How To Achieve Your Goals – Step By Step

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Motivation & Perseverance

There are times in anyone’s life when things get too much. I know, I’ve been there and probably will find myself in that corner in the future. It’s not a nice place to be and a difficult time if you are in the middle of trying to get things done and trying to achieve your goal. 

Here is my step-by-step process for achieving my goals. I have tested this many times over the years and I found the best and quickest way is by following these steps:

  1. Set one large goal – many action points
  2. Find inspiration
  3. Get excited
  4. Build anticipation
  5. Post your goal
  6. Commit publicly
  7. Get support
  8. Realize that there is an up and down
  9. Start really small
  10. Build on small successes
  11. Read about it daily
  12. Call for help when motivation is down
  13. Think about the benefits
  14. Squash negative thoughts

Let’s look into the details

One Goal – Many Action Points

Whenever I feel down, I realize that it’s often because I have too much going on in my life. I’m trying to do too much. And it kills my energy and motivation. It’s probably the most common mistake that people make: they try to take on too much, try to accomplish too many goals at once. 

You cannot maintain energy and focus if you are trying to do two or more goals at once. It’s not possible — I’ve tried it many times. You have to choose one goal, for now, and focus on it entirely. I know, that’s hard. Still, I speak from experience. You can always do your other goals when you’ve accomplished your One Goal.

But the way, I found the best way to accomplish my goals is to stop thinking about the big picture, but instead, create many action points.

Once you’ve set yourself a goal it feels like sailing against the wind. There is so much to do and so many things you don’t know yet. This can be overwhelming and stop you halfway through or stop you to start in the first place.

If you know anything about sailing, you know that you can’t sail against the wind in a straight line. The only way to do that is to approach the wind in a 40 degrees angle and zig-zag your way towards the direction you want to go. The point where the zig turns towards zag is called a waypoint, in our specific example, I call them action points.

Each action point brings you nearer to your goal. Now the goal becomes the direction and the action points the things that need to be done.

How exactly do you do that?

When I do my goal planning, I first define my direction (the goal) and then I break it down into smaller action points. Depending on how big the goal seems to me, I add more or fewer action points. 

You need to be able to envision these action points. These are actions you should be able to do. If you don’t think you can do it, break it down further until you feel alright with it.

The important part is not to lose sight of the main direction. Make sure each action point brings you nearer to your goal.

If you haven’t had much practice with this method, you might not be sure if an action point is going in the right direction or not. This is okay. In the end, it is a new direction, you’ve never been there before. How could you know?

Just give it the best guess and start moving towards it. Start taking action and measure where it takes you. In the worst-case scenario, you’ve learned something new that will help you at a later stage. 

Let’s sum it up:

  • Write down your main goal as a direction to go towards.
  • Set your high-level action points (markers) that will take you in that direction.
  • Any action point that you feel might be difficult to do at this stage, break down into further action points, taking the higher action point as your direction.

Now start ticking each action off and measure the result. Has it brought you nearer to your goal?

Sometimes it can feel like you’re doing lots of things but you’re not moving at all. This is the biggest complaint I get from students. Let me tell you that we all feel that from time to time. 

The easiest way to make sure that you’re on the right track is by focusing on the main goal when going through the action points. For example, learning a new skill you need to progress will feel like standing still until you learned enough to move to the next action point. As long as you learn while looking (focusing) on your main goal, you are alright.

All the following points will help you to continue on your journey.

Find inspiration

Inspiration, for me, comes from others who have achieved what I want to achieve, or who are currently doing it. I read other blogs, books, magazines. I Google my goal and read success stories. 

Skills for Entrepreneurs is just one place for inspiration, not only from me but from many readers and clients who have achieved amazing things.

Go on Youtube and watch some motivational videos of people who made in your niche. Join some forums or take part in a Meetup. It all helps to get new ideas and inspiration

Get excited

It sounds obvious, but most people don’t think about it much: if you want to get away from feeling down, get yourself excited about a goal. But how can you do that when you don’t feel motivated? 

Well, it starts with inspiration from others (see above), but you have to take that excitement and build on it. 

For me, I’ve learned that by talking to my wife about it, and to others, and reading as much about it as possible, and visualizing what it would be like to be successful (seeing the benefits of the goal in my head), I get excited about a goal. Once I’ve done that, it’s just a matter of carrying that energy forward and keeping it going.

Sometimes it helps to give yourself a break. If at the end of the day, you are out of energy, it will be hard to get excited. Give yourself a good night’s sleep and when you get up in the morning you go for it.

Build anticipation

This sounds hard, and you might be tempted to overlook it, but it works. It helped me quit smoking after many failed attempts. If you find inspiration and want to achieve a goal, don’t start right away. Many of us will get excited and want to start today. That’s a mistake. 

Set a date in the future — a week or two, or even a month — and make that your Start Date. Mark it on the calendar. Get excited about that date. Make it the most important date in your life. In the meantime, start writing out a plan. 

And do some of the steps below. Because by delaying your start, you are building anticipation, and increasing your focus and energy for your goal.

If your goal is to start a business, go and visit some similar business that already exists. Imagine yourself running this place and feel the goosebumps flacking up.

Post your goal

Print out your goal in big words. Make your goal just a few words long, like a mantra (“Exercise 15 mins. Daily”), and post it up on your wall or refrigerator. Post it at home and work. 

Put it on your computer desktop. You want to have big reminders about your goal, to keep your focus and keep your excitement going. A picture of your goal also helps. Change the pictures from time to time to keep it all fresh in your mind. 

If you think about your goal every day, it is much more likely to become true. To this end, posting the goal on your wall or computer desktop (as mentioned above) helps a lot. Sending yourself daily reminders also helps. 

And if you can commit to doing one small thing to further your goal (even just 5 minutes) every single day, your goal will almost certainly come true. 

Commit publicly

None of us likes to look bad in front of others. We will go the extra mile to do something we’ve said publicly. For example, when I wanted to run my first marathon, I told everyone about it. 

All my friends knew about my goal. I couldn’t back down, and even though my motivation came and went, I stuck with it and completed it. Now, you don’t have to commit to your goal in your daily newspaper, but you can do it with friends and family and co-workers, and you can do it on your blog if you have one. 

And hold yourself accountable — don’t just commit once, but commit to giving progress updates to everyone every week or so.

Get support

It’s hard to accomplish something alone. When I decided to run my marathon, I had the help of friends and family, and I had a great running community who encouraged me at 5k races and did long runs with me. 

When I decided to quit smoking, I joined a fitness club, and that helped tremendously. And of course, my friends helped every step of the way. 

I couldn’t have done these goals without the people who supported me. Find your support network, either in the real world or online, or both.

Realize that there’s an up and down

Motivation is not a constant thing that is always there for you. It comes and goes, and comes and goes again, like the tide. But realize that while it may go away, it doesn’t do so permanently. It will come back. 

Just stick it out and wait for that motivation to come back. In the meantime, read about your goal (see below), ask for help (see below), and do some of the other things listed here until your motivation comes back.

Whatever you do, don’t give up. Even if you aren’t feeling any motivation today, or this week, don’t give up. Again, that motivation will come back. Think of your goal as a long journey, and your slump is just a little bump in the road. 

You can’t give up with every little bump. Stay with it for the long term, ride out the downs and surf on the ups, and you’ll get there.

Start small. Really small

If you are having a hard time getting started, it may be because you’re thinking too big. If you want to exercise, for example, you may be thinking that you have to do these intense workouts 5 days a week. 

No — instead, do small, tiny, baby steps. Just do 2 minutes of exercise. I know, that sounds wimpy. But it works. Commit to 2 minutes of exercise for one week. You may want to do more but stick to 2 minutes. It’s so easy, you can’t fail. 

Do it at the same time, every day. Just do some crunches, 2 pushups, and some jogging in place. Once you’ve done 2 minutes a day for a week, increase it to 5, and stick with that for a week. In a month, you’ll be doing 15-20. 

Want to wake up early? Don’t think about waking at 5 a.m. Instead, think about waking up 10 minutes earlier for a week. That’s all. Once you’ve done that, wake-up 10 minutes earlier than that. Baby steps.

Build on small successes

Again, if you start small for a week, you’re going to be successful. You can’t fail if you start with something ridiculously easy. Who can’t exercise for 2 minutes? (If that’s you, I apologize.) And you’ll feel successful, and good about yourself. 

Take that strong feeling and build on it, with another baby step. Add 2-3 minutes to your exercise routine, for example. With each level (and each step should last about a week), you will feel even more successful. 

Make each step small, and you won’t fail. After a couple of months, your tiny steps will add up to a lot of progress and a lot of success.

Read about it daily

When I lose motivation, I just read a book or blog about my goal. It inspires me and reinvigorates me. For some reason, reading helps motivate and focus you on whatever you’re reading about. So read about your goal every day, if you can, especially when you’re not feeling motivated.

I also find Podcasts or Audiobooks to be really great to keep you on track. You can listen to it most times of the day, during your commute, while cooking or jogging. Audio is a great way to learn new things.

Call for help when your motivation is down

Having trouble? Ask for help. Email me. Join an online forum. Get a partner to join you. Call your mom. It doesn’t matter who, tell them your problems, and talking about it will help. Ask them for advice. Ask them to help you overcome your downtime. It works.

Join a community of others with similar goals than yours. Check out your local meetups, join forums and take part in events related to your goal. Everyone there will understand your problems and have probably been there.

Think about the benefits, not the difficulties

One common problem is that we think about how hard something is. Exercise sounds so hard! Just thinking about it makes you tired. But instead of thinking about how hard something it is, think about what you will get out of it. 

For example, instead of thinking about how tiring exercise can be, focus on how good you’ll feel when you’re done, and how you’ll be healthier and slimmer over the long run. The benefits of something will help energize you.

Squash negative thoughts; replace them with positive ones

Along those lines, it’s important to start monitoring your thoughts. Recognize negative self-talk, which is really what’s causing your down. Just spend a few days becoming aware of every negative thought. 

Then, after a few days, try squashing those negative thoughts like a bug, and then replacing them with corresponding positive thinking. Squash, “This is too hard!” and replace it with, “I can do this! If John can do it, so can I!” 

It sounds corny, but it works. Really.

Pick the points that work best for you. Some of them might take some guts to implement and might need you to step over your own shadow, but once you do, things are going to change and you’ll on the right path to make things happen.

One more important point:

Don’t ever underestimate your ability to achieve your goal. You might not be able to see it yet, but you will make it!

John Di Stefano

An entrepreneur at heart and founder of the Entrepreneur Academy in Brussels, Belgium. He is teaching and supporting entrepreneurs in the skills every entrepreneur needs to create a better life for themselves and the people around them.

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