There is a blog meme going around, possibly inspired by "The Bucket List." Shauna (a.k.a. Dietgirl) lists the eight things she wants to do before she "kicks the tin." But the overachiever author of The Simple Dollar lists nine things on his bucket list. I made something similar with pictures called a "Treasure Map" a couple of years ago, and it's amazing how many things on there I've done now: graduation, college teaching job, nicer (but still old) house where friends could drop by. I have several goals there that I'm still working on.
One night when I was in a hotel room for my last job, frustrated with the way things were working out, I grabbed the hotel stationery and started making a list of all the things I wanted in my next job. I don't have the list in front of me, but there were things like, "working more closely with people," "more flexibility on how I spend my time," "feel like I'm working on something important." Not long after I got my new job (the one I start next week), I found the list and realized that the job met every one of the things I listed except the salary I specified.
You could call this "The Secret," or you could just think about the ways that writing down exactly what you want focuses your attention on those things and helps you work toward them more consciously. Without those kinds of clear, specific goals, it's easy to wander around in life just getting by. You could apply this to finances, relationships, any area of your life where you want more satisfaction.
I reread Shauna's book last week. It really is amazing, and if you haven't read it yet, order it from the UK Amazon if you can. I really wonder if a big part of the secret to her amazing weight loss was her "Things to Do When I'm Skinny" list. Jus having a reminder why she was watching her food and exercising might have helped her through the tough times. And I don't mean the lame, wishy-washy "I just want to be healthy," thing that we tell ourselves so we don't think we're losing weight for vanity alone. First of all, there's still plenty of controversy over how much risk is associated with the extra weight. But maybe more importantly, it's too vague and suggests that we might be doing it to please other people instead of ourselves. The beauty of Shauna's list was that it's so specific: "run!," "wear dainty, strappy little shoes (currently would make me look like a drag queen with my pudgy ankles and feet)." And so on. It doesn't matter if someone else might think the reasons are silly ("leather pants? Really?" They motivated her (and she decided after she lost the weight that the leather pants were not really her style after all). I don't have a list like this yet but I will think about it and post one soon.