Awakening Your Dreams – Creating a Personal Goals Timeline by Sarah F. Jarvis, LMFT, ATR-BC, CGP

It’s easy to get caught up in life’s daily grind. With so many things on our plates we may lose sight of our goals and what brings purpose and meaning to our lives. Every so often it’s good to take inventory of where we’ve gotten to and where we’d like to go, otherwise it’s easy to get stuck in a rut we may not be able to see beyond. 

I would like to invite you now to do a little exercise aimed at helping you to rediscover and refresh your goals and purpose. Take a moment to hit the pause button and adjust your focus inward. It’s important to create a safe space to do this, one of non-judgment, self-compassion, and faith.You will be creating a list of old and new dreams that can be turned into actionable steps. 

To get started you can make a timeline on a long piece of paper (or several taped together) that starts with your birth on the left side and extends all the way across to the rights side of your paper. Make a mark somewhere near the middle to signify the present then begin noting in the space above the line, sequentially from early childhood on, past influences, dreams, and goals you’ve had. For example, mine would include “brain surgeon, archaeologist, botanist” around ages 7-10, “creative writing, Beat poetry” spanning years 13-17, and so on. Underneath you can write anything that got in the way or dissuaded you from pursuing goals (ex. “bad grades in science and math” ages 10-20). Here is where we bring in the conscious awareness around negative core beliefs, noticing when they come up, and incorporate self-compassion and positive affirmations. It may be helpful to process these thoughts and feelings further in therapy or through journaling.

From the present point on your timeline, start writing in any ideas, goals, or dreams you have for the near and/or distant future. These can be specific (“have a solo art show in the next 1-3 years”) or open-ended (“live artistically”). Below you can write in anything you think might get in the way of you actively seeing these goals or visions through and process any feelings this brings up for you. After finishing this part, start to go back through your entire timeline and highlight any past, present, or future goals that stand out in some way either because you want to pursue them or they just induce a feeling of excitement or motivation. 

On a separate paper you can make a list of everything you highlighted. Go through the list, making any alterations you think of or to simplify each item into more concrete goals. You now have a master list that can provide a starting point for planning actionable steps towards your goals. You can revisit this process periodically (every 6-months to a year) in order to add in new influences and ideas. This can be a flexible tool, one that can adapted to your specific needs and vision, and I hope it is helpful to you in prioritizing and organizing your personal goals.  

Elana Clark-Faler
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