Use goals to live longer. No medicine in the world is as powerful in bringing about long life as is the desire to do something. -The Magic of Big Thinking

Do you ever feel like you reach for the stars and never seem to get where you want? Like you’re trying so hard but not getting the results you want?

You’re not alone.

But here’s the good news: you’re already ahead of 99% of people. You just need to tweak your approach and you’ll reach your ultimate goal. Here are eight ways to get you going on the right path:

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 a plan to accomplish it too. This is where many people fail. They set goals but don’t follow-up and create a plan to get started. When this happens, big goals seem overwhelming and we’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., says:

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.

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.

5. Take action every day.

Look, 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. Embrace failure–it’s the stepping stone to success.

6. Tell others.

A psychology professor at Dominican University found that people who wrote down their goals, shared them with others, and maintained accountability for their goals were 33% more likely to achieve them. So go spread the word to your family and friends, and let them in on your goals and plans. You’ll likely get valuable feedback too.

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. Be prepared to react and learn from those setbacks. They’ll be valuable learning opportunities.

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?

And 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 things off your list. That’s how you’ll reach your ultimate goals.

Featured photo credit: zen! via flickr.com

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