Do you ever feel like you reach for the stars and never seem to get the results you want? You aim high and hope for the best, but reaching goals never seems to happen, and you’re not sure what you’re doing wrong.
Goals are tough to achieve. Sometimes your goals are too vague, too broad, or just unrealistic. However, here’s the good news: you’re already ahead of most people just by setting goals. Now you need to tweak your approach, and you’ll make reaching goals easier.
Here are eight ways to get you going on the right path (don’t forget, we have a great guide on how to achieve my goal).
1. Set the Right Types of Goals
Ever heard of a big, hairy, audacious goal (BHAG)? It’s a term coined by Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, to describe a goal that’s strategic and emotion-driven. Collins advocates setting these types of goals because the traditional SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-driven) lack the emotional connection necessary for accomplishing big life goals.
A better approach, according to Mark Murphy, CEO of Leadership IQ, a leadership training and research company, is to form “HARD” goals
- Heartfelt: Having an emotional attachment to your goal.
- Animated: Motivated by a vision, picture, or movie in your mind.
- Required: Goals need to feel so urgent and necessary that you have no other choice but to start acting on them immediately.
- Difficult: Drag you out of your comfort zone, activating your senses and attention.
2. Map out Your Plan
It’s not enough to have a goal. You need an action plan to accomplish it, too. This is where many people fail.
They set goals but don’t follow-up and create a plan with the important steps to get started. When this happens, big goals seem overwhelming, and you’re more likely to give up.
Create a road map to reach your goal. Plan one or two actions you can take each week, and focus on doing small things every day. For example, if your goal is to start a new business this year, this week you can choose a URL and do some research on building a WordPress website. The key is to break your goal down into smaller steps that are more achievable.
3. Visualize and Reflect
Social scientist Frank Niles, Ph.D., explains:
When we visualize an act, the brain generates an impulse that tells our neurons to “perform” the movement. This creates a new neural pathway—clusters of cells in our brain that work together to create memories or learned behaviors—that primes our body to act in a way consistent to what we imagined.
Visualize yourself reaching your goals, including the process and work it will take to get there (this is important). Try to feel what it will be like once you reach those big accomplishments. This will form a lasting picture in your mind that will sustain your motivation over the long run.
4. Write Yourself a Letter
I love this tip from John Carlton, the legendary copywriter. He says, “My trick to setting goals is very simple: I sit down and write myself a letter, dated exactly one year ahead.”
Carlton says you should write yourself a detailed letter describing your life one year from now. It’s a powerful technique and is another way to use visualization to map out your desired outcome in your mind. It’s also great fun to read it a year later to see if you’ve achieved what you had hoped.
5. Take Action Every Day
It doesn’t matter how much you learn if you don’t take action. Don’t get caught up in analysis paralysis. The best way to learn is by doing and to embrace failure—it’s the stepping stone to success for all successful people and their long-term goals.
Everyday actions don’t have to be big. You simply need to take one small step in the right direction.
If your goal is to eat healthier, pick up an apple instead of a cookie. If your goal is to start yoga, find a five-minute video that won’t overwhelm you with new poses. Any step you take is a good one.
6. Tell Others
Having to stay accountable to someone is a great motivator when you want to start reaching goals. Find someone to act as an accountability partner, and spend time explaining which goals or healthy habits you’re trying to work on. It could be your spouse, a friend, or a neighbor. You just need someone who will check in on how you’re doing with your goal.
As a bonus, you’ll likely get valuable feedback from them along the way, even if you fail to reach a goal or milestone while goal setting.
7. Plan for Setbacks
Being a good goal-setter is kind of like boxing; you need to learn to roll with the punches because you know you’re going to get hit. The best way to minimize the impact of setbacks is to plan for them. Have a contingency plan for when things go wrong, and be prepared to react and learn from those setbacks.
Keep in mind that, while you may have created a timeline, you may need to tweak it later. Life is full of unforeseen complications. If you run into one, adjust your timeline without feeling negative about the change. It’ll only help you move forward in the end.
8. Evaluate Your Progress Every Week
Ask yourself: what did I do this week to get closer to my goal? What worked? What didn’t?
Consider using a journal to reflect on the progress you made (or didn’t). Check this journal each time you feel unsure of how to proceed.
Don’t forget to celebrate your success, too. Allow yourself to bask in the success of a great week, and then get right back at it and check the next thing off your list. That’s how you’ll reach your ultimate goals.
Find ways to celebrate your successes in this article.
It’s great to dream big, but that also means you need to plan big. The bigger your goal, the more organization and motivation it will require. If you’re prepared to put in the effort of making a step-by-step plan and following it to the best of your ability, set your sights high and get started.
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