Are you familiar with the book, “Chicken Soup for the Soul”? If you’ve not had the pleasure of flipping through its pages, you’ve almost certainly heard its name echoing through popular culture. Born from the minds of authors Jack Canfield and Mark Hansen, this stirring anthology of 101 life-affirming stories blossomed out of a vision in the 80s, a friendship, and shared dreams.
Their road to success was anything but smooth. After a three-year-long crafting period, they faced an icy reception: a staggering 144 publishers declined their work. However, these refusals couldn’t shake their profound faith in the potential of their creation.
Finally, in 1992, their efforts bore fruit. A small publisher, Health Communications, took a leap of faith, heralding the beginning of an astonishing success story. Readers worldwide found solace and inspiration in these uplifting tales, leading to a prolific series with over 250 titles by 2020.
What’s the moral of this story?
Big dreams take form from clear, defined goals. But it’s not just about dreaming big; action and perseverance are vital when the going gets tough.
In this article, we’re going to delve into the intricate process of achieving your goals. (Spoiler: It’s a lot more than just checking off SMART goal boxes.)
Table of Contents
- How to Achieve Your Goals (Step-by-Step)
- Final Thoughts
How to Achieve Your Goals (Step-by-Step)
1. Set a SMARTer Goal
Even if you have some idea of what your dream is, you can run into other problems with consistently moving forward to achieve your goals. Such problems can include:
- Your dreams aren’t your own – You might be taking on your social circle’s dreams or your parents. When this happens, it’s going to be hard to stay consistent.
- You may feel overwhelmed with your dream – Chasing a dream is a huge undertaking because it can be mentally taxing. Trying to become a famous singer can lead to disappointment due to it being unrealistic. On the flip side, having a goal to create music every week is going to drive you in the same direction but without the unneeded stress of becoming famous.
- You have a cluttered mind and no organization – Organization of your mind and your space is key to thriving. If you’re easily distracted or suffer from an unclear mind, take a few moments to take deep breaths throughout the day or meditate to center yourself.
- You’re lacking a why – Why do you want to pursue this goal? Why be consistent with this habit? Knowing the answers to those questions is critical to be consistent. Not only that, but you need to have a great reason (or more) to keep at it.
This is why you need a SMARTer goal.
Understand What You Truly Want to Achieve
Aim to understand what types of goals you’d like to achieve.
To do this, you can use the 5 Whys framework to dig deep into your desires. The purpose of this framework is to ask yourself the question “why?” five times. Every single time you ask why you’re getting to the source of why you started goal setting in the first place.
Let’s say your initial goal is to‘make more money.’
Why do you want to make more money? “Because I want to buy a big house.”
Why do you want a big house? “Because living in a big house is comfortable”
Why does only a big house make you comfortable? “Because I have a big family, with a wife and three kids; we need a big house for everyone.”
Why do you want a big house for everyone to live in? “Because I want them to live in a comfortable place.”
Why is that? “Because I love my family and I want them to be happy.”
Can you now see the clear difference between the initial want and the true purpose at the end? In this example, you thought you wanted more money; but in reality, what you truly want is for your family to be happy. While making more money and getting a big house could do that, how you treat your family and the time you spend with them are key elements too.
How to Set SMART Goals
Setting SMART goals and start accomplishing significant personal goals with personal accountability – without limiting beliefs.
- Specific – What is the direction and meaning of the goal I’m pursuing?
Example: I want to lose 50 pounds.
- Measurable – Will the goal be able to be measured?
Example: Every week I will weigh in and measure my progress.
- Aattainable – Is the goal realistic?
Example: I have spare time and money to devote to losing weight.
- Relevant – Does the goal align with my inner self?
Example: Yes, I want to look good during the summer.
- Time-Bound – When will the goal need to be met?
Example: I have a year to lose 50 pounds.
Set Specific Goals
Goals that are vague or generalized are ineffective because they lack direction. Keep in mind that you’ll need targets to guide you. Make it as simple as possible to get where you want to go by identifying your destination in detail.
Set Measurable Goals
Use specific numbers, deadlines, and other details in your milestones so that you can track your progress.
How would you know that you’ve achieved your target if it’s as simple as “reduce expenses”? If you have a 1% reduction in a month, what would you do in two years if you have a 10% reduction?
You lose out on the joy that comes with thinking you’ve accomplished something if you don’t have a way to track your progress.
Set Attainable Goals
You can only demoralize yourself and erode your trust if you set a target that you have no chance of achieving. However, fight the temptation to set too simple targets.
At best, achieving a goal for which you didn’t have to work hard can be anticlimactic, and it can even make you dread setting potential targets with a chance of failure.
You achieve the required balance by setting practical and daunting targets. These are the kinds of targets and types of goals that force you to “lift the mark,” and they have the most personal fulfillment by fulfilling these challenging goals.
Set Relevant Goals
Goals should be important to the path you choose to follow in your life and work. You’ll build the focus you need to get ahead and do what you want if you keep your priorities consistent with this.
Set expectations that are disjointed and contradictory, and you’ll waste your time – and your life.
Set Time-Bound Goals
This means you’ll be able to recognise when you’ve achieved something. When you’re running on a deadline with your goals, your sense of urgency rises, and you’ll do more quickly.
The above is a great example of SMART goal setting that will get you started on creating a successful plan. You want to have every step written down before you start your life-changing mission. Being efficient when planning your goals will make it easier to accomplish them.
2. Plan Your Goal
Start with Set Milestones
Goal setting starts to have a real impact when you see your hard-earned work turn into results.Setting milestones will help you to achieve your goals. To create a milestone it has to meet the following criteria:
- It’s challenging
- It can be completed within the span of a month
- It’s concrete
Map out your plan
— Break down your plan into milestones. These will be bite-sized steps that once completed you can check off on your way to completing your long-term goal.
Create a backup plan in case any milestones fail — You should have a back-up plan in case life gets in the way.
You might find the following quick example helpful:
Let’s say that your goal is to get a new job. You could map out this goal using a plan such as this one:
- Decide what kind of job you’re looking for
- Scope out potential employers
- Start submitting applications
- Continue applying every day
- First interview
- Put in your 2 weeks
- Celebrate your new job!
When you have a plan like this, you’ll quickly be able to start ticking off items from your list, which will encourage you and motivate you to keep going until the finish line.
If you want to achieve your goals you need to focus on taking the right actions. Your actions should have:
- Intention – Why you are doing something.
- Value – The benefits that this task is bringing you.
- Cost – What you have to give up or invest to achieve that value.
Have a Reward System
Setting up a reward system is going to make it easier to achieve your goals. When you’re seeing the results you want and getting to celebrate them, it’ll be easier to continue creating bigger and more impactful goals.
- Every time you complete a milestone, reward yourself
- Ensure that the rewards are proportionate to the milestone. IE: If you applied for a job that doesn’t mean you should buy yourself an expensive suit.
Schedule the Tasks
Keep yourself on track by planning your actions. Block scheduling is one method to ensure you’re staying on track.
But despite all the planning done, remember that plans can still fall short. Planning around Planner’s fallacy means ensuring that you have a back-up plan in mind and are open to the idea of reviewing and making adjustments to your milestones or plans should you fail.
Don’t Get Stuck in Planning Fallacy
Plans don’t always go according to plan. Don’t get stuck trying toforce your plan, go with the flow.
The issue is that when you put together a plan, you can become stubborn when your plan changes. Here is how you can avoid it:
- Don’t immediately doubt yourself
You’re better off making two big assumptions: we have some inability to plan properly, and we’re blind to it.
- Pay attention to your track record
Overconfidence is one of the roadblocks you can face when planning. When you have hard data about what you’re capable of accomplishing, you won’t plan for something that you can’t achieve.
- Deal with uncertainty
- Worse-case planning: As the saying goes “plan for the worst” this is all about determining the worst possible scenario and figuring out how to overcome it.
- Flexible-planning: Instead of focusing on the result, you’re putting more focus on the actions that get you to the results.
3. Act on Your Goal
The third step is to follow through on your goal setting. With a plan, it should be pretty clear cut, but consider the following things to make acting on your goals much easier:
Start Small and Schedule
There are all kinds of tools and methods to help you schedule tasks. Just be sure that they align with the milestones you’ve planned.
Here’re some options for you:
Review Progress Consistently
Make it a weekly activity to review your progress. If you’ve made a small step towards your goal, celebrate it through your reward system. If you didn’t, consider what you need to do to make sure you’re staying on track.
Create an Environment That Helps Your Goal
If you’re in an environment that hinders your success mindset, you have to think of ways to change your environment. Things like cleaning your desk, letting more natural light in, being around different people could be what you need to get your mind into focus.
Imagine this scenario:
You have a goal to lose 20 lb of weight in the next 6 months.
If you tried to get fit without a road map, then you’d probably fail to achieve your aim.
However, by getting your environment right, such as by only stocking healthy food in your home, you’ll give yourself the best chance of success.
Add to that making yourself accountable — perhaps by getting your partner on board with your goal — and you’ll start to find the motivation you need.
If you keep reviewing your progress and reward yourself every time you hit one of your incremental targets, then you’ll have everything you need to help you reach your weight loss goal.
Practice, Practice, Practice
While the SMARTER goal system can be a great way to set goals, this is only the start of your story.
It’s here where deliberate practice can shine.
Before deliberate practice, you have naive practice and purposeful practice.
Naive practice is where most people are at and it satisfies the following conditions:
- You treat your goal like a hobby where it’s something you do once in a while.
- When you practice, the scale of the challenge is low. You raise the bar in small increments or you continue to perform the same thing. For example, you may be playing the same song on an instrument or writing the same form of article.
For purposeful practice you have to:
- Tailor your goal to something more specific. For example, instead of practicing the same song constantly, add a layer of challenge to it. Say you’ll play the song multiple times in a row without making a single mistake.
- Develop a strategy to help you achieve your objective.
- Have a clear and concise reason to push yourself.
To be someone who deliberately practices, you have to:
- Satisfy the previous conditions of purposeful practice
- Ensure the practice you’re doing is in a performance-based field. I.e. The field that you’re practicing has a clear distinction between those who are experts and those who are novices.
- Have a system or mentor to guide you
4. Stick With Your Set Goals
Create a Solid Accountability System
An accountability system is a solid way to ensure you are committed to holding yourself accountable and working towards your set goals. It’s an extra incentive to be performing your best.
Examples of additional accountability are things like giving people or yourself updates on your progress, recognizing progress, and celebrating. This is a key way to stick to your goals, and of course, reach your goals.
Having an accountability partner provides an extra incentive as the ideal partner will encourage you to stay motivated and focus on your set goals.
You can also add another layer of challenge by involving money. Paying a trusted friend at the end of the week if you don’t hit your goal is a great incentive to perform.
Achieving your goals requires setting SMARTER goals, creating a plan, taking action, and staying committed. It’s crucial to understand your true desires and set specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound goals.
Planning with milestones and a backup plan is essential. Taking intentional actions, reviewing progress, and creating a supportive environment are key. Practice and stay accountable to stick to your goals.
Remember, it’s a dynamic process that requires patience and perseverance. With the right mindset and strategies, you can achieve your goals.
Featured photo credit: Ameer Basheer via unsplash.com