Stay focused. Go after your dreams. And keep moving toward your goals.” – LL Cool J
For life to be worth living, we need goals.
I’m not necessarily talking “Next year, I’m going to be on a rocket to Mars” goals. I’m also not talking about “Today, I’m going to brush my teeth before I leave the house” goals, but goals nonetheless.
Rocket-to-Mars goals are good… but so lofty as to be unattainable within most lifetimes.
Daily-maintenance-type goals (e.g. bathing and brushing teeth) are also good goals to have, and some people are at the point where they need to establish these goals so they can lead productive lives.
I’m not here to judge, but I’m also not here to enable, so for the purpose of this article, I’ll assume “goals” refers to something beyond the everyday that is both lofty and attainable by my average reader.
Goal: Something beyond the everyday that is both lofty and attainable.
While goals are necessary for success, the best ones are neither quick nor easy to achieve. Great goals push you to become the best version of yourself by driving you toward that which you are willing to invest your time, effort and attention.
I hear what you’re thinking, “Yeah, Clay, that all sounds great. The problem is I’ve set goals, but I don’t really know how to achieve them.”
I feel your pain. Lucky for both of us, there is an easy-to-implement formula that I’m about to share with you that will ensure you will achieve your goals.
Are you ready?
Good. Let’s go!
Step 1: Establish your goal
I don’t just mean choosing what you want to accomplish. Choosing and Establishing are not the same. You can choose a goal and still be miles from Establishing it. (Yes. I keep capitalizing “Establishing” — that’s because it is very important and needs to be specially defined.)
Google “Establish” and you’ll find a great definition: set up (an organization, system, or set of rules) on a firm or permanent basis. That’s right, your goal needs to be permanent — until you reach it.
You can choose a goal and still be miles from Establishing it.
Let’s put a little meat on those bones, now, and talk about ways to Establish your goal.
You need to write down your goal and put it in a place where you will see it frequently. It needs to be in a place where you will have a constant reminder of what you want to accomplish.
Your goal needs to be top-of-mind all the time.
OK. Now that you’ve written it down and put it in a visible place, you need to do the second hardest part of the whole process (we’ll get to the hardest part in just a few minutes).
The Second Hardest Part of the Process: Tell people about your goal.
That’s right. For you to fully Establish your goal, you need to tell at least one person — preferably someone close to you — and ideally several people in your inner circle, what your goal is. This is probably the scariest part about Establishing your goal because you now are accountable to everyone you tell.
Just writing down your goal is NOT enough to Establish your goal. Without accountability, you can easily decide that it is too _______ (hard, scary, expensive, time-consuming… fill in the blank with your best excuse), and throw out your written goal.
If you tell people, you will have to face them when they ask how your progress is coming.
Having accountability partners is not for the faint of heart. If you don’t actually plan on accomplishing your goal, make sure you don’t tell anyone, so no one will be there to hold you accountable. However, if you really want to Establish your goal, tell as many people as possible.
The secret here is that the more people you tell, the more people to whom you will be accountable. But the cool part is that the more people you tell, the more real your goal will be to you. The more you say out loud to other people what you want to accomplish, the more likely you are to accomplish it.
Each time you tell someone about it, your goal will become more real. You will begin to work out details. You will begin to make refinements in your plan. And each of these will Establish your goal more firmly in your mind, making it more likely you’ll Establish your goal.
Before we move on, let’s recap Step 1:
- Choose what your goal will be
- Write down your goal & put it somewhere visible
- Tell people what your goal is — the more the better
Now that your goal is Established, you’re ready for the next step.
Step 2: Start
This is THE hardest — not to mention the scariest — part of the whole process. Not only is it scarier than telling people, it is scarier because you told people.
Because, when you start, there’s no turning back.
If you stop short of the goal after you start, you’re a Quitter — and no one wants to be a Quitter (except an addict, but that’s something different entirely). But, if you never start, even after you’ve told everyone you know about your goal, you’re just a Dreamer. That’s not much better, but it’s at least a little better to be a Dreamer than it is to be a Quitter.
After you start, though, you are COMMITTED. You’ve written down and told everyone about your goal to Establish it. Now, you just have to start down the path that leads to your goal.
“The Journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” — Lao Tsu
That quote is both simple and profound. You’ll never get anywhere unless you take that first step. But, after you’ve taken that one step, there’s no turning back — you’ve started. If you turn back after that, you’re a Quitter.
Let’s be really clear, though, on what starting is not.
A lot of things can look like starting, but they are really stalling.
For example, let’s say your goal is to go back to school to get or finish your degree. Researching schools might look like starting. Buying a backpack or laptop might look like starting. After all, you won’t get far if you a) don’t know where you’re going to school and b) don’t have the necessary equipment to facilitate your education.
But, you haven’t started.
You can’t start without a commitment.
When you register for classes, you’re starting. When you write the check for the first tuition payment, you’re starting. When you attend your first class — you’ve started. There’s no turning back now. You are now a student.
What if your goal is to travel abroad? Can you start by planning which cities you’ll stay in?
Can you start by booking hotel rooms?
Not really. You can usually cancel with 48 hours notice and suffer no penalties. Booking rooms is a part of the process. It is starting, but if that’s all you do, you haven’t started.
You can’t start until you’ve booked your flight. Go online. Buy a plane ticket to your country of choice. And (this is the fun part) tell everyone — especially those you’ve Established your goal with. Now, you’ve started. You can’t not get on that plane without being a Quitter.
That’s really all it takes to accomplish any goal.
I know I said 3 Steps, but would you have read this far if the title was 2 Steps to Accomplishing ANY Goal?
Probably not. For some reason three is the right number.
So, if you really must have a third step, here it is:
Step 3: Don’t quit
After the abuse the Quitter got in Step 2, there’s no way I could advocate anything but perseverance. It will be hard to accomplish your goal.
“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty…” — Theodore Roosevelt
If it was easy, you wouldn’t have needed to Establish your goal. You would have already done it. Goals are goals because they’re hard to reach. You’ll feel like giving up at times. You’ll feel like you’re not worthy of achieving whatever it is. You’ll feel like you just weren’t meant to have it.
That’s just part of the struggle.
You have to push through to make it.
You Established this goal because you wanted it badly enough to put your integrity on the line. Everyone you told, and everyone you’ve encountered along the way is watching. They’re either waiting for you to fall on your face and quit, or they’re pulling for your success.
As for me, I’m pulling for you!
You can do it!
As hard as it might seem, reaching your goal and basking in the glory of accomplishment is much easier than quitting and having to live up to the disappointment.
Now, get up, brush your teeth and go Establish and Start a goal.
You’ve got this!
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