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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 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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