One of the biggest prerequisites for living intentionally and fully as well as a key step for success is to set goals in life. This is the only way to be proactive and to define your own path rather than just going with the flow and hoping you end someplace nice.
How to set goals and crush them
Goal crushing starts by setting the right goals for you. You need to do some soul searching, adjust your mindset and get clear on your why. Then you need to phrase your goals right and commit to them. It is also very important to create an action plan and make the process as enjoyable and frictionless as possible. But nothing is as crucial as actually taking action.
There is no benefit in writing your goals down and creating a masterplan if you never act on it.
Don’t get paralyzed by over-thinking and over-planning. Don’t get tricked by the illusion of a distant deadline, time will pass wether you work on your goal or not.
5 ways to achieve your goals
It is important to set the right goals for ourselves. Then put in the work and achieve them!
Follow the bellow 5 steps to achieving goals and take back control of your life.
1. Start with mindset
In life, almost all starts with mindset. If you believe you can’t, you most probably won’t. And if you deeply believe you can, than you most probably will.
So do you believe you can achieve your goals?
I wish it was as easy as plastering your walls with goal setting quotes, but in my experience mindset shifts take a little bit more work.
Reframe your limiting beliefs
First you need to identify any limiting beliefs you might hold about yourself or the world.
What beliefs do you hold about yourself? Do you consider yourself to be bad at something? Do you feel there are some things you’d like but just can’t be done? Dis some of your previous experiences leave a bad after taste?
Look for thoughts that include words like always, never, everybody, can’t, unfair, bad …
A lot of these limiting beliefs will come from our environment and our previous experience. Some might even be partially true. However, they’re just beliefs and as such they can be changed and reframed to something more liberating and empowering.
If you hold any limiting beliefs that work against any goals you want to reach, you need to start by adjusting your mindset.
Find your why & your values
It’s not uncommon to set goals under the influence of others. Goals like finish law school (because that’s what mum wants), double sales (because your boss wants that), quit gluten (since it’s the trendy thing to do) and more.
The issue is, that if those goals don’t align with our values and if we can’t answer the simple question why, then our odds of achieving those goals aren’t looking too good.
Use your values to guide you and let them dictate what goals to set. I find it helpful to set goals in these 5 life areas for better balance.
Our values and our why act as our internal source of motivation and accountability. They are what get’s us through the hard work needed to meet a goal.
It’s important to have our why front of mind when the going gets tough. Otherwise, quitting is all too easy and you might never achieve the goal.
Identify the who
In personal growth, goal setting and even business we often talk about the why. And that’s fantastic!
But let’s face it, we’re not setting all these goals just because we have this abstract idea we’d like to realise. We’re setting them because we want to become a better version of ourselves.
How does the better version of yourself look like? Who are they?
Really reflect on this and try to identify the who. Then, try to identify with them. Think like them. Be them.
Your goal is not to run a marathon. Your goal is to become a runner. Your goal is not to quit smoking. Your goal is to become a nonsmoker.
Next time you’re faced with a decision think what would your who do in the given situation.
If a nonsmoker is offered a cigarette, they don’t scramble to say “No thanks, I’m trying to quit.” Instead, they confidently say “No thanks, I don’t smoke!”
Now, the difference might seem minor but this slight adjustment in wording can do wonders for your subconscious. Your brain is picking up on all these little cues all the times so how you talk truly matters. And not only how you respond to other people, but possibly even more important is how you talk to your self.
Make sure your internal monologue reflects the mindset of who you want to become.
Practicing gratitude has many many benefits – from boosting mood to improving our social life. However, the most important aspect of gratitude when it comes to goal setting is that gratitude practice helps create a mindset of abundance and possibility.
Practicing gratitude also builds resilience and helps us see the opportunity and lessons to be learned when things don’t go as planned.
2. Set smart(er) goals
You’ve probably heard of the S.M.A.R.T. acronym for goal setting which stands for
While this is a great stepping stone to set new goals, I agree with Michael Hyatt and believe it’s time make our goals S.M.A.R.T.E.R.
This acronym stands for:
By setting SMARTER goals we introduce two new parameters – exciting and relevant.
It comes down to human nature – we’re more likely to do something we find exciting. The little boost in dopamine can go a long long way! As per relevant, the goal needs to be align with the season of life we’re in. It’s also important to realize that the goals we set simultaneously should be somewhat relevant to each other and not work against each other.
SMARTER goals also introduce one major difference – risky over realistic.
To some extent, this goes hand in hand with setting exciting goals. Don’t know about you, but i don’t find small incremental changes particularly exciting. What I find exciting is big bold decisions and that’s why I set big goals.
The purpose of setting risky goals is to get out of your comfort zone where growth and change happen.
Consider setting range goals
This might go against some conventional advice and it won’t work for everyone.
A lot of goal setting experts say that a plan B makes us less likely to work on plan A, but I find it extremely helpful to set my goals in a range. I set a minimum viable goal and a stretch goal.
I tend to set very ambitious goals for myself and often they’re borderline disillusioned (that’s my stretch goal). In these cases it’s important to tone it down a notch and set a more attainable goal to fall back onto. The stretch goal keeps me striving for more and the minimum viable goal is there to make me feel accomplished even if I don’t always reach the stretch one. I usually end somewhere in between.
If you tend to set your goals too small, then you should step it up a bit and set your stretch goal higher than what you think is possible. It’s important to know yourself and act accordingly.
3. Write your goals down & share your progress
Both, putting goals in writing and sharing your progress with the right people can create external accountability and motivation.
But there’s a catch!
Sharing our goals the acknowledgment that comes with it can also make us feel a misguided sense of accomplishment. You’ve probably heard of Derek Sivers’ TED talk where he explains the psychology behind this.
However, the opposite is also true!
Sharing our goals with the right people who will support us and call us out on our BS when needed makes us a heck of a lot more likely to accomplish goals.
Dr. Gail Matthews’ research has not only shown that writing goals down makes you 42 percent more likely to achieve them, it also proves that sharing your goals and your progress with the right people can make you a lot more likely to accomplish them.
On top of that, writing goals down gives us the perfect opportunity to revisit our why, recommit to them and assess our motivation.
Writing goals down and finding an accountability buddy can help you propel towards reaching your goal.
If you want to crush your goals, do not skip this step!
4. Make an action plan to reach your goals
One of the most popular goal setting motivational quotes that comes to mind is – “A goal without a plan is just a dream.”
It is important to create an action plan for goals we want to reach, but it’s equally as important to create a contingency plan for when things go sideways. Because things will go sideways.
Goal achievement plan
Outline the steps you need to take in order to achieve your goal. While planning ahead can make the difference between reaching your goals or not, don’t let this step paralize you and prevent you from taking action.
When we set big bold goals it’s sometimes hard to outline the roadmap to success. In these cases it’s enough to plan the next step or two. As long as you know what your destination is, the road will unfold in front of you.
Habit goals & milestones
Most long term goals can be broken down into short term goals or milestones. These can be broken down further into action steps or sometimes habits.
For example, if you want to write a novel by the end of summer, each chapter could be turned into a milestone or short term goal with it’s own deadline. This can further be broken down into a habit goal of writing 3000 words per day.
By breaking goals down into smaller manageable tasks we minimize the overwhelm and make it easier to take action. Habit goals are perfect for this.
We’re all bound to have a bad day every now and again. We all get sick. Things happen that are out of our control.
For these cases it’s important to come up with a contingency plan. A plan that will help us get back on track as soon as possible and get back to our action steps promptly.
Think ahead and try to identify any situations, big and small, that could potentially steer you off course. Then figure out how to prevent/avoid them when possible and how to mitigate if they happen.
Sometimes the best we can do is to practice self compassion, pick ourselves up and try again. But more often than not we can remove friction and outline actions to get back on track.
This could be as easy as laying out your workout clothes the night before if your goal is to get in shape. Or deleting games and social media from your phone during the exam period if your goal is to finish college with high grades.
Identify any distractions and replace them with cues that promote action towards your goals. For example, if your goal is to eat clean, you could remove any unhealthy food from your kitchen and prep some healthy snacks that you can reach for when feeling peckish.
What will get you through the tough times?
What will keep you going when the going gets tough? Fear and self-doubt will inevitably come to pay you a visit and there will be times when you’ll want to quit. It’s in times like this that you need to remember your why.
Why did you set this goal? Why is it worth the effort?
Think about this as part of your goal achievement plan and revisit as often as needed. You could create a vision board, a bullet list for each goal or journal about it.
And then, when things get hard, reconnect with your why and lean on your support network. Which takes us to the next point in your action plan –
Accountability & support
As discussed previously, external accountability and support can make a big difference and determine wether you reach your target or not.
Find a friend, a group or mentor who can help you achieve your vision.
Pick wisely. You want a cheerleader but also someone who will call you out on your BS.
Schedule it in
No matter how elaborate our action plan and how beautiful our vision board, the work won’t get done until we do it.
Make time to work on your goal and schedule it into your calendar.
I like to use a planner to map out my days and weeks and make sure I’m on track with my goals. By scheduling regular planning sessions I get a chance to review my progress too.
5. Enjoy the process and focus on the progress
I often hear people complain about not hitting their goals. Then it turns out they never took action.
It all starts by committing to your goal and taking action.
Should you eat that frog?
You’ve probably heard this expression before and there’s a whole book about tackling the biggest most important task first (aka eating the frog). While this approach works for daily tasks and has some serious benefits in beating procrastination, it can have the opposite effect when it comes to achieving big scary goals.
When you set life changing goals outside your comfort zone it can be hard to get started with the biggest task first.
In order to make progress on the biggest goals we need to take it step by step. We need to start with the smallest and easiest action first, then the next one, and the next one again.
This is how we build momentum, confidence and slowly expand our comfort zone to successfully achieve life changing goals.
Celebrate the little victories
A side benefit of setting milestones is the opportunity to celebrate them. It’s important to take the time to acknowledge our process.
By celebrating the little wins we are building resilience and motivation to keep going.
Looking at the progress we’ve made instead of measuring the gap to the target also helps with our mindset which is the basis for reaching any goal.
Adjust & pivot
What I often see happen is falling in love with the plan rather than the goal itself. I have done this myself too many times to count and let me tell you, it never works out.
Whenever we work on something we need to stay flexible and be ready to pivot if our strategy isn’t working. Adjusting course is the secret sauce to achieving your goals!
By now you should understand how to set goals and crush them. All there’s left is to take action!