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Published on January 4, 2021

6 Strategic Ways to Aim High and Achieve Your Goals

6 Strategic Ways to Aim High and Achieve Your Goals

Learning to aim high is ideal for any leader who has the ambition to win big. Unless winning small is your target, aiming high is the only option you should consider as an impactful leader looking to make a mark in your field.

How exactly can you strategically aim high, achieve your goals, and benefit from the fruits of true excellence?

It is hard to go wrong when developing small micro habits, executing daily tasks, tracking your progress and thinking long term[1]. Self-improvement is directly related to one’s ability to aim high because of the fluidity of the capitalist system[2].

I’m not aware of any professional who aims high and stops learning and developing new skill sets. Life evolves, and skill sets get obsolete. New demands are born. Challenges arise. Therefore, proactive continuous leadership improvement is necessary, expected, and beneficial to us all.

Gordon Tredgold, Founder and CEO of Leadership principles, stated that the secret to success is aiming high, following by starting small and keep going. He goes further to say that, “Big success are often just an accumulation of small successes.”[3]

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In this article, you will learn why small micro habits, executing daily tasks, tracking your progress long term, continuous self improvement, and the accumulation of small successes are powerful strategic footsteps for aiming high in the workforce.

Why You Should Strategically Aim High

Simply put, aiming low and failing isn’t worth living for. What a waste of time and talent it would be for anyone to ignore strategy and avoid aiming high and risking failure over success.

Learning to aim high must be your only stance when setting up life career goals if you truly want to live with passion and purpose.

6 Strategic Ways to Aim High and Achieve Your Goals

To aim high and achieve you goals, you must be strategic. Do these following activities, adapt them to your field, and test and see if they work for you. The following is exactly what I do to keep achieving high and living a life of purpose and continuous achievement.

1. Developing Small Micro Habits

You must first develop the ability to start micro habits, like curating your sphere of influence[4].

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The people you associate yourself with make a big difference in your life. Dr. Jose Valentino Ruiz-Resto, a University of Florida Music Entrepreneurship faculty member and Multi-Grammy and Emmy Award Winner, once said, “When you associate yourself with winners, you become a winner.”

Who is in your immediate sphere of influence? It’s important to know the answer to this because they will influence both your personality and path in life.

Other small but important micro habits are taking actions when others don’t, observing patterns, and starting each day by asking: “How can I change my life today?”

2. Executing Daily Tasks

In order to aim high and succeed, you need a plan and a course of action. The goal, in my current position as Department Chair, is to build the very best department of media production among Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the state of Alabama. My plan is to develop the necessary infrastructure, e.g. having modern facilities, an up-to-date media curriculum, a place for students to congregate, etc.

In order to accomplish all of this, I must execute a variety of daily tasks, including answering emails relating to the vision of the unit, speaking with students in order to gather important youth insights, revising old and writing new syllabi objectives, and creating partnerships on campus to increase cross-collaboration.

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Even if you have big, long-term goals, the daily tasks that you engage in each day will ultimately be what allows you to achieve them. Don’t get lost in big ideas and forget the importance of small tasks.

3. Tracking Your Progress in the Long-Term

Aiming high is almost always synonymous with aiming long-term. Achieving the extraordinary is a lifetime pursuit that takes time and must be measured against a particular standard overtime. Malcolm Gladwell, author of the book The Tipping Point, stated that “Researchers have settled on what they believe is the magic number for true expertise: 10,000 hours.”[5]

While some scholars disagree with the actual number (10,000 hours), they do agree that a considerable amount of time is required for expertise to be developed. Leaders who aim high and succeed keep an up-to-date spreadsheet with data tracking the time spent on each task, along with progress made.

Project analytics is critical in the process because when variables are measured over time, trends (positive and negative) emerge, leading to insightful conclusions. This can help you adjust your goals as you go.

4. Continuous Self-Improvement

Tiger Woods, in his quest for self-improvement, “would get up in the morning and run four miles. After that, he’d go to the gym to lift weights. Then, he’d hit some balls for two or three hours, go play around, and then work on his short game.”[6]

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Some may consider his routine insane, but none disagree that Tiger Woods aimed very high and succeeded in his golf endeavors. He has been known for always trying to improve, even after winning multiple major open golf championships.

It’s clear to me that Tiger understood kaizen, the Japanese philosophy and practice for continuous improvement. It’s without question a requisite for aiming high and succeeding.

5. Accumulation of Small Successes

Aiming high and succeeding starts with taking the first step and accumulating small victories along the way. Let’s take the example of a journey to get a PhD. A PhD isn’t earned quickly or all at once. It is achieved over time through small successes.

It starts with getting accepted to a PhD program, followed by becoming a PhD candidate, passing coursework, to eventually being able to take “the comps” and start working on a doctoral dissertation. It is only after the former that a candidate has the chance to complete the degree through a dissertation defense.

Another great example comes from Chrysler. The great Lee Iacocca revived Chrysler Corporation in the 1980’s[7] by accumulating small successes which allowed his to acquire the Jeep Division of AMC in 1987. Great corporate leaders aim high and succeed by accumulating small successes along the way, and you can, too.

Final Thoughts

To aim high is a philosophy worth pursuing. When implemented with sound and previously tested strategies, success is within reach. Above are just some of the strategies you might want to put in practice in your leadership bag of tricks. Higher standards emerge from such principles, and success follows the results.

More on How to Achieve Success

Featured photo credit: Joseph Chan via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Dr. Luis C. Almeida

Department Chair

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Last Updated on January 21, 2021

10 Willpower Hacks to Help Achieve Your Goals

10 Willpower Hacks to Help Achieve Your Goals

“Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.” – Mahatma Gandhi

“Willpower is essential to the accomplishment of anything worthwhile.” – Brian Tracy

“Just do it.” – Nike

The most important and satisfying things in life usually aren’t the easiest ones.

The good news: In today’s hyper-connected world, we have access to all the information we could want to help us achieve our future goals. We know what foods will make us healthier (would kale or quinoa be as popular without the internet and Dr. Oz? I think not). We can also estimate for ourselves the benefits of starting retirement savings early – and the implications for the lifestyles of our future selves (that boat at 65 means fewer vacations in your 20’s).

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We almost always know what we should do thanks to endless knowledge at our fingertips. But actually doing it is an entirely different kind of challenge. Most of us can relate to that feeling of inertia at the start of a big project, or the struggle to consistently make good, long-term choices for our health, or saving for the future. This mental tug-of-war we experience has evolutionary roots. While knowing this might bring comfort, it doesn’t help solve the problem at hand:

How can we flex our willpower to become better, faster, smarter, and stronger?

The bad news: you can’t Google your way out of this one.

Or can you? A fascinating body of research (much of which you can turn up online through popular press and academic articles) sheds light on how to hack your willpower for better, easier results in all areas of your life. The Willpower Instinct, a great book by Stanford prof Kelly McGonigal, provides a deep dive into these and more topics for anyone keenly interested.

Here’s the short version: we can make the most of our willpower through two types of hacks. First, there are ways to turbo boost your willpower. Second, there are ways to hack the system so you make the best use of whatever (sometimes infinitely modest) willpower you have.

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The following 10 tips draw on both of these toolkits.

1. Slow the heck down.

Most regrettable decisions (the splurge at the mall, the procrastination on the project, the snacks in the break room) happen when one part of our brain effectively hijacks the other. We go into automatic pilot (and unfortunately the pilot in question has a penchant for shoes, Facebook and cookies!). Researchers suggest that we can override this system by charging up the other. That is, slow down and focus on the moment at hand. Think about your breathing. Bring yourself back to this moment in time, feel the compulsion but don’t act on it yet. Try telling yourself, “If this feeling is still just as uncomfortable in 10 minutes, I’ll act on it.” Take a little time to be mindful – then make your decision.

2. Dream of ‘done.’

Imagine yourself handing in the big project, soaking up the appreciation from your colleagues or boss. Or crossing the finish line for the half-marathon you’ve always wanted to run. The rush, the aliveness, the wind on your face, the medal …

That’s a lot more fun and motivating to think about than how much work it is to get out of bed for your long, Sunday morning run!

Re-orient your brain by summoning more motivating feelings than just “not running this morning is more enjoyable than running this morning.” If your goals are meaningful, this will help.

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3. Make your toughest choices first.

Scientists have found that willpower is like a full bathtub that’s drained throughout the day. So, why not start your toughest challenges when you have a full reserve? Get that project started or fit that workout in before you even check your email or have breakfast. Bonus: the high you’ll get from crossing off your hardest ‘to-do’ will help you sail through the rest of your day.

4. Progress = commitment, not a license to backslide.

A lot of times people will ‘cheat’ right after taking positive steps towards their goals. (A common version of this trap is, “I worked out three days in a row, so I deserve this cookie.”) Most of us can relate to this thinking – but it’s totally irrational! We’ll often trick ourselves into setbacks because we think we deserve them, even if we don’t really want them and deep down we know they’ll work against us in the long-run.

How can you counteract this effect? Research finds that if you use your positive streak to recommit (“If I worked out three days this week, I must be really committed to my health and fitness goal!”) rather than an excuse for wiggle room, we don’t take the same cheat options. Cool, right?

5. Meditate.

Meditation is an expressway to better willpower. Bringing your attention to your breathing for 15 minutes, or even five, flexes your willpower muscles by applying discipline to your thinking. It does this by working two mental ‘muscle groups’: first, the set of muscles that notice when your attention is drifting, and second, the set of muscles that bring you back to your task at hand. Over time, even small amounts of meditation will help you build the discipline to easily do what was once hard – like pushing through a long stretch at work.

6. Set mini-goals.

Which seems more doable: committing to three 20 minute runs this week or a half-marathon? Mini-goals are brilliant because they’re easier to achieve and boost your commitment to continuing. When we size them up, we see them as achievable rather than daunting. Each time you succeed at one, it boosts your sense of efficacy and personal integrity: not only are you capable of doing what you set out to do, but you followed through on it. Nice.

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The beauty of mini-goals is that over time, mini-goals – and the momentum you’ve built by doing them – can quickly turn into super-goals. So that half marathon might be more likely to happen, and sooner and more easily than you think!

7. Eat.

Low blood sugar decreases your ability to make tough decisions. If you’re running on empty physically, you’ll also be running on empty mentally. (Yes, this one’s somewhat ironic if your goal involves changing food patterns – but even so, letting your blood sugar drop too far will only sabotage you over time.)

8. Sleep.

Research shows people who don’t get enough sleep have a tough time exercising their willpower. Sleep is critical for a healthy brain – along with just about everything else. So to optimize your willpower muscle, make sure you’re catching your zzz’s.

9. Nix the self-sabotage.

Making yourself feel bad hurts, rather than helps, your willpower efforts. Researchers have found that compassion is a far better strategy than tough love – telling yourself “It’s OK, everyone has setbacks sometimes,” will help you bounce back more quickly than negative self-talk.

10. Take the first hard step.

As a new behavior becomes a habit, it is more natural. You have to use less and less willpower to ‘make it so.’ When you’re starting a new pattern that feels hard, remind yourself that the first steps are truly the hardest. It will probably never feel harder than it does in those first few choices. In the case of repeated behaviors, like exercise or saving money, it takes weeks for new habits to take hold. By that point, the habit will be so ingrained, you’d have to try hard not to do it.

Featured photo credit: Kym Ellis via unsplash.com

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