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6 Golden Rules to Make Progress Towards Achieving Goals

6 Golden Rules to Make Progress Towards Achieving Goals

Setting goals is the easy part. Achieving those goals is a whole different ball game and that 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.

But it does not have to be that way.

If you follow these golden rules, 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.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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!

Featured photo credit: Xan Griffin via unsplash.com

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Carl Pullein

Dedicated to helping people to achieve their maximum potential through better time management and productivity.

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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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