1. Saving Up for Financial Independence
I want to be financially independent. Financial independence means you have enough money invested to live off the passive earnings from those investments without having to work a nine-to-five job. On a day-to-day basis, I try to spend as little as possible so I can put a significant portion of my earnings into investments. This does not mean I don't splurge or have nice things; it does mean I think critically about the true cost of things and what is really worth the money to me. (For instance, I refuse to pay more than $50 for sneakers. I can always find a pair on sale for less than $50, and often less than $30.) Once you stop spending money to make yourself happy, you learn to enjoy life’s cheap pleasures.
2. Slowly Getting Stronger
I would like to be able to do a handstand. I know this isn't a particularly lofty or impressive goal, but it's something I would really, really, really like to be able to do. There's something about standing on your hands that seems so...confident. People who can do handstands seem to know they're strong in a way that is deeply appealing to me. So, in an effort to join their ranks, I've started exercising. Like, really exercising. Power yoga, spinning, weights, sprint-swimming — if it makes me sweat and silently wish for death, I'm there. And slowly — very, very slowly — I can feel my body changing. I'm nowhere near strong enough to do a handstand, but I'm getting stronger every day, and that's enough to help me keep going.
3. A Joke a Day...
I would eventually like to be a full-time comedy writer and write jokes for a living. Writing is one of those things that you only get better at by doing it regularly. Every day, I write a new joke. Sometimes I put them on Twitter or Facebook. Sometimes I just save them in a notebook, but I write new jokes every day. Dumb Twitter jokes might seem very far removed from my ultimate goal, but every single one has helped me get better. I mean, they're still dumb Twitter jokes, but they're funnier dumb Twitter jokes.
4. Educational Elephants
As strange as it sounds, elephants changed my life. Falling in love with elephants inspired me to return to school and pursue my college education after a five-year break. I've completed two years of school and decided to take a step toward making my dream come true, so I booked a trip to Thailand next year to work hands-on with elephants! I don't know what will happen next year after going to Thailand, but I know it will change my life for the better.
5. Environmental Factors
I’m an athlete and I love team fitness competitions. Last year, I made it my goal to compete in the regional championships. I wasn't sure how that would look, but it was a dream of mine, so I went for it. I changed gyms, coaches, and environments completely. I moved to a different state. I drove over two hours in one night to train with the best athletes around. I fully believe what Paulo Coelho said about being a product of your environment: "Choose yours carefully. Surround yourself with the doers, the believers, the dreamers and the thinkers. Only they will lift you higher." I surrounded myself with people who believe in me, allowing me to believe in myself. Not only did I make it to regionals this year with my team, we almost won it and we qualified for nationals!
6. X Marks the Spot
My dream is to eventually make writing/producing/performing music a full-time gig. The biggest problem I usually face is with motivation, especially after work. Most of the time, instead of doing music-related stuff, I'll walk into my apartment after a long day at the office, sit down, surf the web for hours, and then go to bed. I've found that if I start working on whatever I need to work on the second I get home, I'm more likely to stay on task and not waste time or procrastinate. I also make a little X mark on my calendar every day I get something productive for my music done. This way, it conditions me to want to keep a streak of X's going, and I'll force myself to continue being productive so I can have entire months on my calendar with X's on every day.
7. Puppy Preparation
I really want to adopt a dog. But I don’t want to take the plunge until I know I’m financially ready for it. Food, vet appointments, grooming, toys, dog-sitters... The cost of a furry friend adds up fast. I’ve done some research, and I anticipate that owning a dog will add $1,000 to my annual expenses. To prepare for this, I’ve set up a separate savings account and am setting aside a little bit of “dog money” every month. I’ll head to my local shelter when I’ve saved enough money to cover two years' worth of dog-related expenses.
8. Putting Away Money for Mom and Dad
My dream is to help my folks pay off all of their debts. They changed my diapers; it’s the least I can do, right? For every purchase I make — whether it's a candy bar or my rent for the month — I round up the cents to the nearest dollar and put the difference in a savings account. I hope one day I'll be able to cut my parents a big check. My second dream is that the bank will agree to issue that check with the memo: “Hey, that house we live in is OURS now.”
9. Plotting a Country Escape
I would eventually like to live somewhere far from the city, fully in nature. My fiancé and I spend a lot of time traveling on the weekends to explore the Hudson Valley, the Catskills, and Vermont and think about our future. I explore these places with open eyes and make notes on what I like/don't like about them. I research the cost of living and raising a family there and think about how I would be able to make a living or work remotely. Whenever I meet someone who is able to make a life in the middle of nowhere work, I pick their brain.
10. Working the Early Shift
I'm in a band, working by day as an editor for an online magazine because...adulting. My hack for fitting creative projects into an already busy schedule looks something like this: work the early shift (6:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m.) and spend the afternoon/evening recording music, playing shows, and navigating the music industry.
I am the furthest thing from a morning person, but this way, my oh-so-awesome and practical office job allows ample time for artistic pursuits after work, all while supporting my pricey NYC rent!
Try making a weekly to-do list of personal goals and set aside a chunk of time per day to work toward your dream. Whether it's 10 minutes or a few hours per day, that little bit of progress will propel you forward at a steady pace.