal setting, however my format going forward is going to take a much different perspective. Although I really love the intensity and push of setting specific goals I was recently introduced to what is called “The Life Menu”. This next phase of my life is where I will be ordering off my Life Menu.

In the past, goals were really enjoyable, but sometimes they turned into tasks and at this stage of my life I don’t want them to be tasks anymore. The things I put on my Life Menu are simply something I’d love to taste or try, but I don’t necessarily have to and so it tends to take the pressure off a little bit. Here’s the sequence of how I did it. I did it with my wife this summer in Europe as we took a cruise around Italy, Greece and Turkey and we literally spent two or three days talking and dreaming and putting our life menu out there. 

What I’d like to do is give you a five-step process of how you can create your life menu.

Step #1: Get into a relaxed, happy flow. Don’t try and brainstorm while you’e stressed out or even when you’re too tense.

Step #2: List all the things you love. It doesn’t have to be big things. It can be the simplest little things. For me it’s things like watching ducks fly. That came from my youth. My wife’s is the taste of chocolate. I love getting massages. I love the ocean. I love the smell of pine. So anything that you just naturally think, “I love the feeling of it.”, no matter how small, just go through and list all the things that you really love in life.

Step# 3: Compose a statement of who you are, what defines you, what makes you happy, and what you want to do in your life. Again, the simpler the better. Just go free-style. For instance I want to swim in ten oceans. I want to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. I want to see Machu Picchu. I want to make a really good squash soup. (I’ve tried 5 times and just haven’t been successful yet.) I even put to hit a hole-in-one golf on there even though I didn’t know if I ever would be able to do it. I put all the things that I wanted to. Some were incredible business and intense and other things were just fun, frivolous, personal life things.

Step #4: Review your list. Make sure you’re consistent and that these are things you really want to do and are not just a whim or passing fad.

Step #5: Document your goals and put them in a place that you can keep track of them. I use my Google share docs and every year our family reviews them. My wife and I will sit down and review our personal life menus now come the first of the year.

It’s amazing and powerful how we naturally gravitate to things we write down. I think the case in point is my hole-in-one in golf. For many, many years I’ve wanted to do that so intently and it wasn’t until I let it go a little bit that it happened.

I’m so looking forward to this next phase of life and the joy that’s going to come from my Life Menu this first of the year. I wish you success in your goals and your Life Menu and the future that you have before you. Make positive that you write your goals down. Dream Big. Nothing significant ever occurs without first dreaming it and then writing it down. That’s when the magic begins.