How to Make a Powerful (and a Little Magic) Life Goals List

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A life goals list can motivate you to action, teach you something about yourself, and help you realize dreams you didn’t think were possible. Here’s why making a list of goals for your life can be so valuable, how to make your own life goals list and ideas to help you get started.

My personal life goals list with the entries blurred
This is my list of 100 things I want to Do Before I Die. Some of the entries are a little personal so I blurred them.

This is an updated version of a post I originally wrote in 2015.

On Sunday, December 11, 2011, at 10:14 P.M., inspired by a book I no longer remember, I created a note on my phone called 100 Things Before I Die. On Saturday, January 11, 2016, at 11:02 A.M., I finally completed Entry #100.

I don’t remember the book’s name, but I vaguely remember the story that inspired me to start the list. On the first day of a multi-day seminar, the author told his students to return the next day with a list of 100 things they wanted to accomplish before they died. They needed to make their list without worrying about how they might accomplish any of these goals or whether the goals were even possible. Just let your mind go free.

The next day, the author said, very few people had completed the list, which he knew would happen. Only the real go-getters, the author explained, can open their minds enough to even see what is possible in life.

Well, challenge accepted, sir! And I got maybe 25 items listed that first night before my mind went dry and I couldn’t think of a single more thing. I probably stopped around here:

3 of my life goals - 28. Make Charlotte a Baby Book, 29. Organize my photographs, 30. Learn to play the piano, guitar, or violin
I have not accomplished any of these three things to this day, almost 10 years later.

I am not, it would appear, a real go-getter.

If I had started my list on a notepad or in my journal, this story would be over. I would have lost the list the next day. But I kept the list in a note on my phone because I wanted to cross off any of the goals that I met.

And every now and then, I would catch myself having the thought. You know the one. “Someday, I would like to…” And when I did, I’d put it on my list.

C. S. Lewis Quote - You're never too old to set another goal or to dream another dream.

There were months when I didn’t touch the list. But I updated it more consistently than you would think, considering it took me five full years to finish it. And now that I’m finally done, I’ve discovered that the complete list of goals paints a fascinating self-portrait that is uniquely my own.

That’s one reason creating a list of goals for your life can be such a powerful tool for growth. Completing the exercise taught me several things about myself I wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t taken the time to write down all the crazy dreams I had for my life.

I discovered something else along the way that I don’t think would have happened if I hadn’t taken the time to make the list. I actually started accomplishing some of the items on my list. Would I have the life I have now if I hadn’t opened my heart enough to dream that someday I might? I honestly don’t think so.

So I encourage you to make your own life goals list! Here’s why it can be a great tool for you too.

What is a Life Goals List?

Simply put, it’s a list of things you want to achieve before you die. Write down everything you want to accomplish without worrying whether it’s realistic or how you will achieve your goal.

Some experts recommend breaking the list into different areas. Jack Canfield recommends breaking your list into seven areas:

  1. Financial
  2. Business & Career
  3. Relationships
  4. Health & Fitness
  5. Fun & Recreation
  6. Personal
  7. Contributions (Making a Difference in the World)

I didn’t consciously break my list into these categories. However, as I review my list, I see that I picked goals in each of these areas. If you’re having a hard time coming up with items for your list, thinking of your dreams for each of these categories can help spark some inspiration.

Your list can be as long as you like, but I found it really helpful to try to come up with at least 100 goals. When you enter that many items, you’ll find yourself thinking of the wild dreams you don’t even let yourself dream about. Things like:

List of my completed goals - 25. Love someone a lot who loves me back just as much. 26. Own a nice home. 27. Consistently live in a clean, well-organized home.

Be vulnerable and write down the things you really want. Don’t be afraid to add items that might look stupid to other people. (I used to be a real slob and I hated that about myself. I wanted to change and I did.)

You can strive to complete your list in one session or take years to complete it like I did. Just be sure to review your list every now and then. And cross out the goals you accomplish! I like to add the date I achieved my dream next to it as well.

George Bernard Shaw quote - Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.

Why You Should Create Your Own Life Goals List

I would encourage everyone to take the time to make your own life list. I consider creating my list to one of the more transformative things I’ve done in my life. Even now, ten years after I started my list, I’m still adding new items and crossing off accomplishments.

Here are just some of the benefits of creating a goals list.

You’ll Start to See Patterns in Your Desires

I wouldn’t have realized how important travel is to my happiness if I hadn’t put so travel-related entries on my list: visit Eastern Europe, climb Machu Picchu, travel the U.S. in an RV, etc.

Once I saw those patterns, I started to prioritize travel and, as a result, I’ve crossed 5 items off my list:

  • I’ve traveled to Europe multiple times.
  • I’ve visited Hawaii.
  • I saw the Badlands (amazing!) and Mt. Rushmore (meh).
  • I spent a wonderful weekend in Hot Springs, AK. (I don’t know why I even put that on the list but I enjoyed the heck out of my visit.)
  • I took my my kids on a special vacation to England for two weeks.

I know I wouldn’t have done all of these things if they hadn’t been on my list. I’m honestly not sure if I would have done any of them at this point in my life. But crossing these items off the list gave me a powerful feeling of gratitude and accomplishment.

Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world. Harriett Tubman

You’ll Be Motivated to Accomplish Some of Your Wildest Dreams

I’ve actually accomplished some improbable things in the past five years.

Of my 100 items, I have accomplished and crossed off 26 of them. That’s really amazing because most of the items I put on the list are very long-term and extremely improbable.

Obviously any list of personal goals is, well, really personal, so I’m not going to share all 100 with you (and do you really want to read all 100 of my goals?), but I’ll share with you the first five that I wrote on that night in 2011 when I was a single mom struggling to make ends meet.

100 Things Before I Die
1. Run ny marathon in 5 hours.
2. Run the Boston marathon.
3. Get married in a white dress.
4. Learn to ski.
5. Travel to Europe.

I would have told you Goal #3 was the most improbable of all.

Getting married in a long white dress

So maybe someday I’ll run the Boston marathon!

You Can Track How Much You’ve Changed – and How You’ve Stayed the Same

I’m constantly removing and replacing items on my life goals list. For example, I really don’t have any desire to learn to ski. I’m not sure why it was so important to me in 2011.

But, on the whole, I’ve found that what I want from life has pretty much remained the same. Most of the items on my list contain experiences I’d like to have and my wishes for a happy, stable family and home.

To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream; not only plan, but also believer - Anatole France

Your Life Goals List is a Highly Effective Way to Practice Gratitude

It’s so easy to forget the good experiences we’ve had and what we’ve accomplished. When I review my list, though, I see the items I’ve crossed off and I remember how much I wanted to visit Hawaii, for example, and how wonderful it was to finally visit there. I feel grateful all over again that I was able to have that experience.

I even feel gratitude for the things that haven’t happened yet because I’ve seen what a powerful tool this list has been in achieving my wildest dreams and goals.

If you look at what you have in live, you'll always have more. If you look at what you don't have in life, you'll never have enough - Oprah Winfrey

Your Goals List is be a Map of Your Ideal Life

When I started my list, I expected that my goals wouldn’t necessarily have much in common since I was just writing down random thoughts as they occurred to me. However, when you read the whole list, it presents a fairly detailed picture of the life I would like to lead.

You can see:

  • The type of career I want
  • How I’d like to spend my time
  • Who I want to spend my time with
  • The kind of mark I’d like to leave on the world
  • Even how much money I’d like to have (and that’s totally ok)
The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams - Eleanor Roosevelt

How to Make Your Own Life Goals List

  1. Carve out a block of time when you can be alone and think clearly.
  2. Determine where you will keep your list. You can write your goals in a notebook, notepad, or on your computer. Whatever works for you, as long as you can easily find it later to review and/or update your list.
  3. Write down your life goals and dreams. Write down each goal that occurs to you without censoring yourself. Don’t worry about whether your dreams are realistic or how you can achieve your goals. Be vulnerable but don’t be afraid to write down your silly and shallow goals, as well. They’re important too!
  4. Your list can be as long or short as you want, but consider trying to come up with a list of 100 goals. When you take the time to write down 100 goals, you can get past your superficial goals and start thinking of your wildest, most improbable, dreams.
  5. You can choose to complete your list in one session or add to it when inspiration strikes.
  6. Consider each of the following areas of your life: Financial, Business & Career, Relationships, Health & Fitness, Fun & Recreation, Personal, Contribution (Making a Difference in the World)
  7. Keep your list where you can review it regularly. Add new goals as you think of them. Cross off the goals you accomplish!
  8. Don’t be afraid to delete goals that you don’t care about any longer. (I like to move these to a separate section on my list called “What Was I thinking?” It’s fun to look back and see just what used to be important to me.)
  9. Celebrate each time you cross off an item.
  10. Be open to the possibility of having all your dreams come true.
Steps to Make Your Own Life Goal List

Ideas for Your Goals List

These are just a few things you might want to put on your goals list. Don’t forget to brainstorm goals that are meaningful to you.

Financial Goal Ideas

  • Income you want to make
  • Amount of savings you desire
  • Debt you would like to pay off
  • The amount of money you want to leave to your heirs
  • How much money you need for your ideal retirement

Business & Career Goal Ideas

  • Your ideal job
  • Your ideal career
  • The title you would like to acquire
  • Any business ideas you would like to pursue
  • A business you would like to start
  • Awards you would like to win
  • A business accomplishment you want, such as publishing a book
  • What you want to do when you retire
  • A business mentor you would like to meet
  • The types of people you want to work with

Relationship Goal Ideas

  • The type of lover you wish to attract
  • The types of friends you want to have
  • Who you want to spend time with
  • Gifts you would like to be able to give to the people you love
  • How many children you want
  • What type of parent you would like to be
  • The kind of lessons you want to pass on to your kids
  • How you want your kids to grow up

Health & Fitness Goal Ideas

  • Running a 5K or other race
  • A sport you would like to take up
  • The fitness level you would like to achieve
  • A fitness accomplishment, like being about do 25 push-ups
  • Health issues you want to overcome
  • Healthy habits you want to stat, such as a mediation practice

Fun & Recreation Goal Ideas

  • Places you would like to visit
  • Hobbies you would like to enjoy
  • Special vacations such as a cruise or resort
  • Natural phenomena you want to see (such as a volcano or the Northern Lights)
  • Something new you want to learn
  • Parties you want to attend
  • Parties you want to give
  • Who you want to vacation with

Personal Goal Ideas

  • Things you want to own (totally acceptable)
  • The type of house you would like to live in
  • How you want to decorate your home
  • Habits you would like to acquire
  • Educational goals such as completing a degree
  • Books you want to read

Contribution Goal Ideas

  • Places you would like to volunteer
  • Where you would like to donate your money
  • Starting something that helps the world, like a foundation or charity
  • A world problem you would like to help solve
List of ideas for your life goals list

I hope I’ve convinced you about the value of creating your own life goals list. What are some things you would put on your list? Share them in the comments!

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