How many times have you set your mind to something and then did it? How often do you come up with a great idea that never gets put into action? If you had to teach someone why sometimes you achieve and other times you don’t, what would be the essence of your lesson? What would you say to someone about what it takes to become a better person? What would you share about what to not to do in order to not come up short on your dreams? How does it feel to give your best effort? How does it feel to do something you know you shouldn’t? How do you know when you have succeeded?
As you reflect on how you would teach your child, sibling, or best friend about goals and living their dream, consider that you are really just reflecting on how you would teach or remind yourself of the same. That is what we do with this website. We try to help others in order to help ourselves, with the end goal being the same: to realize potential, to live up to capacity, to leave this place better than we found it.
Motivation.com prides itself on providing intellectually-credible, statistically-proven, and easy-to-implement advice to help you make your life and our world better. Motivation is the cornerstone to improvement. Goals you are passionate about and can realize are the driving force for and a by-product of true motivation.
Here are our top ten strategies for creating and implementing goals for you to make a world of difference in your life and the lives of others:
1. Make sure you are in the right mood or state when determining what you want to achieve.
You look in the mirror and see someone who is thirty pounds overweight. You are upset with yourself and disgusted by what you see, especially after a long weekend of overeating. In this frame of mind you angrily proclaim that you are starting a diet tomorrow and losing twenty pounds in three months. Alas, this goal will go nowhere. If you are appalled with yourself when you set the goal, imagine how you will feel if you realize little or no progress.
Rather than imagining a desired result when you are frustrated, guilty, or feeling shame, do so when you are feeling more positive about life and your situation. Setting a goal from a place of understanding, desire, and hope is infinitely more powerful than doing it when you are down. Biologically and psychologically, you are likely to stick to the desired behavior when you are excited by the positive potential rather than dejected by dislike.
2. Write down goals and read the list back frequently.
One key technique to achieving a goal is to think it, create it, refine it, and then write it down. The simple act of physically reproducing your ideas magnifies the likelihood of realizing them. Research shows this to be statistically true, but you don’t need research to recognize the truth in this goal setting activity. Just ask yourself how many great ideas you have had over the years that never made it past your brain. Those who consider themselves high achievers always write down their goals.
Another reason to write down goals is to be able to read them frequently. This simple step helps to bring the goal to life as you are regularly reminded of exactly what you are hoping for. Bringing goals to front of mind is a powerful way to act on them. Reading what you have written brings them to front of mind.
3. Reverse engineer the goal timeline and create achievable action steps
You want to write a book. You work full time and have three kids. You want to publish your book within 12 months. You want to have ten chapters in the book, with each one likely having 20 pages. You sit down at the computer one morning and begin writing your book. After two hours you have written two pages. At that rate, how many hours will it take to write 200 pages? 100 hours. If you were able to generate two pages in two hours it should only take 50 days to write your book! In that case, two months from now you will be a published author. Your book is waiting for your words to flow!
But what about editing, typesetting, cover design, writer’s block, sick kids, a website, a Facebook page, your long planned vacation, and, oh yeah, your regular job. There is a huge amount of work and thought that goes into writing a book, starting a new company, changing jobs, planting an organic garden, refurbishing an antique car, or losing weight. In order to succeed at your goal it is vital to exhaustively analyze what it will take to get there. In order to do this it is important to fully dissect the process and to create a timeline based on this dissection. Some people do this by listing what needs to take place on a monthly basis within a year, a weekly basis within a month, a daily basis within a week, or an hourly basis within a day.
By giving yourself concrete steps to take on a pre-scheduled basis–courtesy of reverse engineering the process–you are left with smaller action steps that allow you to see your progress on a regular basis. This reverse engineering gives you an honest assessment of how much time, energy, and effort it will take to achieve your goal. It also gives you bite size action steps to take as you achieve smaller successes towards a larger accomplishment.
4. Work with an accountability partner.
Whether it is a friend, colleague, life coach, spouse, or a slight acquaintance, sharing your goals with someone who will help you in their pursuit is invaluable. Accountability partners bring your goals to life in the form of human support; they allow you to refine your ideals, provide feedback on the reasonableness of the goal, help you choreograph the steps you need to take, and then validate your success or hold you responsible for staying on track.
It also is helpful if you are an accountability partner for someone else, whether by reciprocating with your partner or just helping someone. By helping another person you are able to see the mechanics of goal achievement from the support side. This will help you to better refine your efforts to achieve your own meaningful results as you help someone realize their dreams.
5. Create and utilize specific time periods each day or week for action steps.
There is nothing more detrimental to reaching a goal that truly matters to you than the concept “I will do it later.” Later becomes later and later and finally never. The best way to counter the tendency to procrastinate is to work at your goal during specific time periods that you create entirely for that purpose. When you are accountable to yourself by setting up a specific schedule for goal action steps, it is easier to make good on your self-promise. If you leave goal pursuit as something that you will do “when you have time,” that time may never come.
If you are writing a book, wake up and write every day for one hour. If you want to find a romantic partner, schedule specific time twice a week to socialize and peruse dating websites. If you want start a business, take two hours each on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday to create a business plan, read start-up books, and further develop your service or product.
6. Analyze your gut reaction to the goal and action steps.
You make a goal. You pour your heart and soul into it for two months. You love the idea and the action steps you take fill you with energy and desire. Your goal matters to you and your body, mind, and spirit are energized as you pursue it. Sure, there are times when you don’t want to work on it. You are tired or your friends are out having fun. But you persevere because in your gut this goal feels great. Congratulations! You are on the right track! Keep it up!
The flip side is that whenever you work on your goal it feels like a weight on your shoulders. You find yourself resenting the time you have to spend on the action steps. It bothers you when you read your goals and look at your reverse engineered goal calendar. You are starting to hate this goal because it just does not feel good anymore and you aren’t making any baby step progress. Congratulations! You have found something that you don’t want to do! Rather than beat yourself up and fight your way through, stop pursuing this idea. Find another dream and consider yourself lucky for not wasting another minute on something that ultimately felt wrong to you.
Get to the heart of what really matters to you. Sometimes pursuing the wrong idea helps you do this.
7. Visualize your desired outcome and express gratitude for what you already have.
This is not sitting in a chair pretending you are driving the dream car, shifting the gears and holding the steering wheel. It is taking time on a regular basis to quiet your thoughts, take deep breaths, relax your body, and just deeply imagine the benefits to you, your family, your friends, your community, and/or the world if you realize your goal.
Projecting and reflecting are equally powerful. Ask world class Olympians what made them when a medal, and to a person they will tell you they visualized it happening, in the years of training before the event, in the days just before their turn, and at the starting blocks before the starting pistol rang out. Ask them how they felt after they competed and they will tell you they are grateful.
Rare is a top five list in a top ten list, but here is one that illustrates the power of gratefulness. The following conclusions were arrived at through scientifically-based, statistically-proven studies. Practicing gratitude:
- Builds and strengthens social bonds and friendships.
- Helps you fall asleep faster and sleep better.
- Alters heart rates which is beneficial in the treatment of high blood pressure and reduces the likelihood of sudden death in patients with heart conditions.
- Strengthens immune systems and reduces stress.
- Makes you feel better about life.
Every day, every day, take a few minutes to visualize your world with the goal met and spend a few more minutes to give thanks for what you already have.
8. Celebrate successes on the goal realization journey.
Author Earl Nightingale said “Success is the progressive realization of a worthy goal or ideal.” As you progress, take time to honor the steps you take on your goal realization journey. Remember that a goal of your goal is to enjoy the process. As you make progress, stop to reflect on where you have come from as opposed to wonder how long it might take to get to where you want to be.
Remember Jared, the Subway Guy? As a college student he tipped the scale at 400 pounds. Then he took one small step to change his body. He bought a six-inch sandwich instead of a double cheeseburger. One year and 200 pounds later he realized his goal. But every time he ate a sandwich instead of a burger or Chinese buffet or pizza, he earned the right to a mini-celebration.
Feeling good about what you are doing and how much you have learned, grew, improved, or created is a sure-fire way to want to do more. Celebrate your effort. Celebrate your dedication. Celebrate your progressive realizations. Celebrate yourself.
9. Hold your goals lightly.
A friend of mine—who taught me the concept of holding goals lightly—was climbing Mt. Everest for the first time, struggling up several mountain faces to get to the final few ridges that led to the top of the world. At this altitude in “The Death Zone” the body begins to shut down due to a lack of oxygen. During a short break and mid-stupor, he and his climbing partners watched amazed and literally breathless as a climber without a team suddenly passed them like they were standing still. A couple of hours later, as they neared the final inclines, the speedy climber passed them, this time heading down, apparently unable or unwilling to reach the summit.
My friend later found out that the climber was Ueli Steck, the world’s leading mountaineer who was attempting to break the record for the shortest amount of time to summit three of earth’s tallest mountains. In a three-week period he had climbed the first two and was just a few hundred yards away from reaching the Everest peak—and it normally takes months for climbers to climb just one of the three. But Ueli turned around before reaching the third and grandest pinnacle: his feet were nearly frostbitten and he feared he would lose toes or a foot, or possibly die if he did not turn around even though he was less than a mile from realizing a goal.
Hold your goals lightly. Do not let them get in the way of being good and doing right. Do not compromise your relationships, health, happiness, and honor in exhaustive pursuit of a dream. If it takes longer to for you to meet your goal, or if you have to try again another day, but you stay satisfied with yourself and that pursuit, it is infinitely more rewarding than nearly dying to succeed. Just ask Ueli, who said simply about not realizing his goal, “The mountain will always be there. I can come back another time.”
10. Adjust as needed.
This tenth rule needs little explanation. If you need a bit more time to make a dream come true, take it. If what you thought was most important turns out to be secondary to another goal that allows you to utilize all that your have learned and accomplished, shift your goal. If you discover that your body just can’t do “A” no matter how hard you try, but will do “B” and you still succeed in making yourself a better person, do “B”. And if you grow your capacity for greater accomplishment than you ever before realized but come up a little short of a hard set goal, haven’t you really done what matters?
Adjusting does not mean giving up. It does mean you have a better understanding of who you are and what you can do and gives you greater clarity about what you want to and can achieve.
Let one goal be the golden goal that allows all others to follow, even as you push yourself to physical limits, learn more about things that make a difference, grow your capacity to be and do more, or create something that will positively change your life and others: Above and beneath all else let this be your golden goal: be kind to yourself.
Copyright Ken Streater, 2014