5 Ways to Achieve Your Goals: Start Setting Them Right
If you’re anything like me, there will be days when you just won’t feel like doing the shit you need to do – whether that’s daily chores, exercise routines, or work tasks. And that’s A-OK. It happens to all of us.
But here’s something to ask yourself and reflect on: Why don’t you feel like doing the thing in the first place?
Many times, it may be because you don’t see the point. There’s no goal for you to reach for, no northstar for you to work towards.
If this is really the case, you need to ask yourself if it’s something really worth doing. If it doesn’t contribute to your goals, what’s the point? But if it actually does contribute to a goal you’re trying to reach, how do you motivate yourself to actually get it done?
This is where strategic goal-setting comes in.
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: There’s a reason new year's resolutions don’t work. They’re outcome-oriented – and this is largely the way we tend to approach setting goals. The irony is that focusing on the outcome makes the goal harder to achieve.
The thing about setting goals is that it’s not a once and done thing. It’s an iterative process. This is why rather than focusing on outcomes, we need to develop systems and processes to achieve these goals.
If you’re not sure where to start, here are five things you can do to set up a system for crushing your goals.
#1 Figure out the endpoint and set up your environment
This is easier said than done. Although we humans are good at imagining possible futures, we often have trouble focusing on and taking action in the present. When I say figure out the endpoint, I mean actually think about it and figure out why and how this goal is important for you. Then ask yourself, “What am I doing now to help create that future?”
For example, when I decided to take on this new job as a sales consultant, the endpoint I had in mind was: I want to be able to consult and advise companies in the future. So although I could have earned a higher salary by leading a sales team, I chose to do this instead, because I wanted the knowledge and experience.
After you’ve identified your endpoint, the next step is to set up your environment and create systems that will help you achieve that goal. Ask: What about my environment needs to fundamentally change to allow these systems and processes to occur?
For example if your goal is to run five miles every morning, it’s a lot easier to do if you prep for it the night before – getting your running kit out and ready, setting your alarm and leaving it far away from your bed so you have to get up and turn it off, actually going to bed at a reasonable time.
You are a product of your environment. So choose the environment that will best develop you toward your objective. Analyse your life in terms of its environment. Are the things around you helping you toward success – or are they holding you back? — W. Clement Stone
#2 Talk to someone who’s already achieved your goal
If achieving your goal is about systems, then we can also think about it in terms of reverse-engineering – especially because it’s a great way to learn how something works.
Although it sounds like something super technical, there are some key steps in every reverse-engineering process: information extraction, modelling, and review.
How can you get the information you need to achieve your goal? Look at the people who’ve gone before you – the ones who have already achieved the goal you want to achieve. Ask them: How did you get to where you are now? What did you do to achieve this goal?
Then, turn that information into a concept or practice you can apply into your own life (modelling). See if it works, and keep iterating on it (review).
#3 Get clarity and be mindful
Call it what you want – creeping normality, death by a thousand cuts, gradualism – but it’s truly the small things that can make a big difference.
The micro-decisions we make on a daily basis, whether to have just one more helping of dessert, to hit snooze and sleep in just another five minutes, to make one less cold call – it all adds up and makes us into the person we become.
It’s tough to do, but mastering your mindset is one of the biggest factors for achieving your goals. Having control of your mindset lets you stay mindful of your behaviours and trigger moments, as well as the opportunities that come your way.
When you have clarity on what these are, you can act on them. In sales, this could mean that you’re more conscious of when you’re about to give up and you can say, “I’m just gonna do one more call. I’m gonna do just one more campaign.”
#4 Understand and break down the process
There is only one way to eat an elephant, a bite at a time. — Desmond Tutu
There’s a reason the saying “bite off more than you can chew” exists. All of us know that if you take too big a bite, you no longer have space in your mouth to chew. You end up not getting to eat at all.
This applies to goal setting too. How you approach your goal determines whether you’ll be able to achieve it. If you set too big a goal, it starts to look daunting and psychologically more difficult to imagine achieving it.
But what happens when you break it down into smaller parts? Suddenly, each part looks more attainable. And after you’ve successfully achieved each part, you discover that you’ve actually achieved the big goal. It’s not magic, it’s just process.
Break your Big Goal down into smaller parts using frameworks like WOOP (Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, Plan) or SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely) to make it easier to achieve.
#5 Get an accountability partner
Having a mentor is great, but if you want to stay on track to achieve your goals, get an accountability partner – someone you can count on to stay updated on your progress, and keep pushing you towards maintaining your habits, behaviours, and practice.
It could be a working relationship that you’ve set up with someone, or it can even be something casual that’s part of your environment – like the people you hang out with on a regular basis.
There is some truth to the saying “you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” The idea is that you become more like the people you spend the most time with. If you hang around people who smoke, you’re more likely to smoke. If you spend time with people who are overweight and prefer eating over people who exercise, you’re more likely to be overweight as well.
As you can see, your environment is a huge part of whether you can achieve your goals. And this goes back to the goal-setting process itself.
Before you set your goal, ask yourself what you want out of life
Often, if you find yourself unable to achieve the goals that you set, it may be because they don’t align with your personal values. So, try to identify what these values are. You can do a test – like this values profile test from Psychology Today – or ask yourself pertinent questions to try and figure it out.
Questions you can start with are:
Where am I happiest?
Where do I experience the most joy?
When do I have the most fun?
How do I spend more time doing that?
What is the role that can support that lifestyle?
If I have a million dollars in the bank, is this how I want to spend my day?
Before you start feeling down or discouraged about not achieving your goals, ask yourself if that goal is really what you want in the first place. Society is constantly telling us what we’re supposed to want. And if we’re not careful, we can develop a default state that’s shaped by the world around us and is not actually what resonates with us.
Why would you want to live life that way?