We’re heading to 2017, which seems crazy to me. Every year seems to go by faster. This is the time of year many people begin to set their goals for the next year. If you’re not one of those, you should be.

But before you set your goals for 2017 you need to know something about yourself. You need to know what you want from your life. If your list is full of fancy cars and ski villas, then you really have no idea what you want. Oh sure, you have some dream, but it’s just that…a dream. Some vague notion of what you think success will look like in your life.

It’s time to check out of that dream and come back to reality where you can set some meaningful goals. You do this by establishing the 4 Quadrants of your Ideal Life.

The Work

Start by taking a piece of paper and folding it in half top to bottom. Then unfold it and fold it in half again from side to side. Your sheet of paper is now divided into four sections, each of which is going to represent a quadrant of your ideal life. You’re going to put a heading in each quadrant to identify the four areas of your life in which you want to set goals to build your Ideal Life.

These quadrants can be unique to you but here are some examples to get your mind firing.

  • Family
  • Business
  • Professional
  • Finances
  • Health
  • Travel
  • Fitness
  • Food
  • Marriage

It doesn’t matter what they are or if they match up to anyone else’s quadrants. You’re building a vision for your ideal life, not the life others think you should live.

Once you have them down it’s time to start describing what your life will look like in each area in five years. Here is my family list:

  • I can take my kids hiking or outside a few days a week if I want
  • I’m around to help with homeschooling most days of the week
  • My wife and I are dating at least weekly and our time together is more meaningful than it is now

If you’re having trouble coming up with things to write down then start to ask yourself the questions below.

Questions to ask yourself

  • If a friend tapped you on the shoulder in a coffee shop five years from now and asked you how life was, what would make you respond with an unreserved “AMAZING!”?
  • If you could leave work right now and money was taken care of, where would you go?
  • If money wasn’t an issue, what would you be doing with your days?
  • What type of business do you want to run (hourly for money, products like books, recurring client revenue, coaching…)?
  • If you could serve one organization what would it be? For me it’s building houses in Mexico.
  • Do you want to be through your debt in five years so you’re debt-free?
  • What about your kids’ schooling (now and through college)?

Another tip if you’re getting stuck is to sit down with a friend or your spouse and talk through your goals. If it’s with your spouse or partner, you should each create separate sheets. Later you can put them together and see where things align and how you may make changes to suit the life you both want, but start by building your own.

Why you do this before your goals

When you choose to live the life of an entrepreneur, you choose a path of freedom. You choose to live on your own terms and can shape it into whatever you want it to be. In fact, everyone is capable of this freedom, but it is the entrepreneur who has mentally turned off autopilot and has taken control of his or her own future. This is why, when I hear about an entrepreneur who is unhappy in life, it makes me wonder how they have arrived there in the first place. – Will it Fly

Far too often business owners chase money and then look back in five or 10 years and realize they built a business they would never purchase. They’ve built a business that has them doing work they don’t like for customers that they don’t believe in.

[Tweet “Don’t tie yourself to work you don’t like for customers you don’t believe in.”]

By building your 4 Quadrants of your Ideal Life you can keep using it as a gut check against new business ideas. Knowing that I want to be around and in the outdoors with my kids a few days every week, I know that I can’t build a business that requires me to check email every day. I know that I need to be mobile and have my own schedule with no clients directly relying on me to show up at a specific time of the day.

That means while I could build plugins for WordPress and sell them, it would be a terrible idea unless I can shed the support burden. Even if I shed the support burden at some point, someday there will be an ‘emergency’ support issue, which will mean I will be required to be at my computer whether I want to be there or not.

As you consider your 2018 goals, start with your 4 Quadrants and then pin them to the wall so you can look at them every day. Filter every new business idea through them and cut the ones that won’t match up with the life you want to lead.

You can dig deeper into your Quadrants and accomplishing them with my 8 Week Business BootCamp. If you’re ready to start taking your work seriously and not working every hour to make the bare minimum happen, that’s the course you need.

photo credit: great8 cc