We’ve all got things we want to change, improve, or make happen, and hobbies we’ve secretly always wanted to be great at. And you can do all of it! Motivation and desire are important pieces to this equation, but it’s your planning and consistency that actually make the difference between success or failure.
Whether you are trying to lose 30 pounds, save up for a special trip, go back to school and get a degree in art history, or have your garage neat and organized by the end of the season, these tips will help you create a realistic plan to achieve your goal!
8 Simple Steps Towards Achieving Your Big Goals
1. Get started with one goal at a time
Don’t set all of your new goals at once! It’s much easier to focus your energy and attention on learning one new thing at a time. Once you’ve established daily habits that make working toward that goal part of your “normal,” then you can figure out the beginning steps of the next one.
2. Break it down
Breaking your end goal down into a series of short-term objectives takes the pressure off and helps you keep everything in perspective. You don’t have to be stressed that you haven’t finished your novel yet if you’re on track with your short-term goal of finishing your third chapter this week.
3. Write it down
Get out a notebook (or open a word processor document), and get your specific goal down on paper. Do whatever research you need to get a realistic idea of how much time and effort you’ll need to put in. Then write yourself out a schedule. Mark when you expect to hit each of your short-term objectives, and what steps you’ll need to take for each one.
You can re-adjust these as you go if you find that your original calculations don’t quite work. But don’t be too lax. If you don’t take your own goals seriously, you may lose the motivation and momentum you need to achieve them.
4. Enlist a support system
Your friends and loved ones can be your biggest cheering squad as you make your way to your big goal. And you can even ask someone to be your accountability partner. If you have a day when you just don’t feel like getting your butt down to the gym and you’re tempted to grab donuts and hot chocolate for breakfast, this is the person you can call or text for that extra nudge to keep yourself on track.
That being said, if there are people in your life that tend to be Negative Nancies no matter what, don’t take anything they say to heart. If someone tells you your goal is silly or unrealistic, take their words as a challenge, and imagine how good it will feel when you tell them you did it after all!
Teachers and mentors can also be worth their weight in gold. If you’re learning a new skill, get out to a class! There is enough information on the internet to learn nearly anything, but nothing can replace the eye of a trained professional helping you with your technique. Working with a personal trainer, financial planner, herbalist, interior designer, or whatever other professional experts you have access to can also be incredibly helpful.
5. Be consistent
Most goals aren’t going to happen without a certain level of commitment. Altering your daily habits is the best way to ensure you get there. In the planning stage of goal-setting, identify which new habits you can incorporate into each day to make progress.
This is where good planning becomes especially important. If you can tie a new habit to one you already have, it’s likely to feel easier and more natural. Something like “after I walk the dog in the morning, I will take 15 minutes to stretch before I get ready for the rest of the day.” Or, if you want to practice a new hobby, tell yourself that your creative time starts as soon as you finish the dinner dishes. If you’re consistent, you’ll soon get used to this part of your routine and it will start to feel more strange NOT to be working toward your goal!
6. Be prepared for setbacks
No one can be perfect all of the time, so accounting for small failures, delays, roadblocks, or setbacks needs to be part of your plan. Having a Plan B at the ready can minimize any ground lost to mistakes or unusual circumstances. For example, if you’re sticking to a diet for a weight loss, health, or fitness goal, prepare for a week of vacation by planning out your meals in advance.
Always remember that temporary failures or setbacks don’t mean your goal is unreachable or that you don’t have what it takes to attain it. If you get the flu and can’t stomach your fitness routine, you may lose a little of the strength and stamina you’d built. Remind yourself that if you’ve gotten that far before, you can do it again!
If you hit a mental block or plateau, use it as an opportunity to get a little creative with your current habits. Maybe that means adding a new habit to your daily routine or upping the challenge level on one you’ve already established.
7. Regularly review your goals
Schedule some review time every week, every month, or however often seems appropriate for your particular goal. Don’t skip this! Take a look at your original plan and an honest look at how well you’ve been doing at carrying it out. If your plan’s on schedule, that’s great! Keep it up.
But if you aren’t reaching your objectives, now is the time to figure out why. It’s okay to revise your plan or your timeline to account for your real life. Did you underestimate how often you babysit your grandkids, and you haven’t had as much time as you thought you would? Are you a social butterfly, and staying in 3 weekends a month to save money isn’t going so well? Maybe you’ll need to find a different corner of your time or budget to dedicate to your goal. Your goals need to be taken seriously, but not at the expense of a happy, functional life.
8. Add in a little extra motivation
Celebrate all of the little steps along the way! Treat yourself to a small reward for each completed step toward your goal. Rewards are an excellent tool for keeping motivation strong. Because, yes, of course, we want our big end goal ASAP. But receiving rewards along the way for the steps you’re taking toward it will help you recognize how far you’ve come, and improve the odds that you’ll keep on going!
Goal-setting may sound like such a simple concept, but it’s a daunting challenge for many people. Getting specific about your goals, planning well (including a plan B for setbacks), and rewarding your victories along the way can make the challenge much more manageable – and even fun!