3 Keys to Effectively Achieving Goals

How to Achieve Your Goals This Year Even if You've Quit Before

Kathleen Byars | December 31, 2016

Most everything you are taught about goals makes it seriously difficult to actually achieve them.

Standard protocol suggests that you: (1) choose the correct goal (without guiding you to understand what a correct goal might really look like), (2) create a laser-sharp focus on achieving it, and (3) pound your goal into submission with an intense amount of will power.

That’s doable, but man is it HARD. You can stop eating chocolate cake for awhile in order to lose 5 lbs, but at some point you’re going to want that dang cake. And you can put in the extra hours at work to earn a promotion, but at some point even the most hardened (board room ) Wall Street Warrior needs a break.

Which is why much of the year-end goal setting and New Year resolution-making is temporal. As the shiny “time ball” drops at Times Square, you kiss your loved ones and salute your friends vowing that “this year will be different.”

Will it?

It can be! Here are three strategies to EFFECTIVELY achieve your goals.


Years ago, I had a colleague who ate an unhealthy diet. Cheeseburgers, fries, and diet soda were standard fare. He was young, thin, and didn’t have any outward signs suggesting he change his ways. Yet, his doctor – and family history – told a different story. If he didn’t change his eating habits, my colleague would likely meet an early death. Heart disease and high cholesterol were in his genetics and took the life of his father at the age of 50.

My colleague tried to hit the gym, but inevitably quit. At lunch, he mixed in salads, but couldn’t gag down his greens for longer than a week. He would eat healthy and exercise for a month or two, only to fall back in his ways.

This wasn’t an issue of focus. Or willpower. Or habit. He had all three of these. What was missing was motivation. And motivation is driven by our deep-seeded needs.

When you don’t tie your goals to your needs, you face a much higher risk of failure.

In the case of my colleague, he wasn’t motivated by the thought of an early demise. Nor did he care about becoming physically fit. What he did care about was his wife. Deeply. And his young family. One day, his doctor said to him, “If you don’t change your health now, your wife will be widowed and your children will grow up fatherless.”

Bingo. Now my colleague could tie his goal back into a strong and powerful need – the connection he savored with his family. If he didn’t straighten out his health, the connection would be lost in the most tragic of ways possible – an early, untimely death.

From that point on, every time I saw my colleague he was eating grilled chicken and salads for lunch and leaving his office 20 minutes early each day to run before going home. He kept this practice lives a healthy, fit life today. In his mid-40’s he is still alive and thriving alongside his cherished wife and kids.

Whatever your goals may be this year, tie them back to your needs and you’ll find the desire you need to make those goals a reality.


Goals can be, and should be, audacious. Big goals will stretch you and help you grow. Big goals scare you. Big goals change your life.

Yet, achieving big goals takes time. Just like the goal of health in the example above, you don’t achieve big goals in a week or a month. Sometimes, they take years.

And it’s hard to wait because while you’re waiting you feel like you are failing. After a while, that big, incredible goal starts to seem out of reach. Unattainable. Too hard.

So you quit. No one wants to live in the land of failure day after day after day.

This isn’t a new idea…in the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey suggests we break down our goals into smaller steps.

“By making small strides toward great goals, little by little, you expand your freedom…”

– Stephen R. Covey

Ten years ago, my husband and I created a big, huge goal for our future: to create a family-focused lifestyle. At the time, we were full-time professionals and making time for kids seemed an impossibility. Yet, we not only made time to have children, we began taking the small steps necessary to be home with our children on a full-time basis.

It didn’t happen overnight. When our sons were young, we both worked full-time, yet I negotiated a work-at-home arrangement with my employer. The first year, I worked at home two days a week and went into the office three. The second year, I worked at home three days a week and went into the office two. By year three, I was working almost exclusively at home, apart from a Tuesday morning staff meeting. Although grateful for the flexibility, I was still working a lot of hours, which meant I wasn’t always present during “mommy time.” We then took the next step and decided to dial back our lifestyle for a couple years, while also creating passive income so I could be home full time with the boys and fully engage in motherhood.

Today, my husband is a full-time dad while I’ve stepped back into the career world. He homeschools our kids; another step toward our goal. And this year, Scott will be working with me in launching a new business that will provide even more flexibility for our family.

Do you see what I mean? Each year, Scott and I make strides toward our goal of a family-centric life. Is the goal achieved and done with? Of course not! We continue to evolve each year with the next step in the journey. Along the way, we celebrate the progress we’ve made and have gratitude for how far we’ve come.

Often I see people looking for a magic bullet – the business model or financial investment that gives you instant wealth while you work from home for only a few hours per week. That’s not a big, audacious goal. It’s cognitive dissonance and will quickly leave you feeling deflated, depressed, and discouraged.

Overnight success toward any goal is rarely, well, overnight.


In order to achieve your goals, willpower is certainly necessary, but you’ll quickly run out of willpower without embracing habits.

Once you’ve outlined steps to reach your goal, you’ll need to create habits for those steps and as Nike says “Just Do It!” Anyone with a mobile phone can easily put a daily or weekly reminder on the schedule so you don’t forget.

Let’s say you want to write a book. Rather than wait for the perfect Sunday afternoon to snuggle up on the back patio and create your manuscript under a blue sky, set the alarm clock every morning thirty minutes earlier and start writing. Or go to work earlier and leave earlier, stopping off at a coffee shop to write every afternoon. Don’t think about. Don’t analyze it. Just do it.

Maybe you’ve committed to strengthening your relationships this year. Don’t talk about it, or plan to do it, DO IT. Figure out the necessary steps and remember to start small, and make those small steps a habit. Put a reminder on your calendar to call your parents every Sunday night. Or put the kids to bed early on Thursdays and enjoy a movie night with your spouse. Start every day with a salad so you’ve checked your healthy veggie box for the day and won’t get blown off course when your staff meeting runs late and you’re eating M&Ms from the office snack machine.


So what’s the point of all this? Well, FREEDOM quite frankly. And confidence. And living the life you want! After all, isn’t that what life is supposed to be about? Creating the world you want to live in, rather than living in the world someone else created for you?

Will it happen overnight? No. Yet, IT IS POSSIBLE to reach those seemingly impossible goals by following the three steps above. By aligning your goals with your needs, taking small steps, and creating habits even the most audacious goals can become reality.

I hope you’ll give these strategies a try and let me know how it goes!

I believe we all have a bit of trailblazer inside us, don’t you? It’s my passion to help others create change. I’ve always found that disrupting the status quo leads to an amazing life where anything is possible.

If you think someone in your network could benefit from this article, please share!

Giving the Gift of Presence

Giving the Gift of Presence

Kathleen Byars | December 23, 2016

Baking Midwestern farm cookies at Christmas are a tradition in our family. My grandmother used to bake huge, soft circular discs and stuff a mixture of fruits, nuts, and dates in between two of them to create a ginormous sugar cookie sandwich. I am told she fed these to her four, strapping sons when they come home from the farm fields at lunch time.

My mother and her sister carried on the tradition; each taking turns every Christmas to bake multiple batches and ship one-half of the batch to the other sister, thus saving her the labor until next year. As a child, I remember my excitement at receiving the special box of cakey sugar cookies in the mail from my Aunt, each ablaze with bright-colored frosting, long before the toxic effects of Yellow 5 and Red 40 food colorings were known.

And I wistfully recall many beautiful holiday afternoons baking and frosting our own batch of cookies with my mom, who is no longer with us.

Six years ago, our family became grain-free and I stopped baking these delightful little memories. While we have found many alternatives to other family recipes, this very special cookie recipe, replete with Crisco shortening and cup after cup of gluten-y flour, has no substitute.

Yet, as I surveyed the landscape of this year’s holiday season, I decided that baking memories is exactly what I – and my boys – needed.vintage-pyrex-bowls I unearthed my grandmother’s wooden pastry board and my mother’s vintage Pyrex mixing bowls. I bought real flour. And food coloring. And, god forbid, Crisco.

I put down my cell phone; crumpled up my to-do list; and closed the door on the room full of unwrapped presents. I gathered my exuberant, bouncing little boys into the kitchen and we made Grandma’s Midwestern Farm Cookies. As the eldest pounded the dough into submission and my littlest rolled out crooked shapes, I told the boys stories about my mom – the grandmother my boys will never know – and how grateful I am to share this family tradition with each of them.

As the first batch of sugary cookies hit the baking rack to cool, and the smell hit my younger son’s senses, he piped up, “I’m pretty sure your mom was a baking genius!” I laughed.

I whipped up a batch of confectioner sugar frosting and asked the boys to each choose two vibrant colors. We ended up with very un-Christmas-y lime green, hot pink, turquoise blue, and deep purple cookies. The boys added sprinkles and our cookie tradition was complete.

We each sampled one and then delivered the rest around town; creating our own special twist on sharing and sending love.soft-sugar-cookies-7

Sifting through my emails this holidays season, I am bombarded with messages offering me a long list of special offers, sales, and last-minute opportunities to purchase holiday presents. While I like a good sale as much as the next gal, what I am really honored to be giving my family this year is my presence, not presents.

I am giving my family the gift of putting down my cell phone, shutting off the computer, and setting an auto-responder on emails. I am not rushing to set next year’s goals or trying to “get a jump on the competition” by working straight through the holiday season. Instead, you’ll find me knee-deep in Legos, curled up next to my husband on the couch with a book, or jumping outside with the boys on our new trampoline. Savoring every single moment.

We spend so much of our lives focused on success and getting ahead. Yet, living a life of deep meaning and personal satisfaction is about balance, prioritizing time, and appreciating the moment. That’s what I’ll be doing for the next week. Giving my family my undivided presence.

While I wish you much success in 2017; right now I wish you the gift of creating moments with your own family or friends this holiday season. May your holiday be beautiful and full of memories!

I believe we all have a bit of trailblazer inside us, don’t you? It’s my passion to help others create change. I’ve always found that disrupting the status quo leads to an amazing life where nothing is impossible.

If you think someone in your network could benefit from this article, please share!

Forget Following Your Passion

The Ideal Career? Forget Following Your Passion

Kathleen Byars | December 11, 2016

The idea that finding your passion will lead to a more fulfilling career – and better life – is misleading.

We’ve all heard the phrase “follow your passion and success will come…” I beg to differ.

Our hope is that by following our passion, we can solve our present day problems and wake up each day doing something we love.

I hate to disappoint you, but passion is not the answer to having the career – and life – you want.

It’s also common to open up the latest personal development book to find the author recommending that you simply start taking action. Rather than suffer paralysis-by-analysis, simply jump in and do something toward meeting your dreams.

While I very much agree that action is a crucial ingredient, you first have to know where you’re headed and in fact, have a clear vision you are working toward, for your action to have any lasting effect.

Action, without purpose, is simply grinding your gears.

So where do you begin? If your present-day career trajectory isn’t delivering the life you want, how the heck do you figure out what will?

Step back for a moment and look at your life from 30,000-feet. What do you see?

Our society demands that we spend our entire young lives preparing for a career. Once we have a career, we are then tasked with spending 70, 80, even 90% of our waking hours each day working. We’re told to work hard, keep our head down, and we will succeed. And this formula works just fine while we are climbing the corporate ladder. As our careers build momentum, we gain confidence that we’re capable of earning a comfortable salary and revel in the unique value we offer our employers.

Yet, once our career is built and we’ve experienced success, we start looking around at other areas of our life that have gone ignored for far too long. Areas such as health, family, personal relationships and personal interests are now much more alluring. And now that we have some accomplishment under our belts, we may also long for greater meaning and purpose in our work – a desire to make the world a better place and test our own mettle and forging our own path.

Does any of this resonate with you?

This is why chasing passion is so attractive. We hope passion will fill the gap of our present day discontent.

Yet, if we run off chasing our passion without measuring how it will affect all the areas of our life – or what we’ll be giving up to follow that passion – we find ourselves in the same exact place still wondering what the next step in life is supposed to be all about.

The answer to your ideal job – and an amazing life – isn’t simply about chasing your passion. It lies in making sure your next career move will better meet your needs in ALL areas of your life. I emphasize all because this is something we are not taught to do. We are taught that success in life is synonymous with success in our career. The other areas of our life are given less priority.

Yet, in order to have the life you want – you must redefine what success means to you. Success in life is achieved by meeting your needs in all the areas of your life that are important to you. And as you fulfill your needs in various areas of life over time, what you value changes. To navigate these changes there will be trade-offs, but there doesn’t have to be sacrifices. As long as you are staying true to what you value – and not allowing old habits or cultural ideals override your thinking – you will not be sacrificing.

If you spend any amount of time feeling like you are sacrificing one area of your life for another you will burn out, grow resentful, and feel trapped…even if you are following your passion. Life should be an evolution – a dynamic existence that is fluid and fruitful as you fill up and add to, the various areas in your life.

Now that you’ve built a successful career, it’s time to level up and start honoring the other areas in your life.

To do this you must address the areas of your life that are falling short and causing you discontent…choose new strategies to meet your needs in those areas where you are falling short. Maybe you love writing and you were a talented writer back in college, but today you just can’t find the time. Tom Clancy wrote the The Hunt for Red October after working all day as an insurance agent. Limiting your work day by an hour each day so you can write at the local coffee shop before going home or getting up an hour earlier each morning may sound “impossible”, yet because you will actually be fulfilling an unmet area of your life, you will be surprised how easy creating this new habit will actually be.

Or maybe you want more time with your family and you miss your children. Knowing they’ll only be young once, you can quickly see that dialing down the intensity of your career for now in order to improve quality time at home is a smart strategy that will help you fulfill more of your needs. You’ll still be getting financial security and efficacy from a job well done, but you will also be filling up your parenting “cup” and deriving great joy from the closer connection you’ll have with your kids.

In both of these examples, you’re taking action toward fulfilling your needs in more areas of your life – which is exactly what having the career you want is all about. There isn’t ONE THING that provides us the ideal career – nor life. It’s meeting needs in all areas of life in the strongest and most efficacious way possible, that lifts you up from an ordinary life – to a long-term and sustainable, extraordinary life.

As you become more comfortable with making these unconventional choices, you’ll gain confidence in your ability to make even more game-changing decisions in your life. Are you ready?

I believe we all have a bit of trailblazer inside us, don’t you? It’s my passion to help others create change. I’ve always found that disrupting the status quo leads to an amazing life where nothing is impossible.

If you think someone in your network could benefit from this article, please share!

How to Overcome Fear & Negative Emotion with Gratitude

How to Overcome Fear and Negative Emotion with Gratitude

Kate Byars | November 27, 2016

It’s Thanksgiving which means my Inbox and social media accounts are full of articles on gratitude. Entirely well-meant, the articles in my newsfeed suggest that I should be grateful for so many things in life.

Like my family. And my health.

I am tremendously grateful for my family and my health and certainly realize how very lucky I am in both of regards. However, I also feel a sense of guilt when I see these articles. Like maybe I’m not appreciative enough. Or maybe I’m doing something wrong if I’m not satisfied with my life, even though I have an amazing family and excellent health.

Do you know what I mean?

So I’d like to put a different spin on gratitude and give you a perspective that helped me get comfortable overcoming fear so I could take the risks necessary to create the life I wanted. The road to the Good Life – a life you create on your own terms – isn’t easy. It’s hard work to create the life you want. The journey is rife with setbacks and challenges – which is why it’s so easy to abandon our best intentions and return to the safety of the status quo.

GRATITUDE is a secret tool that can be hugely advantageous as you strive to jump from one point in life to the next. I have an achiever personality – which means I like to get things done and see progress in life. In fact, if I am not progressing I feel LAZY. And, Heavens to Betsy, if I FAIL I become absolutely morose and panic-stricken. Which means that for most of my life I shied away from anything that even resembled a possible failure.

Yet, avoiding failure meant I was also avoiding creating the life I truly wanted.

So please bare with me if I jump onto the “gratitude bandwagon” and take up space in your Inbox with ONE MORE gratitude post.

Hopefully this article will not only help you reflect on what you have, but also give you some actionable advice that helps you on your quest to build the life you want.

Overcoming fear, self-doubt, and negative emotions requires the ability to call on positive emotions during those darker times. Sitting around thinking “I should be grateful for what I have” usually won’t cut the mustard. When you’re not feeling lucky, it doesn’t really help to be told that you should be feeling lucky…no?

Instead, when you feel overcome by negative emotion, it’s always more EFFECTIVE to look at rationale examples of what you are capable of rather than an overarching, generic sense of how lucky you should feel.

Here is how gratitude comes into play…

You are an AMAZING and UNIQUE individual. You have rare talents and characteristics that are UNLIKE anyone else in the world! Did you know that? Each of us has our own proprietary blend of traits and yet, we rarely step back to celebrate ourselves.

Sound arrogant? It’s not.

Those who easily overcome fear and failure tend to be those who appreciate their own amazing gifts and make this a daily practice. In order to do so, create a GRATITUDE JOURNAL and each day list at minimum three of your personality traits along with specific examples that make you, YOU.

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For example, if you are a good listener you might write down:

“I listened intently to the cashier at the grocery store yesterday, even though I was tired after work. My ability to listen helps others feel valued and I am able to bring a moment of joy to other’s lives.”

Being a good listener is not a trait that everyone possesses. It helps you build a loyal team as an empathetic boss. It helps you be a responsive vendor. It helps you have open and honest communication with your spouse.

Do you see how powerful it is to be grateful for YOU?

Now think about a negative experience you may have had lately. Maybe you lost a business contract. Or missed out on a high-profile project at work. Maybe you dropped the ball and let someone down.

It happens to all of us. The point is not to AVOID negative experiences – living an amazing life doesn’t come RISK FREE – it means coming up with EFFECTIVE STRATEGIES to overcome those negative moments and move on empowered by the experience.

Self-gratitude is one of the tools that helps you do just that.

When you’re having a low moment, take out your Gratitude Journal and read it. Let the words sink in. You’re not a failure and making a mistake doesn’t define you. You’re YOU and that means you’re amazing. And capable. And tremendously valuable to the world and those around you.

Applying the strategy of self-gratitude you’ll quickly see how negative emotions become less intense as you start to recognize what you’re feeling as a temporary situation – and one that you can overcome. Also, the simple act of taking action by reading or writing in your journal can help propel you to take additional positive action to overcome the setback. Rather than lamenting on a friend’s shoulder, you’ll find yourself sharing your experience with greater introspection as you try to dissect the failure rather than wear it on your sleeve.

I didn’t understand how powerful self-gratitude was until I started practicing gratitude in my own life. And you know what? Taking risks became easier once I started focusing on what makes me unique. I discovered that I was more than an accomplished executive or a loving mom and spouse. I discovered that I’m capable beyond my own expectations and pretty darn cool.

And you know what? You are capable beyond your own expectations and pretty darn cool, too.

I believe we all have a bit of trailblazer inside us, don’t you? It’s my passion to help others create change. I’ve always found that disrupting the status quo leads to an amazing life where nothing is impossible.

I Should Be the President of IBM

I Should Be the President of IBM

Kathleen Byars | November 20, 2016

I should be the President of IBM. No offense, Ginni Rometty, but that’s what my mom said.

It all started innocently enough. At the tender age of three, I was riding in the front seat (!!) of mom’s bright-turquoise Oldsmobile Plymouth bored out of my mind. I was too little to see out of the window, too little to read a book, and the iPad had yet to be invented. As I slipped and slid all over the turquoise, vinyl bench seat, I discovered a row of turquoise colored buttons along the door. They didn’t have a purpose other than to add a touch of decor – and to stimulate the mind of a bored little girl. As I sized up those tiny little buttons, I discovered something that would change the course of my life.

Three plus four equals seven.

Stunning…I know!

I told mom about my discovery and she nearly drove off the road. Apparently it’s a pretty rare thing for a three year old to understand math. The next thing I know my parents are announcing my genius to the world. By age six I’ve had my IQ tested and that unleashes years of debate as my parents anguish over whether to skip me a grade ahead in school or keep me with my age-level peers.

All I really cared about was soccer and Barbie dolls.

I was growing up in the 1970s and back then women didn’t hold many high level positions. My mom had a short-lived career as a bookkeeper, which was pretty outrageous for her day. Upon marrying my dad she quit her job, of course, to keep house.

Mom never went to college, and despite the fact she was incredibly intelligent, she always regretted her lack of education. In mom’s mind she was less important than those who were college educated.

It was a sign of the times and mom wore her insecurity on her sleeve.

Thus it is no wonder that mom always told me:

“Honey, you can do anything you want when you grow up…someday, you’ll be the President of IBM.”

If I had a dime for every time I heard mom say those words to me…well, you know what I mean. I heard those words A LOT.

And growing up in an era where women were transitioning from 1950s stepford wives to 1970s bra-burning feminists made it pretty clear to me I was supposed to be SOMEBODY SUCCESSFUL.

I can’t say I grew up inspired by feminists, but I do remember my mother impressing upon my sister and I that we were NOT to grow up to become housewives. Instead, we were to set our aspirations higher and become independent women capable of taking care of ourselves and standing on our own two feet.

I grew up thinking I would someday become a business executive. In fact, I don’t remember ever thinking I could do anything else.

Have you ever felt the same way?

In college, all of my friends knew exactly what they wanted to do. Doctors, lawyers, software engineers. I just wanted to be a business person. In my mind, the only way to have a good life was to succeed in business. Make my bosses proud. Make sacrifices for my company. Demonstrate my loyalty and do the right thing.

And I did exactly that. I got a great job, worked extremely hard, and climbed the corporate ladder. Until one day, I looked around and realized something poignant.

I had climbed the corporate ladder, but instead of arriving at a place of freedom and success, I had climbed inside a gilt-edged box; trapped by the comforts of my life and exhausted by the pace – and lack of control — that went along with it.

Yet, dammit, I was supposed to be a corporate executive. It was the only destiny I had ever known. How do you quit the only world that is familiar to you? Deep in the recesses of my mind, I was scared to leave my glamorous, gilded cage. Leaving it, ultimately meant I had failed. I was walking away from a good life and that meant I was ungrateful. I couldn’t cut it. I wasn’t strong enough.

And I would never become the President of IBM.

That reality took a long time for me to come to terms with. I mean, you gotta admit Ginni Rometty, is pretty dang important. And her job is powerful. And prestigious.

As I wrestled with my ego, it occurred to me that maybe I was valuing myself all wrong. Maybe I was valuable – and worthy of love – not because of WHAT I do, but because of WHO I am.

Sounds pretty basic, right?

Yet how many times in life are we rewarded for WHO we are? We get praised for bringing home an A+ in school. We are deemed to be extra-special if we get into an Ivy League university. We earn promotions and salary increases based on the results we produce at work.

Is it any wonder that it’s difficult to change course in life and step down from a successful life that most would envy for a more unconventional path that potentially goes against the grain?

But what if this alternate life give us unique opportunities to strengthen family bonds or even seek out new relationships? What if it gives us the opportunity to immerse ourselves inside a creative, fulfilling, passionate career wrought at our own hands? What if we can throw away the alarm clocks and meeting schedules and replace those with a fluid schedule whereby we work, eat, play, love, and have fun each and every day at our own chosen pace? And what if we can do all that and still be financially comfortable?

I don’t know about you, but when I think about life in this less conventional way, my ego lessens its grip just enough that the thought of becoming the President of IBM is a tad less appealing. And as I searched for the answers to build that unconventional life – a life on my own terms – one thing because amazingly clear.

Corporations don’t create gilded cages. They simply serve as a willing machine for those of us willing to be the cogs. Although I ultimately left the corporate world, I took my corporate mindset and frenetic habits with me. I may have been living on the beach, but I was still driving myself crazy jumping through impossible hoops in a never-ending attempt to fill a hole inside me.

And it wasn’t until I learned to fill that hole with a whole new way of thinking – and behaving – that I finally found the freedom that had alluded me for so long.

Ego is a crazy thing. And feeling important – and successful – feels good. Yet, I have to say that feeling free – well, it feels even better.

I believe we all have a bit of trailblazer inside us, don’t you? It’s my passion to help others create change. I’ve always found that disrupting the status quo leads to an amazing life where nothing is impossible.

If you think someone in your network could benefit from this article, please share!