Most of what you want can be accomplished, but not without a proper plan
I’ve never quite understood those people who say they don’t believe in goal-setting. I envy them a bit for having such a relaxed attitude towards life, but I don’t want to be them. I want my best life, and that involves making sure I’m doing the things I need to do to have it.
An article in Entrepreneur states that “not having goals is an excellent recipe for average living.” And I have no desire to be average. I need more for myself, and goal setting is one of the main ways I satisfy this urge.
So, if you crave more from your life than your present circumstances, you need to embrace the benefits of goal-setting as well. Here’s how to accomplish this to achieve maximum results.
Pause and prioritize your ultimate goals.
If you’re like me, when you have a goal, you’re so ready to jump into action that this step may seem pointless. I mean, you already know what you want, right, so why waste time sitting down and thinking about it? However, the truth is you need to do this essential step to make your goals a reality, and here’s why.
Most of us don’t simply want to achieve only one thing in our lives, we want many things, such as stronger relationships with our children or lovers, weight loss or a healthier lifestyle, and increased success in our careers. And this floating list of numerous goals in our mind often muddles our focus and leads to “decision fatigue.” This is why it is essential to pare down these desires to one or two things of utmost importance.
So, prioritize. Right now, what are one or two areas of your life that make you feel the most dissatisfied? What situations or problems most sabotage your ability to live your best life?
You’ll know you’ve found the right goals to pursue if the accomplishment of the goal itself will indirectly serve to satisfy many of the other less important things you desire. For example, if your goal is to lose weight, doing so will make you feel more confident and powerful, and this may lead to gains in your personal relationships or career success.
So take so some time to determine these things and narrow your vision.
Write these goals down.
Now that you’ve whittled down your list of goals to those that are most important, the next step is to cement them by writing them down. Research has proven that “people who write their goals are more likely to achieve their goal than those who don’t by 50%.”
Writing down your goals will give you a laser-sharp focus on exactly what it is you are trying to achieve in the long run. The act of doing this allows you to visualize the “big idea” first before you break down the process further by listing the specific things you will do to attain this goal.
Break these goals into small actionable steps.
Now that you’ve looked at your end goal, stop thinking about it. Instead, think about the specific things that will lead you to the attainment of this goal.
Yes, having a vision is great, but having a plan is greater. As famous artist Pablo Picasso says, “Goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.”
James Clear, author of the bestseller Atomic Habits expands on this idea by using a sports comparison. He states, “The goal in any sport is to finish with the best score, but it would be ridiculous to spend the whole game staring at the scoreboard.”
So make a game plan. A specific one. And keep your list simple. Trying to implement too many steps at one time is the quickest recipe for failure. You need a daily plan where you decide to focus on one or two actions that will move you closer to your goal.
The fact that you have a high chance of success in accomplishing these few actions will increase your confidence and momentum. Then, when these actions become less difficult, you can add in more changes that will spark additional growth.
For example, my goal for the new year is to lose ten pounds. How am I going to put this goal into motion? I’m going to start small. In the beginning, I will only focus on three things: drinking more water (especially before meals), cutting out the sugar and creamer in my three daily cups of coffee, and taking a thirty-minute walk.
Pretty simple, right? These are things I know I can do, things that will start the chain of events moving and increase my confidence and energy.
Now think about your overall goal. Choose two to three things you can do daily to propel you closer to your desired destination. List them under the big goals you set down on paper. And keep a record of your victories or defeats.
Keep a record to look back on and revise as necessary.
Keep a calendar handy or some form of record-keeping so that you can look back at your successes or failures at accomplishing your daily goals. If you look at the process of attaining your goals realistically, there will inevitably be setbacks, times you “jump off the wagon” so to speak.
Record keeping allows you to track these trends and make necessary adjustments. If you make it a point to look at your progress weekly, you may notice a key task that is not getting done regularly. If so, you make need to make changes to your routine.
As Napoleon Hill, author of the bestseller Think and Grow Rich, says “when defeat comes, accept it as a signal that your plans are not sound, rebuild those plans, and set sail once more toward your coveted goal.”
For example, if you’re a parent and your after-work responsibilities to your children make things like exercise or activities requiring uninterrupted focus difficult, you may have to set the alarm an hour earlier before the kids wake up or center your tasks in the evening after your kids go to bed.
The only way you can successfully see gains in the right direction is if you study your downfalls and revise your plans to make them easier to accomplish. And this requires a specific knowledge that only you have.
Things such as your bio-rhythms and daily responsibilities must all be taken into account, and if the habits you try to make stick work against these truths, you’ll limit your success. Knowing what is working and what is not is essential, and looking at a hard copy of your “work in progress” will alert you to problems quickly so you can reflect on and implement more effective methods to keep advancing.
Make yourself accountable.
There’s often a certain amount of pressure needed for us to follow through on our goals. For example, think about people who only manage to lose the extra weight when they know they’ll be in the spotlight. Think about women who only manage to quit smoking when they discover they’re pregnant.
This is why you need to add a bit of pressure to hold yourself accountable for taking the necessary steps to fulfill your goals.
Find a caring but honest friend to report to, someone who will kindly “call you out” when you start taking backward steps, or join a group that you check in with to explain your progress (or lack thereof) towards your aims.
An article in Success explains the effectiveness of these acts of accountability, stating that “human nature is such that when we know someone else is going to ask us about it, we are much more motivated to get it done — if for no other reason than we don’t want to look lazy and uncommitted. This is why having an accountability partner is so important.”
The bottom line:
An article in Positive Psychology cites studies that “[provide] empirical evidence to support the claim that accountability, commitment, and writing down goals have a major influence on an individual’s commitment towards reaching self-imposed goals.” And these three factors are of extreme importance for those of us who seek more for ourselves and more out of life in general.
The world’s most successful people know it’s important to dream big, but they also know dreaming alone will not give them the results they want. They understand it takes a lot of groundwork to win the war against mediocrity.
And writer Henry David Thoreau gives us wise advise on these two crucial factors when he states, “If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”
And I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to start working on my castle.