Staying focused on achieving your goals can be a difficult task, especially if you’ve set larger, longer-term goals that require months or even years of committed effort.
New ideas and opportunities pop up every day. Life’s emergencies get in the way. And along the way, you start questioning your beliefs. Do I really want this? It’s taking so long… is this really the right way to go about it? Should I just quit?
Every year, millions of Americans set New Year’s resolutions to earn more money, lose weight, get organized, reduce debt or quit smoking, yet most people have abandoned their goals by the end of January. Some of the reasons people give include not being 100 percent committed to doing it, poor planning, lack of self confidence that you can actually do it, and lack of support.
If you have longer term goals you want to achieve but have been stalling with – or if you’re feeling stuck – here are a few tips to help you achieve those goals.
- Identify Specific Targets – What do you want to achieve? By when? Set concrete, measurable goals like getting 3 new clients by May 31 or paying off $250 in credit card debt within 2 months. Write the goal and your target completion date everywhere you can see it – on a post-it note on your computer, on your dry erase board, as your computer desktop background, or on your refrigerator.
- Align Goals With Life Purpose or Passion – Remind yourself daily how this goal is aligned with your life purpose or your passions and what it means to your life to achieve it. If you set goals based on what others want you to do or because you think you *should,* you will be more likely to avoid them. If you want to achieve this goal, you must be 100% committed to doing whatever it takes and assume responsibility for making progress.
- Detail Next Steps – Take a day to just brainstorm all the steps required to achieve this goal. What is the task list? What do you need to do first? Then after that? Then after that? If you use the Getting Things Done approach, David Allen calls these “Next Actions.” Only write things down that are physical actions you can take to move the project forward.
- Commit to Deadlines And Consequences – Despite your best intentions, life will get in the way. How can you hold yourself accountable? One of the best ways to do this is to confide your goal in a trusted friend and make a deal with them. If you don’t accomplish this particular task by this particular deadline, you will pay your friend $50. Consider other negative options that would motivate you – donating to a charity you dislike, cleaning your brother’s bathroom every week for 2 months, or whatever task would keep you motivated to stick with whatever you want to do.
- Consider Telling Others – Some people are motivated when they have a support group. Others prefer to keep quiet until they’ve made progress. Which do you prefer? If you need support, find it. If you’d rather no one know, that’s OK too.
- Commit to An Action Each Day – Once you have your list of Next Steps, start checking them off one-by-one. It’s better to set aside 10-15 minutes each day to take one tiny step, than to try to cram everything into a full day’s work. Just take one physical action each day, and you will eventually get where you want to be.
- Review Your Progress Weekly – Take a few minutes each week to evaluate your progress. What Next Actions did you accomplish? What is going according to plan? What problems or issues are you facing? Is your list of Next Actions still relevant, or do you need to adjust them based on what you learned?
- Commit to Finishing – Starting projects is the easy part. But how many do you actually finish? Is this project worth finishing? Keep reminding yourself why you want to finish and what still needs to be done to get there. It’s OK to celebrate small wins, but keep your eye on the prize – you aren’t there yet.
- Make It A Habit – Is there a specific time you can set aside each day to work on this? Are there specific tasks you must complete each day to move forward? Try to make working on this goal as much of a daily habit as you can. It’s much easier to get into routine when you do something every day than if you try to skip a few days.
Setting goals means taking responsibility for making progress toward your goals and eventually achieving them, not sitting around hoping something will happen to you to make the process easier.
It’s up to you to manage yourself and your negative emotions that hold you back like fear, envy, worry over not being good enough, anger, self-pity, overwhelm.
It’s up to you to stop justifying why you couldn’t do something. To stop making excuses why a task didn’t get done. And to stop blaming others when things don’t go quite as planned.
Success is a mindset. Successful people don’t say “I can’t do that.” They say “how can I do this?”