Research shows that 92% of people do not achieve their goals, which is a shame because research also shows that people who set and achieve goals are a lot more productive and successful! So how do you make that happen? Don’t worry, I’ve done the hard work for you. After conducting vigorous research and speaking to various experts in the field, I put together my 9 hottest tips to help you actually achieve your goals and take charge of your future!
Start with “Why?”
Most of the time when we set our goals, we start with “what” and we then quickly move to “how.” While these two steps are crucial, they can easily become misguided unless we first ask ourselves “Why?” “Why do I want to achieve this?” This question serves two purposes: Firstly, it ensures that we are working on the right things. Secondly it emotionally connects us to the goal.
Let’s use an example. Say I set a goal to “Get a Promotion.” Next I ask myself why I want a promotion. After thinking carefully about this, I dsicover that the reason I want a promotion is because I want to feel more accomplished at work. Now, because I understand the “why” I can ensure that my steps to achieve this goal include things that will help me feel this way – such as working on more meaningful projects, seeing my work become implemented and so on. I can even speak to my manager about these things. If I had not determined the “why”, I may have tirelessly lobbied to get a title-change only to realize that the nature of my work had not changed and I still felt the same emptiness and lack of accomplishment, rendering the goal somewhat useless. Furthermore, now that I understand the “why”, the goal has far more emotional significance, making me feel more inspired, motivated and connected to the goal.
Make sure you goal is EPIC
EPIC is as criteria I use as a coach to ensure effective and powerful goals. It stands for: Elevating, Practical, Impactful and Clear. Let’s start with Elevating. Is the goal going to inspire and elevate you? If not, chances are you’re going to lose motivation. Ensure the goal is one that you are genuinely excited about. If it’s not, how can you adjust the goal? Next, ensure that you can practically achieve the goal within your desired time frame. I’m all for ambitious goals, but if you set something so ambitious that it is impractical, then chances are that you will end up feeling like a defeated failure. Try to ensure your goal is stretching, but not so stretching that it becomes unrealistic. “I” is for impactful. Is the goal going to positively impact your life? If not, then what is the point? Make sure you set a goal that, when achieved, will have positively and powerfully transformed your life in that area. And finally, make sure you goal is Clear. This is an obvious one but one that we often neglect. Obviously a deadline and time frame is important, but it is also important to have a measurable component so that you know when you have achieved you goal. This measurable component doesn’t have to be a number necessarily, but it should help you identify when the goal is completed. For instance, if you want to improve work life balance, maybe the measurable component is that you stop checking emails in the evenings and on weekends. I recommend investing considerable time and energy into setting the right goal. There’s n point getting on the fastest train to the wrong destination.
Set a Buzz Word
As human beings, emotions are our greatest drivers (and detractors) from achieving (or not achieving) a goal. So then, it is important that we stay emotionally connected to a goal as this helps maintain our passion and motivation. One way to do this is by setting a “buzz word”. Think about why you want to achieve that goal and how you will feel when you have achieved it. Close your eyes and imagine yourself having accomplished your goal – what are you feeling? What one word best encapsulates this feeling? This is your buzz word!! Write it on post-it notes and put it around your house, set reminders in your phone, make it a sceen-saver on your laptop.. whenever you see this buzz word, you will not only remember to keep working on your goal, but you will also reconnect with why this goal is important to you which will internally incentivize you to keep on going!
The Less the Merrier
Most things in life abide by the rule “the more the merrier” – people, chocolates, handbags and so on. But when it comes to goals, the reverse is true. When we set too many goals for ourselves, we lose focus and become overwhelmed by everything that needs to be achieved. I recommend setting roughly one goal for every twelve weeks. Twelve weeks is a nice sweet spot because it’s not so far away that we procrastinate and defer getting started, but it’s still far away enough to achieve something meaningful. Of course, you need to set a time frame that is appropriate for your specific goal, but the key is to ensure you are only working on one or two (maximum three) goals at any given time.
Bite Sized Pieced
Research shows that one of the biggest reasons we don’t achieve our goals is because we don’t have a clear plan. We are sitting at point A, looking far into the distance at point B, and we have absolutely no idea how we’re going to get there. It looks very very far away and there are lots of obstacles in between. We begin to feel daunted and incredibly overwhelmed. We start but then we don’t know how to continue. Or worse still, we don’t start at all. The solution? Bite sized pieces! Once you have your goal, we recommend breaking it into five or six bite sized pieces, or “milestones” for achieving that goal. Make sure your milestones are high level, ordered and exhaustive – that is, once you have hit all your milestones, you will have achieved your goal. Under each milestone, you can then set a few action steps for achieving that milestone. So then, you will have you end goal broken into big milestones and smaller action steps. This will provide you with a thorough plan for achieving that goal, and instead of looking far out into the distance at your goal and wondering how on earth you will ever achieve it, now all you have to do is look to the next step. And then the next step. And then the next step and the next step and then… Wallah!! You’ll be there before you know it!!
Plan, plan, plan, plan… and then be flexible
Of course, it’s not always entirely straightforward. As we all know, sometimes life throws us a curve ball. That’s ok! The key is to allow for that, or even expect it. Then when it comes, instead of thinking “ahhhh sh!t, how am I going ot deal with this? This ruins everything” you can instead say “ohhh hello curve ball. I have been waiting for you!” When we anticipate something, we are far less stressed when it happens. And with a more calm approach, you can appropriately deal with the twists and turns and adapt your plan accordingly. A plan in important for ensuring we feel clear and confident to get started, but once we have a plan, it is just as important to remain open and flexible. Life hardly ever works out the way we expect it to… but if we open our mind, sometimes it works out even better!
Don’t Go It Alone
What would happen if you had a project at school or work and you knew that nobody was ever going to check it or see it? Now what would happen if you knew it was going to be reviewed by the principal or CEO? When we are held accountable, our performance and productivity improves dramatically. You don’t need to share you goal with the entire world. Maybe you just want to choose one person you know and trust? Maybe you even want to hire a coach? It doesn’t matter who it is, as long as they can reliably check in with you and your goals. This is a crucial and often neglected step for effective goal setting and accomplishment.
The Journey is just as important
When we set goals, we obviously focus on achieving those goals. When someone asks us how the goal is going, it’s often a matter of “we’ve achieved it” or “we haven’t achieved it.” I encourage you not to think about it as being so black and white. When I set goals with clients, while of course it is important the client accomplishes the goal, typically the most value lies within the journey… The journey is where they see the greatest growth– trying new things, learning what works, learning what doesn’t work, overcoming obstacles, challenging their comfort zone. At the end of every week or even every day, write down one thing that you learned in the process of working on your goal. I promise that you will find that the journey is just as important – if not more important – than the destination itself.
And last but certainly not least, celebrate yourself!! This is something most of us skip over (myself included). We feel awkward or self-indulgent celebrating ourselves, however it’s actually really important and can even be damaging to not recognize ourselves for what we’ve accomplished. When we recognize and reward ourselves for our hard work, we do three things: Firstly, we create a “success” mindset, that is, a belief in our ability to succeed. Subconsciously, when we celebrate our success, we send messages to our brain that say “I am successful” and “I can succeed.” Conversely by not noticing or downplaying your success, you are sending the subconscious message that “you have not done enough” and “you need to do more.” Secondly, it helps us self-motivate. How motivated do you feel when someone tells you that you suck compared to when someone tells you you’re awesome? Right! So remember that the messages that are going to the brain don’t just come from other people. They come from you! What are you telling yourself and how is that affecting your drive and motivation? And thirdly, it releases endorphins. Who doesn’t feel happy when they pop a bottle of champagne? Celebrating your success is the emotional equivalent of popping that champagne: It releases lots of bubbles and makes you feel good! Furthermore, research shows that happy people are more productive, more creative and ultimately more successful. So there you go, what’s not to celebrate about that?
I hope you enjoyed these 9 powerful insights on achieving meaningful goals and, even more importantly, I hope you’re feeling inspired and motivated to get out there and make things happens!!