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8 Steps to Ensure You Accomplish Your Goals

8 Steps to Ensure You Accomplish Your Goals

Setting and achieving goals can be an intimidating process. When you start out on a new path, you probably have little to no experience in the field at all. It’s hard to imagine that you might one day consider yourself an expert in that area. Rather than getting overwhelmed with everything that comes with starting a new venture, take a step back, plan out your path, and take the first steps toward accomplishing your goal.

1. Start small

What saves a man is to take a step. Then another step. It is always the same step, but you have to take it. —Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Wind, Sand and Stars

Like I said, it’s easy to get intimidated when starting something new. When I started playing guitar, I was amazed at how incredible some of my friends already were. Of course, they’d been playing since they were 10 years old. I couldn’t just pick up my guitar and start shredding like they were able to; I had to learn how to tune it, how to hold it, and how to play open chords before I could move on to more advanced techniques like arpeggios and diminished 7th chords. Figure out how you’re going to learn the basics before you try to try to tackle something you’re not ready for. It might be boring to start slow, but building a solid foundation will ensure future success.

2. Attack one goal at a time

However, not all goals are created equal: Merely fantasizing about your goal is de-motivating-it actually tricks the brain into thinking you have already achieved it. — Vanessa Van Edwards 

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Starting with the basics can also be intimidating, as you’ll find there is a lot to learn. Don’t stretch yourself thin by trying to accomplish more than one task at a time. Using guitar as an example again, it would make no sense for me to learn how to play chords before I knew if my guitar was in tune. Training my ear to recognize the exact note each string should be tuned to was the absolute beginning of my path as a guitarist. If I learned how to play a chord before knowing exactly what that chord should sound like, I would have been doing myself a huge disservice. By setting your sights on one goal at a time, you’ll be able to carry the knowledge you learned with you onto the next step in your journey.

3. Understand your goals

The starting point of all achievement is desire. — Napoleon Hill 

In high school, I (and I’m sure many of you) used to wonder “when am I ever gonna need this?” Because I couldn’t picture my adult self needing to know how to calculate the area of a triangle, I didn’t really care much for math, and, naturally, didn’t do too well in the subject, either. At the time, I didn’t understand the importance of learning the materials my teachers presented. The goal wasn’t to learn, but to pass the class. If I understood that learning the ins-and-outs of the periodic table in 10th grade would put me on the path toward curing diseases in my adult life, I might have paid a bit more attention in chemistry class. The point is, you should know beforehand why each step in your journey is important. Understand your goals by using this goal wheel. Knowing this will allow you to put your all into every step you take.

4. Truly want to succeed

Rather than dispensing goal setting as a benign, over-the-counter treatment for motivation, managers and scholars need to conceptualize goal setting as a prescription-strength medication that requires careful dosing, consideration of harmful side effects, and close supervision. — “Goals Gone Wild: The Systematic Effects of Over-Prescribing Goal Setting” Harvard Business School

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I just mentioned how my goals in high school were simply to pass the test and move on. My grades allowed me to pass but they weren’t good. Any knowledge I gained for one test immediately left my brain after the test was over, since, to my teenage self, I had accomplished my goal and no longer needed to keep that information stored. If I had the drive to succeed that I do now, I would have taken my studies a bit more seriously, knowing that what I learned then would benefit me later in life. When trying something new, you have to be passionate about every step you take. Not everything you learn on your path will be interesting or fun. But the result of truly learning from each step will ultimately lead to success. One day, you’ll surprise yourself at how much you know about a subject you learned 10 years ago — because you took the time learning it the first time around!

5. Make your goals public

Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment. — Jim Rohn 

When you set out to accomplish a new goal, don’t hide your efforts. Tell your family and friends about your new venture. Doing so will have more of an effect on your efforts than you realize. For one, you won’t want to embarrass yourself by petering out, and you’ll push yourself to succeed so others see how far you’ve come. Secondly, you won’t want to let others down. If you tell your wife you’re going to start exercising more, chances are she’ll be excited at the prospect of you having a little less of a gut and a little more in the bicep region. I’m not saying you should only want to improve for others, but I am saying there’s nothing wrong with getting motivation from external sources.

6. Get excited about improving

There’s a great satisfaction in knowing that we’ve made good use of our days, that we’ve lived up to our expectations of ourselves. — Gretchen Rubin, Better than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives

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When learning a new skill, there’s an alternative to being intimidated by others who are currently better than you: getting inspired by them. Going back to my days as a novice guitarist, I was definitely intimidated by my friends who, to my beginner ears, were incredible musicians. But as I got better at playing guitar myself, I realized that I could reach their level of expertise with more and more practice. I went from thinking “There’s no way I’ll be able to play like that” to “I’m actually better than that!” in the span of a few short months. Not only that, but analyzing my progress helped me visualize my future progress as well. As you progress on your path to success, you’ll be better at setting realistic goals, and will start surpassing them with ease.

7. Anticipate success

Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on Earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude. — Thomas Jefferson

This goes along with the last section, in that once you start succeeding at smaller tasks, you’ll begin to see the big picture. You’ll stop thinking “Let’s see if I can do this,” and begin thinking “Once I complete this, I’ll be able to move on to this next step.” It won’t be a matter of “if”, but a matter of “when.” You’ll be better able to make a gameplan for success, since you’ll know where you’ll be the following day in terms of skills and abilities. Once you see where your progress is headed, you should make a checklist of what you want to accomplish, and what you’ll do next after you reach that goal. Soon enough a 5K will turn into a marathon!

8. Make visual representations of your path

Students who invest in their goals also demonstrate greater persistence, creativity, and risk ­taking in their achievement of those goals.– “Setting Goals: Who, Why, and How?” By: Harvard Initiative for Teaching and Learning 

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Don’t just think up a checklist or to-do list; physically write one out. Once you accomplish a small task, take the time to check it off your list. You’ll be surprised how motivating it can be to see a long list of tasks you need to do get smaller and smaller. Also, create a schedule. As I mentioned, you’ll eventually be able to anticipate what your future self will be able to accomplish. Setting a schedule which predicts future accomplishments will keep you on task to ensure you reach those goals on the day you thought you would. Writing your goals out makes them tangible, and you’ll be less likely to put work off, no matter how tired you may be.

Featured photo credit: Flickrr via farm3.staticflickr.com

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Last Updated on March 21, 2019

11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

Most gurus talk about habits in a way that doesn’t help you:

You need to push yourself more. You can’t be lazy. You need to wake up at 5 am. You need more motivation. You can never fail…blah blah “insert more gibberish here.”

But let me share with you the unconventional truths I found out:

To build and change habits, you don’t need motivation or wake up at 5 am. Heck, you can fail multiple times, be lazy, have no motivation and still pull it off with ease.

It’s quite simple and easy to do, especially with the following list I’m going to show to you. But remember, Jim Rohn used to say,

“What is simple and easy to do is also simple and easy not to do.”

The important things to remember when changing your habits are both simple and easy, just don’t think that they don’t make any difference because they do.

In fact, they are the only things that make a difference.

Let’s see what those small things are, shall we?

1. Start Small

The biggest mistake I see people doing with habits is by going big. You don’t go big…ever. You start small with your habits.

Want to grow a book reading habit? Don’t start reading a book a day. Start with 10 pages a day.

Want to become a writer? Don’t start writing 10,000 words a day. Start with 300 words.

Want to lose weight? Don’t stop eating ice cream. Eat one less ball of it.

Whatever it is, you need to start small. Starting big always leads to failure. It has to, because it’s not sustainable.

Start small. How small? The amount needs to be in your comfort zone. So if you think that reading 20 pages of a book is a bit too much, start with 10 or 5.

It needs to appear easy and be easy to do.

Do less today to do more in a year.

2. Stay Small

There is a notion of Kaizen which means continuous improvement. They use this notion in habits where they tell you to start with reading 1 page of a book a day and then gradually increase the amount you do over time.

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But the problem with this approach is the end line — where the “improvement” stops.

If I go from reading 1 page of a book a day and gradually reach 75 and 100, when do I stop? When I reach 1 book a day? That is just absurd.

When you start a habit, stay at it in the intensity you have decided. Don’t push yourself for more.

I started reading 20 pages of a book a day. It’s been more than 2 years now and I’ve read 101 books in that period. There is no way I will increase the number in the future.

Why?

Because reading 40 to 50 books a year is enough.

The same thing applies to every other habit out there.

Pick a (small) number and stay at it.

3. Bad Days Are 100 Percent Occurrence

No matter how great you are, you will have bad days where you won’t do your habit. Period.

There is no way of going around this. So it’s better to prepare yourself for when that happens instead of thinking that it won’t ever happen.

What I do when I miss a day of my habit(s) is that I try to bounce back the next day while trying to do habits for both of those days.

Example for that is if I read 20 pages of a book a day and I miss a day, the next day I will have to read 40 pages of a book. If I miss writing 500 words, the next day I need to write 1000.

This is a really important point we will discuss later on rewards and punishments.

This is how I prepare for the bad days when I skip my habit(s) and it’s a model you should take as well.

4. Those Who Track It, Hack It

When you track an activity, you can objectively tell what you did in the past days, weeks, months, and years. If you don’t track, you will for sure forget everything you did.

There are many different ways you can track your activities today, from Habitica to a simple Excel sheet that I use, to even a Whatsapp Tracker.

Peter Drucker said,

“What you track is what you do.”

So track it to do it — it really helps.

But tracking is accompanied by one more easy activity — measuring.

5. Measure Once, Do Twice

Peter Drucker also said,

“What you measure is what you improve.”

So alongside my tracker, I have numbers with which I measure doses of daily activities:

For reading, it’s 20 pages.
For writing, it’s 500 words.
For the gym, it’s 1 (I went) or 0 (didn’t go).
For budgeting, it’s writing down the incomes and expenses.

Tracking and measuring go hand in hand, they take less than 20 seconds a day but they create so much momentum that it’s unbelievable.

6. All Days Make a Difference

Will one day in the gym make you fit? It won’t.

Will two? They won’t.

Will three? They won’t.

Which means that a single gym session won’t make you fit. But after 100 gym sessions, you will look and feel fit.

What happened? Which one made you fit?

The answer to this (Sorites paradox)[1] is that no single gym session made you fit, they all did.

No single day makes a difference, but when combined, they all do. So trust the process and keep on going (small).

7. They Are Never Fully Automated

Gurus tell you that habits become automatic. And yes, some of them do, like showering a certain way of brushing your teeth.

But some habits don’t become automatic, they become a lifestyle.

What I mean by that is that you won’t automatically “wake up” in the gym and wonder how you got there.

It will just become a part of your lifestyle.

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The difference is that you do the first one automatically, without conscious thought, while the other is a part of how you live your life.

It’s not automatic, but it’s a decision you don’t ponder on or think about — you simply do it.

It will become easy at a certain point, but they will never become fully automated.

8. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

Marshall Goldsmith has a great book with the same title to it. The phrase means that sometimes, you will need to ditch certain habits to make room for other ones which will bring you to the next step.

Don’t be afraid to evolve your habits when you sense that they don’t bring you where you want to go.

When I started reading, it was about reading business and tactic books. But two years into it, I switched to philosophy books which don’t teach me anything “applicable,” but instead teach me how to think.

The most important ability of the 21st century is the ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn. The strongest tree is the willow tree – not because it has the strongest root or biggest trunk, but because it is flexible enough to endure and sustain anything.

Be like a willow, adapting to the new ways of doing things.

9. Set a Goal and Then Forget It

The most successful of us know what they want to achieve, but they don’t focus on it.

Sounds paradoxical? You’re right, it does. But here is the logic behind it.

You need to have a goal of doing something – “I want to become a healthy individual” – and then, you need to reverse engineer how to get there with your habits- “I will go to the gym four times a week.”

But once you have your goal, you need to “forget” about it and only focus on the process. Because you are working on the process of becoming healthy and it’s always in the making. You will only be as healthy as you take care of your body.

So you have a goal which isn’t static but keeps on moving.

If you went to the gym 150 times year and you hit your goal, what would you do then? You would stop going to the gym.

This is why goal-oriented people experience yo-yo effect[2] and why process-oriented people don’t.

The difference between process-oriented and goal-oriented people is that the first focus on daily actions while others only focus on the reward at the finish line.

Set a goal but then forget about it and reap massive awards.

10. Punish Yourself

Last two sections are pure Pavlovian – you need to punish bad behavior and reward good behavior. You are the only person who decides what is good and what is bad for you, but when you do, you need to rigorously follow that.

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I’ve told you in point #3 about bad days and how after one occurs, I do double the work on the next day. That is one of my forms of punishments.

It’s the need to tell your brain that certain behaviors are unacceptable and that they lead to bad outcomes. That’s what punishments are for.

You want to tell your brain that there are real consequences to missing your daily habits.[3]

No favorite food to eat or favorite show to watch or going to the cinema for a new Marvel movie- none, zero, zilch.

The brain will remember these bad feelings and will try to avoid the behaviors that led to them as much as possible.

But don’t forget the other side of the same coin.

11. Reward Yourself

When you follow and execute on your plan, reward yourself. It’s how the brain knows that you did something good.

Whenever I finish one of my habits for the day, I open my tracker (who am I kidding, I always keep it open on my desktop) and fill it with a number. As soon as I finish reading 20 pages of a book a day (or a bit more), I open the tracker and write the number down.

The cell becomes green and gives me an instant boost of endorphin – a great success for the day. Then, it becomes all about not breaking the chain and having as many green fields as possible.

After 100 days, I crunch some numbers and see how I did.

If I have less than 10 cheat days, I reward myself with a great meal in a restaurant. You can create your own rewards and they can be daily, weekly, monthly or any arbitrary time table that you create.

Primoz Bozic, a productivity coach, has gold, silver, and bronze medals as his reward system.[4]

If you’re having problems creating a system which works for you, contact me via email and we can discuss specifics.

In the End, It Matters

What you do matters not only to you but to the people around you.

When you increase the quality of your life, you indirectly increase the quality of life of people around you. And sometimes, that is all the “motivation” we need to start.

And that’s the best quote for the end of this article:

“Motivation gets you started, but habits keep you going.”

Keep going.

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More Resources to Help You Build Habits

Featured photo credit: Anete Lūsiņa via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Sorites paradox
[2] Muscle Zone: What causes yo-yo effect and how to avoid it?
[3] Growth Habits: 5 Missteps That Cause You To Quit Building A Habit
[4] Primoz Bozic: The Lean Review: How to Plan Your 2019 in 20 Minutes

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