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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 December 2, 2019

How to Develop Mental Toughness And Stay Strong

How to Develop Mental Toughness And Stay Strong

Are you the kind of person who wants to achieve massive success in your life? Do you have the mental toughness to make that happen?

I think we can all agree that no matter your ambitions, achieving success can be difficult; and over time, the daily grind can take a toll on your physical, mental, and emotional energy.

Achievers and high performers from all walks of life face ups and downs along the path to success—they face failure, burnout, discouragement, fatigue, self-limiting beliefs, stress, and so much more.

How do some people continually strive towards their personal goals year after year while others give up on them? How do those people stay strong and persevere when there is so much stacked against them?

Studies now show that mental strength is a critical key to success. If you haven’t read Angela Duckworth’s book Grit, you should. In it, she shows that “the secret to outstanding achievement is not talent but a special blend of passion and persistence she calls ‘grit.’” In other words, mental toughness plays a significant role when it comes to achieving goals.

Sometimes, our goals wear us down and leave us feeling exhausted. Other times, our goals get difficult, and success seems impossible, so we lose hope, become discouraged, and want to quit.

At its core, mental toughness is simply the ability to stick to something when the going gets tough. People with high levels of mental toughness can push beyond these obstacles and forge a path towards success while those with lower levels of mental toughness may abandon their dreams.

Want to know the good news?

No matter who you are, what you’ve been told, or what you currently believe, you can develop the mental toughness you need to be successful.

All you need to do is learn to develop a positive mindset, focus on your why, and utilize the people around you for support.

1. Develop a Positive Mindset

If you’re going to increase your mental toughness, the first thing you have to do is focus on building a strong, positive mindset.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, the average person has 60,000 thoughts per day. Of those, 95% of those thoughts repeat each day and, on average, 80% of repeated ideas are negative.[1]

That’s roughly 45,600 negative thoughts per day!

Carrying around these negative thoughts is like going on a hike in the mountains with a backpack full of rocks. The hike is hard enough on its own, but having extra junk weighing you down is a recipe for failure.

Sometimes, building mental toughness isn’t as much about building new strength as it is about saving your strength for the right tasks. Wouldn’t it be easier to dump the rocks out of the backpack instead of trying to get strong enough to carry the extra weight?

Absolutely!

But how can we learn to spot those 45,600 negative thoughts and get rid of them? How can we empty our metaphorical backpack?

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Well, it gets a whole lot easier if you know what you’re looking for. Some of the most prominent types of negative thoughts are self-limiting beliefs, all-or-nothing thinking, and dwelling.

Let Go of Self-Limiting Beliefs

It’s pretty hard to be mentally tough when you’re constantly beating yourself up. Self-limiting beliefs are any beliefs that hold you back in some way. Here are some examples:

“I’m not smart enough to…”

“I don’t have enough experience to…”

“I’ve tried that before, and it didn’t go well, so I must just be bad at…”

When we allow these self-limiting beliefs to flood our minds, negative self-talk runs rampant, and we crowd out our ability to think positively. We’re effectively working against ourselves.

If you want to keep your mind strong on your path to success, you have to overcome the self-limiting beliefs that are holding you back by realizing one key truth: self-limiting beliefs are thoughts, not facts.

When you recognize a self-limiting belief cropping up in your mind, quickly silence it by telling yourself that it’s not true and then back that up with some positive affirmations:

  • “I am smart enough; I may just need to do some more research first.”
  • “I may not have as much experience as someone else, but that’s not going to stop me from trying. I have enough experience to get started. I’ll figure the rest out on the way.”
  • “Just because I failed at this last time doesn’t mean I’m going to fail this time. My past does not dictate my future.”

Get Rid of the All-or-Nothing Thinking

Another form of negative thinking that could be preventing you from building mental toughness is all-or-nothing thinking.

All-or-nothing thinking is the concept of thinking in extremes. You are either a success or a failure. Your performance was totally good or totally awful. If you’re not perfect, then you’re a failure.

But this isn’t true!

If you’re trying to lose 30 pounds and only lost 28, isn’t that still better than not losing any weight at all? I’d say so!

If you allow all-or-nothing thinking to rule your mind, you’ll be on cloud nine when you succeed, but you’ll beat yourself up when you “fail.” Acknowledging the shades of gray in between will allow you to see success more often and it will help you celebrate your smaller wins.

When you recognize an all-or-nothing thought, remember to look for the positive in the situation. What did you gain by trying? What would you have missed out on had you not tried? Could you do better if you were to try again?

Ditch the Dwelling

Self-Limiting Beliefs and All-or-Nothing Thinking can lead to a bad case of dwelling on the negative. If you want to build some mental toughness and keep your mind strong, you have to ditch the dwelling.

Every day, bad things happen to each of us, and while there’s nothing we can do to prevent that, we can control how we react to these situations.

When we dwell on our misfortunes, we waste massive amounts of energy that we could be using to achieve our goals. When this happens, we’re more likely to quit altogether.

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But that doesn’t mean you’re not mentally tough; it just means you’re misusing your energy.

The next time something bad happens, it’s important to allow yourself to feel the disappointment and frustration, but work on reducing the amount of time you dwell on the situation.

Easier said than done, right? Try these:

  1. Call a friend or mentor and talk it through with them. Get some outside perspective on your situation.
  2. Time block your dwelling by allowing yourself to dwell for no more than one hour.
  3. Then, tell yourself to move on, that you’re human, and you’re allowed to make mistakes or experience setbacks.
  4. If all else fails, find a good way to distract yourself until you can calm down and reexamine things with a clear mind.

The faster you can focus on the positives and move past the problem, the quicker you can get back to achieving success in your life.

Be Patient about the Process

No matter which negative thoughts tend to run around your mind, working to replace them with positive thoughts can take time.

Learning to spot self-limiting beliefs, all-or-nothing thinking, or dwelling is one thing, but learning to quiet those thoughts is another thing entirely.

If at first you don’t succeed, don’t fret. Instead, take a deep breath and try again. As you work towards improving your mindfulness and your mental toughness, remember that you’re going to get better with time.

To make things a little easier, it helps to connect with your purpose.

2. Connect with Your Purpose

One of the most critical elements to building mental toughness and keeping a strong and focused mind is having a strong ‘why’ for everything you want to do.

If you set out to achieve a huge goal that you don’t have a ‘why’ for, you’re going to find yourself distracted, discouraged, or disengaged as soon as you experience your first setback.

Think about the last time you were working on a goal or resolution and things weren’t going well, maybe you even wanted to quit. Perhaps you thought you didn’t have enough willpower. Maybe you told yourself that you didn’t have enough discipline.

Here’s the truth: you just didn’t have a strong enough why.

Simon Sinek has been spreading his message “Start with Why” across the globe.[2] In short, he says that:

“Your ‘why’ is the purpose, cause or belief that inspires you.”

One of the biggest drains on your mental energy is pursuing a goal or a task that you don’t have a ‘why’ for. This is when we tend to look for external motivation or question our willpower, but those aren’t the issues.

Often, we set goals because we like the idea of the goal, not the reality of the goal. Without connecting to our why, we can’t intrinsically motivate ourselves to achieve our most challenging goals.

Find Intrinsic Motivation

Intrinsic motivation is our innate desire to do something and it comes when we work towards something that satisfies ourselves above all else—not our parents or our bosses or our teachers.

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Let’s say you think you want to quit smoking because you know it’s bad for you, but you really enjoy smoking. If you don’t truly want to quit smoking, it’s going to be nearly impossible, regardless of your willpower or mental toughness.

But if you want to quit smoking because you just had a baby, and you don’t want your baby growing up around smoke, then that ‘why’ is going to give you intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is far more powerful than sheer stubborn willpower, and it’s far easier to maintain over the long haul.

If you’re trying to develop mental toughness, connecting a why to everything you want to achieve will reduce the effort and energy it will take to achieve those things. Once you’ve found a strong why for all of your goals, you’ll find that you’ll have significantly more energy to pursue your more difficult challenges.

3. Find Strength in Unity

The final aspect of developing mental toughness is embracing the idea that you’re not in this alone. It’s a fact, anyone who’s ever achieved success in anything didn’t do so alone.

Bill Gates didn’t build Microsoft alone. Oprah didn’t build her network by herself. Steve Jobs didn’t invent the iPhone without a team. Michelle Obama didn’t implement the “Let’s Move” campaign on her own.

Behind all of these successful people were countless other people who were there offering support, mentorship, guidance, and encouragement.

If you want to develop unmatched mental toughness, you need to understand that you don’t have to go it alone. Even the toughest Navy Seals have a team backing them up.

If you want to stay strong in your endeavors, you need to build a team of supporters who will step in and back you up when it counts.

Find a Mentor or Committee of Mentors

The benefits of having a great mentor are far too many to list, but to boil it down to the basics, a mentor is someone who will help show you the path to success.

A good mentor will help you discover your greatest strengths, spot and overcome your blind spots, and work through your weaknesses.

If you’re struggling to deal with your internal negativity or with finding your purpose, talk it through with a mentor. Sometimes we lose the forest for the trees, and a mentor can help us take a step back and see the bigger picture.

Here’s how to find the right mentor for yourself: How to Find a Mentor That Will Help You Succeed

Recruit Some Cheerleaders

If you want to stay strong, it never hurts to have a group of personal cheerleaders. Unlike mentors who are going to jump in and help you address your problems, a group of cheerleaders will help keep your spirits up.

Even if you have a strong ‘why’ and a positive mindset, it’s nearly impossible to maintain a positive attitude 100% of the time. It doesn’t make you weak to need some help from time to time. Having a group of people cheering you on will make all the difference in the world.

As you work towards your goals, tell a few close friends about what you’re doing, and when things get tough, tell them about it. And when they give you the pep talk you need, don’t resist their positivity or counter it with your self-limiting beliefs or your all-or-nothing attitude.

Allow their optimism to refill your energy and use that energy to press on.

Form an Accountability Group

Cheerleaders are great, but sometimes we need someone to give us the kick we need to keep going. You might have a strong ‘why’ for running a marathon or losing 30 pounds, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy; and trying to force yourself to follow through is a sure way to tax your mental energy.

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Why not save some of your mental energy by forming an accountability group?

Find a person or a few people who have similar goals, or at the very least, the need for an accountability partner. Then, form an agreement within the group to push each other every day.

Even if your goals aren’t the same, accountability partners are great for giving us the push we need when we need it most.

Regardless of which relationships you choose, sometimes we have to be able to work through things on our own. Mentors, cheerleaders, and accountability partners are a great way for us to combat our naturally negative mindsets, but occasionally we have to be able to pick ourselves back up.

4. Learn to Pick Yourself Back Up After Setbacks

Building a strong mindset and developing mental toughness isn’t easy! Anyone who’s ever achieved massive success knows that obstacles, setbacks, and failure are inevitable, and you’re no different.

As you work on your goals, you’re going to face many ups and downs, but this doesn’t mean that you don’t have mental toughness, willpower, or discipline.

We all struggle. We all fail. It’s what we decide to do after we fail that truly counts.

When you find yourself in a low spot, ask yourself these questions:

  • “Am I being too hard on myself?”
  • “Are negative thoughts such as Self-Limiting Beliefs or All-or-Nothing Thinking distorting my view?”
  • “What’s the positive side of this setback/obstacle/failure?”
  • “Why was this goal important to me? What was my purpose?”
  • “Is this goal still important to me? Do I still have a ‘why’?”
  • “Who can I ask for help? Who can mentor me or cheer me on? Who can help hold me accountable?”

Asking yourself these questions is a great way to check in on your mindset. When we get lost in negative thinking or lose connection to our purpose, it’s far too easy to become discouraged. When we feel discouraged, we start feeling weak, maybe even a little hopeless.

Also, this article provides some useful tips to help you get back on track: How to Deal with Failure and Pick Yourself Back Up

Tying it All Together

Are you still with me? I know I’ve thrown a lot at you, from developing a positive mindset and combatting your internal voice to connecting with purpose and building a committee of mentors. It’s a lot to take it!

But here’s the bottom line:

A crucial part of developing mental toughness is learning to recognize these tendencies and taking action to correct them early on. Developing mental toughness is not about eliminating weakness, but learning how to deal with it and overcome it.

No one is perfect, but when we focus on the right things, we can develop a mental toughness worthy of life’s biggest challenges.

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Featured photo credit: Zulmaury Saavedra via unsplash.com

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