How knowing the big goal makes decisions easy

Do you have any big lifetime bucket list items? I’ve got a few. One of these bucket list goals is to go to all 50 states by the time I am 50. I set this goal in college, after a friend had a goal of all 50 states by the time she was 30 (and she met the goal!). Growing up in a family that didn’t travel a lot, 50 states by 30 felt overly ambitious, but 50 by 50 seemed quite doable. Note: My only qualification on what counts as a state visit is that airport layovers don’t count.

A few years ago, I took a trip to South Carolina for a conference with my mom. One new state, check! As we planned the trip, it turned out that airline ticket prices meant that it would be cheaper to stay an extra day, even including added hotel and meal costs.

With an entire day free, the only question was what to do with that time.

#3 is key.

Fortunately, I had a mental framework to filter the decision through:

Three goal-based considerations to make decisions easier

1. Consider all the options, both obvious and less obvious.

In this case, the two big options were to either taking a road trip to visit a few more states in pursuit of my bucket list goal, or see if we could meet up with a colleague for a few hours.

At the time, I was freelancing virtually and one of the women I worked with lived only a few hours from the conference, and it was geographically possible to meet up for a few hours.

Alternately, we could have stayed in Greenville longer and did some more local sightseeing, or taken a day to lounge at the hotel and sleep. Considering my kids were 3 and 1 at the time, sleep was tempting!

Related: Is the goal clear? 

2. How does each option fit the big goal?

If one is an obvious choice, go for it! In this case, while sleep was tempting, the opportunity to do something I couldn’t do at home won out. The consideration between traveling and meeting my colleague was a tough one. Traveling was the obvious bucket-list goal choice, but what about professional and relationship goals? Those are much fuzzier to quantify, but also incredibly important to me. The road trip was the easier option, but was it the right one? The next question made the call.

3. What extenuating factors may influence your decision?

In this case, my introverted self had just spent three days meeting a whole lot of new people and I was tapped out. While I would have loved to meet my friend in person, the road trip was a better fit for my mental capacity at that specific point in time.

I made the decision to go for the road trip and see a few extra states in pursuit of my big goal. In addition to the state we were staying in, we hit three extra states in one day. States are so much closer together on the east coast!

In this instance, priorities meant that I picked traveling over seeing more people, and seeing quantity over quality and depth in any one area. If you faced the exact same scenario, asking the same three questions above may end up with a different answer based on your priorities and extenuating circumstances.

There is no right or wrong answer. By considering these questions, you can move forward with intentionality knowing that you are making conscious choices. When you make conscious choices with goals in mind, you exponentially increase your chance of reaching those goals!

Related: On goal setting and habit formation

For the curious: I’ve got 13 years left to get to 10 more states.

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