Remember that time when your whole future was all laid out clearly in front of you, like a big map, to plan it all from beginning to end in precise detail, and it turned out EXACTLY the way you planned it?

Me neither!

This perfect scenario just doesn’t happen. It’s much more common – not to mention easier – to make flimsy ‘wireframes’ of your future goals. Nothing concrete; just a mishmash of the things that excite or interest you, today. Like ‘serving suggestions’ for your life, rather than a hardcore Masterchef challenge recipe that has 162 steps for definite success. I’m talking the ‘Get fit’, ‘Learn another language’, or ‘Save up to buy a house’ kind of thing. Sound familiar?

If you’re an expert in the half-baked dreams but no good at achieving them, I have a proposition for you. It’s an alternative to traditional models, and a much more forgiving, but equally effective way to achieving your own success.

I propose you make a PACT with your future self.

Why they work

The benefit of a pact is that pacts are just more… human. We aren’t robots that can be programmed with algorithms. Not one of us has ever had certainty that life will move forward in a neat, linear fashion. Hell, most of our to-do lists don’t even get ticked ‘done’ from top to bottom!

Pacts focus on the final and enduring goals of who and what you want to become, but leave you free to change, move, fail and succeed anytime between now and then.

Making a pact that is as unique as You are

Pacts can be serious and deep, or light and fun. All good ones are life-changing. They speak to your truest self, your rawest character, and work in with your personality. They can be formed to work for who YOU are.

Say you’re a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of person, you can make a pact that is light and fun, and plays to your love of change and adventure, like this:

Over the next five years, never let anything or anyone put you in a situation where you can’t move around, travel or express yourself freely. Surround yourself with other travellers and adventurers, people who feed your wanderlust. Check in every year with yourself, and change anything that is making you feel stuck.

If you’re, say, a more methodical person, who values security and a great home life, your pact could be something like this:

Promise to consistently put aside some of your income so you can create a financially secure future, even if it’s a small amount and no matter where you are or who you’re with. Over the next 3 years learn what’s involved with buying a home. Use that knowledge over the next 10 years to buy a house that you can turn into the home of your dreams.

My own pact

There was one special time that I went beyond the half-baked dreaming and made a concrete pact with myself. I was fresh out of university, and ready to take on the world. The vision of all the time I had in front of me was clear and thrilling – I could do whatever I wanted! My big passions, my big dreams, overcoming my big fears…they were all possible. So I made this pact:


Your 20’s will be the decade for learning all you can about work types and workplaces to find your ideal career path. Make sure you work in all sorts of different places, getting as much experiences under your belt as humanly possible. Go everywhere! Travel the world! Meet thousands of people! Say YES to everything!  

Then, when you’re 30, check in with yourself. See what work you loved most out of those ten years, and hone in on that. Become an expert, and start really loving what you do. Never waste time doing anything that you aren’t good at or don’t like.


And so it began. I did achieve a lot in my 20’s. I travelled the world a few times over, I wrote and created and designed, I climbed the ladder into management in between sabbaticals and round-the-clock working. I fell in and out of love more times than I can remember. I met people from all everywhere and learnt how to read them. I kept my pact.  Good on me!

…and where I went wrong.

I’m flying high on my successes. Awesome. But something went terribly wrong in my thirties. I forgot the pact completely. Twenty Nine turned into Thirty, and somehow Thirty Five showed up on the doorstep of my life and I was NOT honing in on anything I LOVED. I didn’t even know what that was!? What happened?!

Only now, at 35, did the memory of the pact hit me this year like a brick as I was chatting with a friend of mine. She’s close to a decade my junior and reminds me of what I was like ‘when I was her age’ (sorry). As she chatted away I remembered it. The more she spoke of her future, the more intense my regret pulsed in my chest. Holy shitballs! I haven’t checked in with myself for over FIVE YEARS.

After my panic attack subsided, I realised that chat was a blessing. I’ve since made changes, and I’m back to honouring my pact to myself.

My lesson to you is, fellow Pact Maker, is that you can change it, add to it, take away from it, but don’t EVER forget it!

How to make a pact with yourself

It is not difficult to make your own promise to live your best life. All you need to do is uncover the biggest wish you have for yourself. The questions below are a great place to start. Take a day or two answering them and you’re well on your way to creating an awesome, concrete pact. Remember, your rules, your way. Just make it count, for YOU.

  1. What do you want for your future self?
  2. What would you definitely, never want for your future self?
  3. What’s important to you now? Career? Home? Family? Relationships? Self-exploration? Faith? (This is a great place to start)
  4. What would you regret NOT doing by the time you’re ten years older than right now?
  5. What’s one thing can you do today that will make your future self, proud of you?

Once you’ve answered these questions, why don’t you put it out there and make your pact public in the comments below?! Come on, it’ll be fun!

Posted by:cynthiac

One thought on “Suck at goal-setting? Try this effective (and more forgiving) alternative.

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