Setting goals is the easy part. Making progress continuously to achieve those goals is a whole different ball game. This is why so many people fail to accomplish their goals. This can lead to people never setting goals again because their confidence has been battered by their past experience.
It does not have to be that way.
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If you follow these golden rules, you can always make progress. Working towards your goal will be easier, and you will have a much greater chance of achieving goals you set out:
1. Don’t Set Too Many Goals
When we sit down to think about what we want to achieve, we often begin a list and start writing down all the things we want. And that is a great way to get yourself started.
The problem is we often end up with a long list of things we want to achieve, and it becomes very difficult to decide which ones are important and which ones are less important.
Instead, once you have written your list, set yourself some parameters. For example, I only allow myself five goals per year. This means I can give each goal total focus for two months.
Most goals, when you break them down, involve changing or developing a habit. For example, if you want to save $20,000 next year, you will need to change your spending habits. Spend less, save more.
But if you are in the habit of going out shopping every weekend or spend an inordinate amount of time on Amazon searching for the latest digital toy, you are going to have to stop doing that. Instead, you are going to have to familiarize yourself with your savings account. Then develop the habit of sending money to your savings account rather than Amazon’s account.
By allowing yourself two months to change the habit that needs changing, you are in with a much better chance than if you try to change several habits at once.
Once your habit changes and it becomes natural for you, it’s time to move on to your next goal.
2. Find the Connections
When you have chosen your five goals, look for connections. Often when we set ourselves goals, there will be a natural connection between your goals.
Losing weight and getting fit is a good example, There are two goals there. Lose weight and get fit. The two naturally fit together so you can plan around that.
Earlier this year, I decided to join Robin Sharma’s 5 AM Club. I had read so much about the benefits of waking up early and thought it would be a good thing to try.
I was not a morning person, and the thought of waking up at 5 AM scared me a little. I realized that this was going to be a very challenging goal. So at the beginning of June, I decided to begin. I gave myself two months to test it out and see if there were any benefits for me.
As I looked at my goals list, I also saw I had “to become fluent in Korean”. So I saw an opportunity to achieve both goals. Then I had a reason to wake up early, I could use the hour between 5 AM and 6 AM to study Korean.
Well, the first week was hell. I felt tired in the afternoons and just wanted to curl up on the sofa and sleep. But I persisted. I knew it would not take long for my body to readjust to the new time frame.
By the end of the first week though, it was much easier. By the end of the second week, I was beginning to look forward to that quiet hour of study. And now, I don’t even think about it and it has become my favourite part of the day.
Not only do I now wake up at 5 AM, I am also doing quite well with my Korean studying too.
On my list of goals, I had “start meditating” too. I realized I could add that to my morning routine. So now, I study Korean from 5 AM to 5:45 AM and I then do fifteen minutes of meditation. I have linked three goals I set for the year together and after five months practising this, these goals have become deeply ingrained habits.
3. Set Weekly Objectives
In my experience, the hardest part about achieving goals is staying focused on them. After we have planned out what we want to achieve, become motivated and determined, we then come face to face with the daily crises and problems that get thrown up at us. When that happens, it can be hard to stay focused on our goals.
To overcome this, spend some time each week and set one or two objectives that will take you closer towards achieving your goal.
For example, if your goal is to get fit and lose weight, each week set the number of times you will exercise and how much weight you want to lose. If your goal is to save $20,000 in the next year, set the objective to save $385 that week (or not spend $385 that week).
Breaking your goals down into bite-size objectives like this helps to keep you focused on the process. In the end, it’s the process that will take you closer to achieving your goals each week.
4. Write Your Goals Down
As David Allen, author of Getting Things Done, says,
“Your brain is a terrible office.”
That means your brain is terrible at remembering things. Get your goals written down.
Writing down your goals gives you a reminder. But the key to writing down your goals is:
Write them down in a place you will see them regularly.
It’s no good writing out your goals on a piece of paper only for that piece of paper to disappear under a mountain of other bits of paper after a few days. Instead, if you keep a journal or diary, write out your goals in your journal. If you use a digital notes app, write your goals in there and pin them to the top of your notes list.
I keep a written journal on my desk at all times. I record what I do each day, what my objectives for the day are and what I will be focused on for the day.
At the front of my journal, I write out my goals for the year. Each year, I go through three or four journals and so I write out my goals three or four times each year.
Every time I write out my five goals for the year, it reinforces my commitment to my goals and creates a great way to hold myself accountable to my goals.
5. Review Your Goals Weekly, Not Daily
When you read through your goals every day, you soon become numb to them. You begin to just go through the motion of reading through a list and that list soon stops having any meaningful impact.
Instead, take some time out on a Sunday for reflection. Reflect on what you have accomplished that week and how you are doing on your goals. Analyze where you are weak, where you gave in to temptation and where you failed. Then, create a plan to make sure the same thing does not happen the following week and set yourself one or two objectives to accomplish.
This way, your goals remain meaningful to you. You are setting yourself achievable mini-goals each week that will take you closer towards achieving your overall goals.
I make reviewing my goals and objectives a part of my weekly review. It does not take long—usually ten minutes—but that time is what keeps me focused on what I want to accomplish. It reinforces what I am trying to achieve and why.
6. Have a Strong “Why”
A goal without a purpose is a weak goal. You need to know why you want to accomplish the goal.
Now your “why” is personal and often can be quite embarrassing if you explained it to another person. The important thing is the reason why you want to achieve your goal needs to be YOUR reason, and not because someone else says it’s a good idea.
If you are a smoker and you visit the doctor for a checkup, and your doctor says you should give up smoking for your long-term health, whilst true, that is not your “why”. You may enjoy smoking and not care about the long-term consequences, in which case that “why” is weak.
The same applies to losing weight. You might be perfectly happy with your weight as it is. If someone comes along and says you should lose weight, that is not your “why”.
Your “why” needs to be personal and needs to have some kind of emotional connection to what you want. “I want to lose weight so I look fantastic at the beach” is a good personal “why”. I’ve found the more embarrassing it is to tell someone your “why”, the stronger the “why” is.
If you haven’t found your “why” yet, this guide can help you.
The Bottom Line
Goals are important in life because they give you a sense of purpose; and a sense of purpose gives you a reason to wake up in the morning with energy and enthusiasm.
Purpose gets you through difficult days and contributes to your overall happiness and wellbeing.
Take these six golden rules to setting goals and you will soon find yourself achieve far more than you could ever have dreamed of. Good luck!
More Goal Getting Tips
- How to Plan Your Life Goals and Actually Achieve Them
- 15 Powerful Tools For Goal Setting
- How to Create an Action Plan and Achieve Your Personal Goals
Featured photo credit: Xan Griffin via unsplash.com