Goals are important if you want to achieve anything at all in life but you must first believe in your ability to achieve your goals and make your dreams come true. There is clearly an important link between our goals and dreams.
Everyone can dream; remember the lines “if wishes were horses ……”, however it takes goals for us to make our dreams become reality. It takes know-how and discipline to do it. It takes dedication and perseverance and it may take some trial and error but if you stick with it, you can do it.
Over a certain period, and having had my fair share of the experience of feeling as if I was going around in circles and allowing myself become even more confused in the process, I want to share with you some of the self-discipline tips I discovered in my journey and challenge towards achieving set goals. These are the 9 important steps to achieving your goals:
Step One: Define Your Goal
Is it obvious to you that the first step in attaining a goal is to define it? It isn’t obvious to everyone. Some people are vague or unreasonable about their goals. They want to “be rich” and spend all their disposable income shopping and following deal sites. Some people want to lose weight but “eat everything they want.” It isn’t likely that they would be able to make those dreams come true.
Your goal should be challenging but do-able. It should be something you need to work at but something that with enough work, you can accomplish.
But, more than that, your goal also needs to be your own. It should emerge from an innate joy or passion for something you love doing or being. To define your goal, give some real thought to what you really want. What thrills and excites you? What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail? What would you do if you didn’t have to earn a living?
The only “wrong” answer to any of these questions is the answer that isn’t true to yourself. Once you have a good picture of what you want to do, translate that into a necessary step towards getting there. A new degree could be a new goal you set for yourself or starting your own business in some aspect of endeavor or enterprise you’ve always loved
Your own goal will be the thing that will put you in the position of doing what brings you joy. Now, you may be brimming with goals. Pick one to start off with. Having too many goals can distract you from working on any one so pick one and achieve it. Then go after another.
Step Two: Commit to Your Goal
Once you have decided on your goal, go after it wholeheartedly.
First, write it down. Committing something to paper has power. Keep the paper posted in a place that you will see several times a day. Tape it to your bathroom mirror, write it on a post-it note on your computer monitor or put it on an index card that you place on the dashboard of your car.
ThenI would advise joinng a support group if you can find one. It could for instance be a business network forum or support group. Now, your support group should consist of people who are goal-setters themselves. They should give off positive energy that is contagious. They should be people who will encourage you when times are tough, hold you to task when your discipline fails, and celebrate your success. If that doesn’t describe your family and your current group of friends, go out and find some new ones! It may take some effort but they do exist.
Step Three: Develop A Plan
Setting a goal is one thing, achieving it takes an intentional and well-thought out plan of action. So get going on a plan! Its plan, plan, plan, all the way!
First, decide on an optimistic but reasonable due date by which you want to reach your goal. Depending on what your goal is, it could be a six or twelve month plan, or even longer; or it could be just a few weeks at a time. For example, a goal like wanting to run a marathon could be a three to six month plan.
Then, break down your goal into intermediate steps and shorter time periods. Your intermediate steps should include monthly, weekly, even daily actions that you take toward your goal. You are more likely to reach your goal in a series of small, as opposed to massive chunks of tasks and activities. So by all means plan and plan big if you feel the need and have the zeal to do so but go about executing your plan in small gradual steps.
I have often been guilty of doing the opposite and ended up burning myself out at both ends and ending up with more than I could realistically handle! I had to learn the hard way by taking a step back and learning to cultivate the discipline of approaching goal-accomplishment in a more incremented manner than my typically impulsive nature often permitted. So be mindlful of not making the same mistakes.
Be sure to put your plan of action into writing and make sure you transfer as much of your thoughts about your goals and estimated timelines into some coherent format that you can refer to daily or as regularly as possible. Familiarise yourself with the thought processes that have gone into formulating your goal achievement plan and feel free to revise as you see fit or as things become clearer over time.
Revising your plan should not however mean that you get into the habit of changing your goals every minute or every week! There is a difference. Simply stated, identify your goal then commit to it. Then write it down and create a plan for how you wish to accomplish it over an agreed time frame and then follow this through to completion. Not at all easy but certainly worth doing.
Getting the process right might be the most important part of reaching a goal. Suppose your goal is to write a book that you wish to publish on Kindle. Your plan may consist of a writing session every day. You will do fifteen minutes of free writing to start the session. Then you will work on your novel for an hour each week-day and three hours a day over the week-end.
At the end of three months, you will have a substantial manuscript. Perhaps you won’t have completed the subject-matter of your book. And perhaps you will need to edit, format, or fact-check the manuscript. But the process will have put you in the position of having a respectable amount of work done.
Celebrate your achievement each time you complete one of the intermediate steps of your plan. Each step on the journey towards your goal is a necessary one. Be sure to recognize the progress you make at each step.
Step Four – Work Your Plan
So you have a plan of action. Now, the hardest part; to roll up your sleeves and get to work!
Treat your plan like a job. Schedule times during the week dedicated to working your plan. Honour that schedule. If something comes up, think to yourself, “Would I miss work for this?” If not, don’t miss out on working on your plan, either.
As I stated earlier, you may find that your plan needs to be revised as you go along. Perhaps your intermediate steps are taking longer than you predicted despite your diligent efforts. Perhaps you fail to accomplish one of your intermediate goals.
A delay or failure may cause you to revise your plan. But don’t let it cause you to give up on your goal. Chalk each delay or failure down as tuition that you pay in the school of hard knocks. Find a work-around. Make an alternate plan. Try, try and keep trying.
Find ways to stay on track and to stay motivated. When I experience really off phases where nothing seems to be working out right despite my efforts and I can feel myself beginning to feel reall down in the doldrums or like giving up totally, I’ll often take a step back, switch off temporarily and focus on doing something that really cheers me up.
This could be like going away for a few days or literally boarding a flight to be somewhere I know I’ll be able to unwind and have an enjoyable and relaxed time with friends or it could be checking into a really lovely hotel or taking the weekend off to do nothing but things I love to do – moveis, theatre restaurants etc. Shopping and cooking incidentally just put me in a really bad mood so I generally steer clear of those!
The point I am trying to make is whatever the difficulties you face don’t give up! Challenges and obstacles exist for no reason other than to deter you from accomplishing goals and purposes that are worth achieving and which upon achievement give you a greater sense of accomplishment like nothing else ever could or ever did before you embarked on your goal. So, don’t give up. Easier said than done I know but saying focused and tenacious helps to mould you towards developing goal-oriented mentality over time.
Most importantly, don’t fall for the all-or-nothing mentality. If you cheat on your diet, don’t consider your diet over. Start again the next day. If you go for a day – or several days – without your daily writing session, don’t give up on your book. Start again the next day.
Remember the words of Thomas Edison. “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”
Step Five – Keep Your Goal Front of Mind
Most of us have probably felt enthusiasm over an idea wane after the novelty wears off. It can be hard to stick with something over time. It can be hard to stay motivated no matter how cherished your goal. Part of your plan of action has to be to keep up your enthusiasm.
There are lots of ways you can take to keep up working on your goal. First of all, if you are diligent about scheduling your week to include working on your plan, your scheduled time will become a habit. You will work on your goal as a matter of course and without even thinking about it; the same way you brush your teeth or take a shower when you get up in the morning.
Second, if you have formed real bonds with a close network of supportive friends or a support group, you will continue to be in regular contact with them and your conversations about each other’s goals will continue as part of the relationship you have with them and help to boost your morale and keep you on track.
Third, make it a practice to continually educate yourself on how to achieve your goals. Learning as much as you can will help you to overcome difficulties that you encounter working your plan. That, in turn, will make reaching your goal a little bit easier.
Step Six – Eliminate Subconscious Conflicts That Impede Your Progress Toward Your Goal
Surely, you know people who make the same New Year’s resolutions every year. Every year, they vow to lose weight, get another job, get out of debt or meet some other goal that they just never achieve. Maybe it’s because they don’t craft or work an appropriate plan. Or maybe it’s because in their heart of hearts, they don’t believe they deserve to reach their goals. Or maybe they have limiting beliefs that cause them to think that they can’t have what they want.
People call that self-sabotage – that situation where you have everything that it takes to get there, but for some irrational reason, you just can’t seem to get there.
Self-sabotage is not uncommon in life. Some people though, are more prone to it than others. They may consciously identify a goal, set up a plan, and start to work on it. But their actions don’t work toward what their stated intentions claim they want. For example, they don’t work their plan and instead keep revising it so they never make progress.
Or they don’t devote the time necessary to reach their goal. Instead they let the pressures of daily life keep them from putting in the time necessary to reach their goal. I have been very guilty of this and still sometimes am but because I am now much more conscious of this tendency to slip, I develop ways to counteract these inner tendencies.
Positive affirmations can help you change the subconscious expectations that prevent you from effectively working toward meeting your goal. Affirmations are easy to do and only take a few minutes a day. To practice positive affirmations, sit or lie down comfortably.
Make affirmative statements to yourself in the present tense that are supportive of your goals. I tend to use biblical affirmations that align with my goals and this works for me and have become an undeniable habit and way of life for me. You may wish to find your own way of making daily positive affirmations.
Visualizations can also help you align your subconscious expectations with your conscious goals. To visualize, sit or lie comfortably with your eyes closed and deliberately visulalise yourself being in the state of having accomplished your goal and the sense of accomplishement you feel in that state. There is however a fine line between positive visualization and day-dreaming. I don’t advise dwelling too much on the latter as you simply risk wasting precious time and accomplishing nothing.
Just being aware of your tendency to self-sabotage can be helpful in overcoming it. Whenever you recognize that you are taking action against your own best interest in achieving your goal, stop and assess the situation. What are you avoiding? What are you conflicted about? If you can find an answer, acknowledge it and then get back to work. Any tendency to self-sabotage will diminish if you recognize it and work to make sure it doesn’t win.
Step Seven – Monitor Your Progress
You don’t achieve a year-long goal in a year. You achieve it daily in a series of 365 days, weekly in a series of 52 weeks, monthly in a series of 12 months. You achieve a goal in every little step that you take to get there.
You wrote a day-by-day plan. You should monitor your progress that way too. Keep a chart of your progress so that you can look back on how far you have come.
Each time you reach one of your intermediate goals, reward yourself appropriately. Choose the reward wisely. The reward shouldn’t sabotage the goal. If your goal is to lose weight, you probably shouldn’t choose food as your reward, however if I am honest, I cheat all the time when it comes to rewarding myself with food so I really should not preach!
The bottom line is you are probably the only one to best appreciate how much accomplishing your goal means to you, and you also appreciate how much effort you’ve put in to accomplishing it; so whatever you do don’t blow it! Reward yourself but try to avoid doing anything that sets you back by more than you are ready to commit to – if that makes sense.
Step Eight – Reach Your Goal
In many respects, reaching your goal is itself the reward. However, people are motivated by rewards, so recognize that in yourself. As with your intermediate goals, the reward for reaching your final goal should be a joyous experience. But you may have more liberty in choosing it once the goal is met. If your debt is paid off, you will have more disposable income available to make a purchase or take a trip. If you have reached your desired weight, you may be able to splurge a little on dinner out without sabotaging your diet in a massive way.
Step Nine – Set A New Goal
Goal-oriented people like yourself always have lots of ambition. Once you’ve reached one goal, you’ll certainly have another that you’ll want to attain. Maybe it will supplement the goal that you’ve already accomplished. However, once you have set a goal and attained it, you know you have the mental muscle to set and accomplish another goal.
Be proud of yourself but in a non-egotistical way of course! I hate egotism, whether in myself or in others. Many people go through life complaining about their jobs without changing them, worried about their finances without conquering them, or obsessed with their weight without adopting better eating habits and getting in shape.
Setting a goal and attaining it may take hard work and discipline but you’ve done the hard work and exercised the discipline. You have made your dream come true. That’s an admirable achievement. So go on and grab your next goal and whatever you do don’t give up on your goal or on yourself!
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Don’t just be yourself, be your best self!