Are you completely successful? Have you achieved all of your goals? Are you living a fully intentional life? If you are, I salute you, and you probably don’t need to read this article. I can’t make the same claim. I do aspire to live more intentionally, though, and reach my goals the smart way. I want to share with you some research-based strategies that smart people use to reach their goals, achieve success, and gain personal agency by taking charge over their life, in 3 steps. To learn more, check out this video, and read about the 3 steps below.

Step 1: Evaluate Reality Clearly

What does it mean to evaluate your reality clearly? That means gaining a deep understanding of your external environment — your immediate surroundings, your social circle, your career, and anything else of relevance. That also means your own internal environment — your patterns of feeling, thinking, and behaving. Four factors obstruct our ability to evaluate reality clearly:

Social prescriptions about appropriate ways of perceiving reality;

Cached thoughts based on our previous experiences that lead us astray;

Thinking errors that our brain makes due to faulty wiring;

• Finally, an emotional reluctance to face the truth of reality when that requires changing our minds and updating our beliefs based on new information.

Learning about and watching for these challenges in a systematic manner improves our decision-making.

Step 2: Make Effective Decisions

Next, you want to make effective decisions about how to reach your goals.

Consider your options, based on your knowledge of your outer and inner environment. Remember, the only things in life you can control are your own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. And that’s great news, since your success is under your own control! You can always reinterpret your success based on what you decide is important to you at any time in your life. Be aware that you can change both your external surroundings, and your own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, to help you to get what you want in life. Take the time to listen to advice, but make sure to adapt this advice to yourself and your own needs.

Evaluate the various paths available to you, assess the probability that each path will get you to your goals. Then make a plan for how to proceed, and take the path that seems best suited to go where you want.

Step 3: Achieve Your Goals

Finally, implement the decisions you made and travel along the path. Remember, you will usually encounter some unknown obstacles on your road to what you want. Be excited about getting feedback from your environment and learning about better paths forward.

Take the opportunity to change your path if a new one opens up that seems better suited to help you meet your goals. Be open to changing your very goals themselves based on what you learn. You are the only one who gets to decide what goals you pursue, so make sure to be very intentional about the goals you set and the methods you choose to pursue these goals.

As you can imagine, these things are easy to say, but hard to do. It’s very helpful to get support along the way, through learning about strategies oriented toward this purpose. However, above all, it takes your own commitment to the goal of gaining greater agency over your life and living intentionally.

Here are some final thoughts to consider:

• What personal experiences did you have that illustrate the benefits of gaining agency and living intentionally?

• What have you gained from reading this article?

• What specific steps can you take to implement the strategies described here into your life?

Featured photo credit: Smart Brain via

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