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Why I Can Be the Only 8% of People Who Reach the Goal Every Single Time

Why I Can Be the Only 8% of People Who Reach the Goal Every Single Time

Losing weight, saving money, getting fit, quitting smoking… Haven’t you ever gotten excited about your New Year’s goals?

You’re not alone. Unfortunately, as studies show, most resolutions don’t go beyond the wishful thinking stage. A staggering 92 people out of 100 fail to achieve their New Year’s goals.[1]

When the “fresh start effect” fades away, motivation falters and the first bump on the road often signals the end of the journey. We end up the following year with the exact same goals, again and again –as if we were stuck in life.

There may be many reasons why people end up giving up on our goals. Here are some of the most common ones:

  • Picking up the wrong objectives;
  • Not setting the goal properly;
  • Setting the bar too high and feel overwhelmed;
  • Lacking guidance and support;
  • Not planning strategies for overcoming obstacles; etc.

But there is another one, a more obvious one, so obvious that most seem to forget about it: if we want to achieve a goal, we need to follow through. Setting the objective is a good start –but it’s only the beginning of the journey.

A lot of people have the misconception that when they have set a goal, they will be able to achieve it. It’s definitely not enough. We can’t expect success when we don’t follow through.

I have been setting and tracking goals for about 20 years now. It started after a deep teenager crisis which left my life as a mess. Setting goals was a way to rebuild myself, set eyes on a new horizon and move forward. Find out more about my story in another article I’ve written: How I Bounced Back From a Fiasco

Goals stayed with me since that day. When I started to work in investment banking a few years later, having goals helped me maintain a work-life balance and stay healthy in a high-pressure environment.

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My approach to goals evolved over time. It started with a pen and a blank piece of paper; then an Excel spreadsheet; and finally, I built a goal-setting app called GOALMAP.

In total, I have set hundreds of goals and tracked hundreds of thousands of steps towards reaching them. If there is one secret I have learned and would like to share with you, it’s this one: tracking is the key. So let me try and explain how you can unlock the power of goal-tracking to build your dream life:

1. Be a S.T.A.R.

There is a lot of stress put on setting goals, but setting goals is just one of the phases of the overall success loop. If you want to achieve your goals and engage in a meaningful personal growth process, you need to take a broader approach.

I have a name for that. I call it the S.T.A.R. method: Set goals, Track progress, Analyze results, and Reset your goals. It’s a loop, a dynamic process.

2. Make your goals trackable

First things first, most objectives are bound to failure simply because they are not clearly defined. If your resolution is too vague, you can’t measure success and you can’t define a proper plan of action. It’s like saying “I want to go somewhere nice” to your GPS: it probably won’t help you.

Set your goal properly using the S.M.A.R.T. goal technique:

  • Specific: Your goals should be precise. You can’t hit the bull’s-eye if there is none. Don’t say “I want to lose weight” but rather “I want to lose 4 kilos by year-end”.
  • Measurable: Your goal should be quantified so that you know at any point in time whether you are on track or not. This will enable you to follow your progress on a regular basis.
  • Achievable: Don’t over-plan, be realistic, your objective must be within reach. If it’s too big, then try and break it into smaller manageable goals that you can achieve step by step.
  • Relevant: Your goals must be relevant to you, connected to your deepest aspirations and aligned with your personal values.
  • Time-bound: Your goal should have a deadline, or a recurrence (x times per day, y hours per week).

“A goal is a dream with a deadline.” Napoleon Hill

Read for more tips about setting a SMART goal: How To Make Ambitious And Achievable Goals For Great Success

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3. Focus on habits

One day, I checked my goals and tried to determine what the difference was between those I achieved rather easily and those for which I seemed to struggle or procrastinate. I found a clear pattern.

I had a few long term goals, like maintaining a certain weight, or getting a new degree before I reach 40. I was doing well with the first one, less so with the second one.

Why did I seem to have a two-speed motivation? I was not less motivated by the new degree. But I had nowhere to start from, while my weight goal instead was linked to habits, such as eating five servings of fruits or vegetables per day, eating fish twice a week, exercising at least four times a week, etc.

These daily and weekly habits helped me reach the long term objective. They made it easy to track progress. I had not set any corresponding habit for my degree goal. And I was not going to achieve it just by looking at it.

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.”  Robert Louis Stevenson

Have a vision for who you want to be in the long run, and focus on the little habits that will get you there. We tend to underestimate how far we can go by taking small steps in the same direction day after day. Be great in the small things. “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”

4. Keep track

“A goal properly set is halfway reached” Abraham Lincoln.

The second half is all about tracking. Okay, you have entered a proper address in your GPS instead of “somewhere nice”, but what is the point if you then switch it off?

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Track your progress in a consistent and structured manner; i.e., not just in your head. Use an app, write in your journal, etc. Make it so that you can easily follow your evolution and compare with previous periods.

A study of nearly 1,700 participants in a weight-loss program showed that those who kept daily food records lost twice as much weight as those who kept no records.[2] Tracking fosters self-awareness. When you understand yourself better, it becomes much easier to change.

Tracking is also motivating in itself. It gives you immediate feedback on how you are performing. It provides you with a sense of achievement. Instead of a never-ending to-do-list which sometimes demoralizes you, you visualize the things you have already completed in your done list and get motivated. Find out more about the benefits of done list here: Why To-Do Lists Don’t Work and Done Lists Do

5. Reward yourself

Another benefit of tracking is that it allows you to define milestones, break down progress, and reinforce the habit loop by rewarding yourself for reaching certain milestones.

We all know that we are more motivated to do something when there is a reward at stake. The pleasure induced by a reward reinforces the activity which helped get the reward. This is called extrinsic motivation. It can be helpful to kick-start the process when intrinsic motivation is a bit low.

A simple way to introduce rewards is to plan/get/offer the rewards yourself. You need to set the bar properly. You need to do a decent effort to get it. It can’t be too difficult, or else you may end up feeling discouraged. It can’t be too easy, or else you’ll get the reward without the need for motivation.

You also need to define a reward that makes sense. Eating junk food for a week if you manage to lose three kilos is probably not the best choice! Ideally, the reward and the effort should be somehow aligned in nature. This will help create a virtuous circle.

Buying a smaller-size dress when you lose a few kilos or getting a massage after a few weeks of physical training are good examples. These rewards help you build milestones on your path to a better you. They become the symbols of your positive behavior change.

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6. Analyze your results and adjust your goals

Goals are not meant to be cast in stone. They must be alive and reassessed regularly. Monotony is a big motivation killer, so tracking gives you everything you need to stay motivated smartly.

When you track your progress, you can easily compare your actual results with the targets you had set. It is then time to take a step back and reset your goals. Here are a few examples:

  • Adjust down: “Hitting the gym three times a week was too ambitious. I manage to go once a week, two sometimes. I’ll change my target to twice a week instead and build up from there.”
  • Adjust up: “I have consistently hit my target of reading two hours per week. I enjoyed reading that much and learned a lot. Let’s increase the target to two and a half hours.”
  • Stop tracking: “I used to drink too much coffee some days when I hadn’t slept enough the previous night but over time, I managed to ingrain a new habit. I don’t drink more than two cups a day anymore. I can probably stop tracking this goal now.”
  • Give up: “I liked the idea of practicing martial arts but I fail on this goal week after week. I realize that I don’t enjoy the process as much as I liked the idea. It’s time to switch to another sport.”

Once a month, or every other month, try and take an “appointment with yourself” and review your goals. Assess what works well, what works less well, update the targets, add, remove, refine, etc. This will help you keep it interesting and inspiring.

Track it till you make it

A goal you don’t keep track of is doomed to fail. Setting it is not enough. Actually, setting goals is only about making them trackable and actionable.

By keeping track of your goals, you will engage in a virtuous personal growth circle. It will allow you to analyze your results, get motivated, improve, set better goals, and so on.

Ready, set, track!

Featured photo credit: Stocksnap via stocksnap.io

Reference

More by this author

Damien Catani

Founder at GOALMAP

You Are 7 Steps Away From Making A Habit Last Why I Can Be the Only 8% of People Who Reach the Goal Every Single Time How I Bounced Back From a Fiasco

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Last Updated on July 13, 2020

How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at Work & Take Control of Your Day

How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at Work & Take Control of Your Day

Overwhelm is a pernicious state largely caused by the ever-increasing demands on our time and the distractions that exist all around us. It creeps up on us and can, in its extreme form, leave us feeling anxious, stressed and exhausted.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed at work, here are 6 strategies you can follow that will reduce the feeling of overwhelm; leaving you calmer, in control and a lot less stressed.

1. Write Everything down to Offload Your Mind

The first thing you can do when you begin to feel overwhelmed is to write everything down that is on your mind.

Often people just write down all the things they think they have to do. This does help, but a more effective way to reduce overwhelm is to also write down everything that’s on your mind.

For example, you may have had an argument with your colleague or a loved one. If it’s on your mind write it down. A good way to do this is to draw a line down the middle of the page and title one section “things to do” and the other “what’s on my mind”.

The act of writing all this down and getting it out of your head will begin the process of removing your feeling of overwhelm. Writing things down can really change your life.

2. Decide How Long It Will Take to Complete Your To-Dos

Once you have ‘emptied your head,’ go through your list and estimate how long it will take to complete each to-do.

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As you go through your list, you will find quite a few to-dos will only take you five or ten minutes. Others will take longer, often up to several hours.

Do not worry about that at this stage. Just focus on estimating how long you will need to complete each task to the best of your ability. Here’s How to Cultivate a More Meaningful To Do List.

3. Take Advantage of Parkinson’s Law

Now here’s a little trick I learned a long time ago. Parkinson’s Law states that work will fill the time you have available to complete it, and us humans are terrible at estimating how long something will take:((Odhable: Genesis of Parkinson’s Law))

    This is why many people are always late. They think it will only take them thirty minutes to drive across town when previous experience has taught them it usually takes forty-five minutes to do so because traffic is often bad but they stick to the belief it will only take thirty minutes. It’s more wishful thinking than good judgment.

    We can use Parkinson’s Law to our advantage. If you have estimated that to write five emails that desperately need a reply to be ninety minutes, then reduce it down to one hour. Likewise, if you have estimated it will take you three hours to prepare your upcoming presentation, reduce it down to two hours.

    Reducing the time you estimate something will take gives you two advantages. The first is you get your work done quicker, obviously. The second is you put yourself under a little time pressure and in doing so you reduce the likelihood you will be distracted or allow yourself to procrastinate.

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    When we overestimate how long something will take, subconsciously our brains know we have plenty of time and so it plays tricks on us and we end up checking reviews of the Apple Watch 4 or allow our colleagues to interrupt us with the latest office gossip.

    Applying a little time pressure prevents this from happening and we get more focused and more work done.

    4. Use the Power of Your Calendar

    Once you have your time estimates done, open up your calendar and schedule your to-dos. Go through your to-dos and schedule time on your calendar for doing those tasks. Group tasks up into similar tasks.

    For emails that need attention on your to-do list, schedule time on your calendar to deal with all your emails at once. Likewise, if you have a report to write or a presentation to prepare, add these to your calendar using your estimated time as a guide for how long each will take.

    Seeing these items on your calendar eases your mind because you know you have allocated time to get them done and you no longer feel you have no time. Grouping similar tasks together keeps you in a focused state longer and it’s amazing how much work you get done when you do this.

    5. Make Decisions

    For those things you wrote down that are on your mind but are not tasks, make a decision about what you will do with each one. These things are on your mind because you have not made a decision about them.

    If you have an issue with a colleague, a friend or a loved one, take a little time to think about what would be the best way to resolve the problem. More often than not just talking with the person involved will clear the air and resolve the problem.

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    If it is a more serious issue, then decide how best to deal with it. Talk to your boss, a colleague and get advice.

    Whatever you do, do not allow it to fester. Ignoring the problem will not make it go away. You need to make a decision to deal with it and the sooner you do so the sooner the problem will be resolved. (You can take a look at this guide on How To Make Good Decisions All The Time.)

    I remember long ago, when I was in my early twenties and had gone mad with my newly acquired credit cards. I discovered I didn’t have the money to pay my monthly bills. I worried about it for days, got stressed and really didn’t know what to do. Eventually, I told a good friend of mine of the problem. He suggested I called the credit card company to explain my problem. The next day, I plucked up the courage to call the company, explained my problem and the wonderful person the other end listened and then suggested I paid a smaller amount for a couple of months.

    This one phone call took no more than ten minutes to make, yet it solved my problem and took away a lot of the stress I was feeling at the time. I learned two very valuable lessons from that experience:

    The first, don’t go mad with newly acquired credit cards! And the second, there’s always a solution to every problem if you just talk to the right person.

    6. Take Some Form of Action

    Because overwhelm is something that creeps up on us, once we feel overwhelmed (and stressed as the two often go together), the key is to take some form of action.

    The act of writing everything down that is bothering you and causing you to feel overwhelmed is a great place to start. Being able to see what it is that is bothering you in a list form, no matter how long that list is, eases the mind. You have externalized it.

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    It also means rather than these worries floating around in a jumbled mess inside your head, they are now visible and you can make decisions easier about what to do about them. Often it could be asking a colleague for a little help, or it could be you see you need to allocate some focused time to get the work done. The important thing is you make a decision on what to do next.

    Overwhelm is not always caused by a feeling of having a lack of time or too much work, it can also be caused by avoiding a decision about what to do next.

    The Bottom Line

    Make a decision, even if it is to just talk to someone about what to do next. Making a decision about how you will resolve something on its own will reduce your feelings of overwhelm and start you down the path to a resolution one way or another.

    When you follow these strategies to can say goodbye to your overwhelm and gain much more control over your day.

    More Tips for Reducing Work Stress

    Featured photo credit: Andrei Lazarev via unsplash.com

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