Throw Away the Bucket List. Try the 3x3x3 Life Goals Plan.
Write goals in a way that inspires action!
My uncle passed away yesterday morning, and in my sadness it got me thinking about life, potential, and goals. I love my uncle. He always looked out for me, especially after my father passed away unexpectedly 17 years ago.
My uncle’s death made me realize even more that tomorrow is not promised. He accomplished a lot in his life. His family, friends, and church members loved him dearly. He was a heck of a baseball player and was a well-respected employee at Exxon-Mobil (which is where his father, my father, and his son worked as well). He owned an amazing barbeque restaurant (Daddy Craft’s) with my father when they were younger, and he continued to cater functions for many years after the restaurant closed. In fact, he catered my mother’s funeral. Boy, he made the best homemade BBQ sauce in the world.
With all that I know he accomplished, I know for sure that he didn’t complete all of his earthly goals before he passed away. Only God knows what you will do on this earth during your life, but to most of us, it seems like we have so much more that we want to succeed. I can’t speak for everyone, but I would bet most humans enter the grave with some unfulfilled goals--whether big or small.
Why wait? Plan and attack your life goals now.
Depending on your faith or religion, you may believe in the potential and hope for the afterlife. But I think most of us can agree that what we do in this life matters.
So why waste a day in working toward the good that you want to do in the world? Why wait when you can take a small step toward accomplishing a life goal today?
Don't worry. This article isn’t another one of the billions of hyper hustle/seize the day/YOLO posts. I simply want to give you my simple life journal approach to attacking life goals. And yes, I mean ATTACK because accomplishing goals takes grace, effort, and intention.
I have news for you though. The bucket list isn’t the answer to accomplishing your goals. It’s an okay start, but it doesn’t motivate you to take action. It’s easy to write a bucket list and forget about it. And before you know it, your bucket list items are unfulfilled after multiple years or decades. I’m going to introduce a goal planning process that I created called the 3x3x3 Life Goals Plan. Let’s get started.
The 3x3x3 Life Goals Plan
I think goal-setting is more effective when things are kept simple. Things are also easier to do when you have an organized process. I already wrote about the 3x3 writing process (a tested method to help writers write more efficiently), but now it’s time to show you the 3x3x3 Life Goals Plan. This simple plan will fit on one piece of paper and get you going in the right direction for accomplishing your immediate life goals.
The 3x3x3 Life Goals Plan accomplishes goal-setting that’s organized by THREE spans of time (1, 3, and 5 years), THREE goal categories (spiritual, life(style), and work), and THREE specific goals accompanied with a first action for each goal category.
The first step is to grab a pencil and a notepad or journal. Pencil and paper works well because things will change with your 3x3 Life Goals Plan. Also, there’s something ‘magical’ about writing goals and plans on paper that helps them stick in your mind.
Write the date that you started your LGP at the top of the paper so that you can better track your goals over time.
Spiritual, Life(style), Work
The 3x3x3 Life Goals Plan is broken up in three major life areas or categories: Spiritual, Life(style), and Work.
Start with your 1-year life goals.
Write “Spiritual” “Life(style)” “Work” at the top of three equally spaced columns. Number your goals 1, 2, and 3 under each heading. Each number corresponds to the three goals that you want to accomplish in that category and timeframe (1, 3, or 5 years).
Spiritual goals are for your relationship with God.
Life(style) goals relate to your personal relationships, health, and financial goals.
Work includes your business, creative, side hustle, and job-related goals.
After you number the three columns, leave space for writing some notes below your 1-year goals list.
Repeat for your three and five-year goals
After you finish setting up your 1-year goals section, repeat the steps for your three and five-year goals. Setting up the 3x3x3 LGP is just that simple.
This 3x3x3 LGP exercise keeps you from looking too far ahead in the future. I think planning for at most five years in the future is the most realistic exercise because life is too unpredictable to plan beyond five years. The good news is that the positive goals that you work toward today will have a positive impact on your life 5, 10, and 15 years from now, Lord willing.
Here’s a photo of my 3x3x3 LGP so that you can see how the template should look (but feel free to tweak it to make it your own). I have a couple of my personal goals and ‘first actions’ in there for your inspiration.
It’s a good idea to set S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, attainable (but stretch yourself), relevant, and time-bound) goals and Locke-inspired goals (you’ll like these).
I don’t know your specific life situation, so I can’t tell you which goals to write down.
You may want to pay off your mortgage within five years (lifestyle). Do you want to publish a book within the next year (work)? Or maybe you may want to lose 30 lbs this year (lifestyle).
Lastly, it’s not enough to list your goals. Write the ‘first action’ that you need to do to move forward and get one step closer to accomplishing your goal. Your ‘first action’ for losing weight could be to book an appointment with your primary care physician or start a food journal. Just get started, whatever you do.
Power tip: You won’t have enough space on your 3x3x3 LGP to write all the steps and specific tasks required to complete your goals. I suggest that you project manage your goals with a tool like Asana so that you can document your progress and check off completed tasks.
Stretch yourself with your goals, especially for your three and five-year goals that are deeper in the future. You will be happy that you went through the 3x3x3 LGP process. Just know that your plan is a living document, which means that you need to look at it frequently to make sure you’re staying on track (or determine if you need to pivot). Your diligence with this goal-setting process will help you reach your goals. Not only that, you will find more joy and satisfaction in your life story as time goes on.
Of course, you can’t accomplish all of your goals in one day (nor should you try). But allow me to challenge you to go beyond writing a bucket list. Begin working on your 3x3x3 Life Goals Plan today. Why? Because tomorrow is not promised.
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