Any productivity guru worth their salt will tell you that you need to set goals if you want to get things done. And they are right.
What many of them don’t then tell you is what you need to do to help you achieve those goals – because what stops most of us is ourselves.
“You are your own worst enemy. If you can learn to stop expecting impossible perfection, in yourself and others, you may find the happiness that has always eluded you.” – Lisa Kleypas
We’re vague and unrealistic and unprepared. And nothing changes. Taking inspired action makes all the difference. When you are realistic, practical, and take simple steps, you’ll begin to see the results you first envisioned. So many of us are scared to commit to something in case we fail – which is completely normal. But what separates failure from success are educated and well-informed plans.
Preparing yourself with the right steps to achieve your goals is one of the biggest acts of self-love you can cultivate for yourself. Because before you realise it, when you’re well-equipped, those habits you so desperately desire suddenly become second nature.
So, when it comes to setting goals, let’s break things down. Your dreams can and should always be BIG. The journey to realising those dreams does not have to be a process of tormenting and bullying yourself! Here’s how you can achieve small milestones and, eventually, those big dreams.
5 top tips to achieve your goals
1. Be as specific as you can
Vague goals feel comfortable and flexible, like old pyjama bottoms. And like old pyjama bottoms, should not be used for important things.
Vague goals allow you to hide. For example, if you want to ‘get outside more’ – how much more? How will you know you’ve done enough? For the perfectionists out there, I tell you now, it will never be enough.
Be specific so that you feel you’ve accomplished something you set out to do. Tell yourself how long you will walk for, where to, and how often you will do it per week. Once you’ve got super-specific, it’s time to…
2. Schedule it and make space for it
Writing something down or adding it to the calendar on your phone allows for that thing to become a real, actual priority. When it’s non-negotiable, you naturally show up for it, therefore yourself. So, get it in the diary before any fears or doubts have the chance to pop in your head. You’ll find that this sense of self-love and self-respect only gets stronger the more you stick to your plans.
3. Start with ‘one'
Setting your baseline too high risks you not putting in the effort of doing what you set out to do. Let’s say you’re trying to exercise more and stick to a routine. Avoid telling yourself that you will do 100 crunches every day. Life gets in the way. You’ll be tired and 100 will feel impossible. No matter what you’re trying to achieve, always start with one. If you go in high, the chances are there will be lots of days where you don’t do any at all.
Set yourself a realistic minimum baseline – by realistic, I mean something you can do even on your lowest energy day like when you’re hungover or sick. There’ll be a lot of days when you do way more than that but on the days you don’t, you will still do something. That’s how you develop a healthy habit that becomes second nature.
4. Experiment and record your findings
The fear of failing at a goal comes when we set it up as something that is either achieved (good) or not (bad). But what if we treated it like an experiment? You have an assumption, a hypothesis, that doing this action is going to have a certain effect. Normally, that effect is ultimately to make you feel good, so let’s test that!
Try phrasing your goal as, “I wonder what happens if I do X?”. Then record and monitor what happens and see what you learn. Days when you don’t achieve your goal become the perfect opportunity to learn – why didn’t it happen? What can you do differently from this point on?
5. Find your why
Whenever you set yourself a goal, make sure you’re clear about why you’re setting that goal. What does that goal represent to you? What does it allow you to do or feel?
When you start with the why (as Simon Sinek says https://startwithwhy.com/find-your-why/), you connect with your inner drive and motivation. It also allows you to hold what success looks like a little more loosely.
As an example, I set myself a challenge of running 1000 miles in 2018. My why was to make running a regular and healthy habit throughout the year, rather than my usual fits-and-starts approach to exercise. Staying connected to that why meant that going for a run, no matter how short, was achieving my goal. Focus on your why and you’ll create the feelings you want, regardless of the outcome.
Whatever’s on your radar for 2019, know that with the right frame of mind, starting slow, being compassionate with yourself, and utilising these handy tips, your goals can be achieved. You got this!