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.”
It can be! Here are three strategies to EFFECTIVELY achieve your goals.
ONE: TIE YOUR GOAL TO YOUR NEEDS
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.
TWO: MAKE SMALL STRIDES TOWARD A BIG GOAL
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.
THREE: COMMIT TO HABITS
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.
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