The Aspiration-Driven Life: Part 3 — Embracing Your Aspiration6 min read

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Knowing your aspirations is one thing; embracing them is something else. There is a gap between the two, one that not many people will cross. It requires you to cultivate the key elements of self-discipline—and also of spiritual practice—awareness and willpower.

In the previous article of this series we covered finding your aspiration, your why. What do you do next? You need to get excited about your vision it, translate it into specific goals, and get real about it by prioritizing it in your daily life.

Get Excited

Once you create a vision for your life, don’t just write it down somewhere and then forget about it. Take some time to deeply connect to why it matters to you. Develop an emotional connection with your aspiration, and let it sink into your subconscious mind. Magnify it as much as you can.

If you do this step properly, you will have all motivation and focus you need for the journey. If you skip it, you will end up feeling frustrated since now you know your goal, but lack the energy to pursue it.

How do you magnify your aspirations? There are three main strategies.

The first one is to expand the rewards of fulfilling your aspiration, and become fully aware of the pains of neglecting your aspiration. This creates strong neural networks in your brain associated with that aspiration. Your why now becomes much more important, which will generate more energy and focus to pursue that course of action. Instead of having four reasons to pursue something, you now have thirty!

Pain and pleasure are the core motivators in our biology, and in our psychology. In this method, we make use of them to become more motivated toward our dreams. If you want to increase your inner fire, your drive to take positive action, you need to be internally convinced that your aspiration is way better than your status quo.

If you think that your life is already perfect, that everything is good as it is, and that your aspiration is just a minor upgrade, you won’t be able to generate enough energy to take action consistently, make sacrifices, and overcome big obstacles.

This is one of the reasons why instant gratification is the main enemy of a life of purpose—it fills you with meaningless pleasures that distract you away from your core pain, and all the fire and achievement that could come from it!

To go through this method step-by-step, read Chapter 8 of Mindful Self-Discipline, or do the Black and White Exercise in the free Workbook.

The second strategy is to fan your fire via daily inspiration. This could involve:

  • regularly reading, listening to, or watching inspirational material
  • surrounding yourself with images and symbols that remind you of your aspiration, such as quotes, posters, and vision boards
  • surrounding yourself with positive people who support your goals, and who are also on fire about theirs
  • using affirmations and visualization practices to create the sense that you can achieve your goals (self-confidence), and the belief that it will happen

The third strategy is to plant your aspiration deep into your subconscious mind through special meditation techniques. If you are a member of the MSD app, you can use the Yoga Nidra for Aspirations audio for this purpose.

Action Step: use one or more of these strategies to help you magnify your aspirations and draw plenty of energy and enthusiasm from them.

Get Specific

Once your aspirations are clear and strong, it is time to make them specific. We do that by translating them into goals using the SMART Goals framework. If your aspiration doesn’t have specific goals attached to it, it will likely remain just a wish.

Why do we need goals? Because aspirations are by nature more long-term and abstract. They may take years to be fulfilled—perhaps a lifetime. Goals, on the other hand, are projects with a beginning, a middle, and an end. They help you advance toward your aspirations step by step.

Here are some examples of aspirations in different areas of life, and possible SMART Goals:

AreaAspirationSMART Goal
HealthTo live to 100 with perfect health and mobilityTransition into a permanent 16:8 intermittent fasting regime within the next 30 days.
CareerBe recognized as a leading voice in the field of XYZBuild some thought-leadership by publishing a short article every week for the next 6 months.
FinancesOwn a four-bedroom house with a large yard in a beautiful locationSave 20% of my income every month until I get X amount of dollars.
Personal GrowthBecome fully confident, grounded, and free from anxietyDo 20 minutes of meditation every morning, and one hour of self-reflection every Sunday.

Once you have achieved a goal, you get another goal connected to the same aspiration. The aspirations remain the same, while you cycle through short-term goals. Goal by goal, you are living your aspirations and getting closer to their fulfillment.

Action Step: make sure you have SMART Goals attached to each of your aspirations, and write them down.

Get Real

Getting real about your aspirations and goals is prioritizing them in your life, and being ready to make the needed sacrifices. This is where the rubber meets the road. It is life testing you to see if you really want what you say you want.

We all have three core resources in our life: our time, our money, and our energy. If we want our aspirations to be real in the future, we need to make them real in the present, by dedicating part of these three resources regularly. That is, we need to focus on them daily, and take action daily. If we don’t do this, our aspirations will never be fulfilled—they’ll remain just a wish.

Getting real also means being mature about the fact that living your aspirations will require some sacrifice. You will need to let go of short-term gains (instant gratification) for greater long-term gains; trading a small value (comfort) for a larger value (fulfillment). Your willingness to “make an offering”, or sacrifice, is the ultimate test of your aspiration. It is a virtue to be cultivated.

Don’t look upon sacrifice as something painful. Sacrifice is just another word for alignment and commitment. It is letting go of whatever is hindering your progress, even if you are very attached to it. It is being willing to pay the price for what you want, even if it’s somewhat uncomfortable.

What are you willing to offer in return for the fulfillment of your aspirations?

Reflect on this sincerely. Your offering could be dedicating some of your time, money, energy; or it could be letting go of bad habits, limiting beliefs, or contradictory desires. The bigger the offering you make, the bigger the reward you can reap. The more you give, the more you’ll be ready to receive.

Sacrifice is one of my favorite topics, because it’s so underrated and misunderstood. When you fully embrace it, you’ll not only be able to achieve your goals, but also live a healthier and happier life along the way.

You can learn more about this topic on chapter 13 of Mindful Self-Discipline. And, if you are a member of the MSD app, you can practice the Make Your Sacrifice meditation to generate greater commitment to your goals, and unlock your inner strength.

Summary

Making the changes you want to make in your life—be they external (goals) or internal (self-transformation)—requires that you become clear about what you want. Yet that clarity is just the first step. You also need to:

  • get excited about your vision, so you have the energy and motivation needed to move forward and face the obstacles
  • get specific about your goals, so you know exactly what your next steps are, and you don’t feel overwhelmed
  • get real about prioritizing your aspirations in daily life, and being ready to make the needed sacrifices so you live aligned with your values
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