Follow these ten steps for guaranteed goal achievement.
At the beginning of the year I encouraged my readers to set the resolution of reading Leo Tolstoy’s magnum opus, “War and Peace”. It’s one of the goals that I set for myself this year, and I’m doing very well with it. I sat down to analyze the process that I’m using to work on this goal, and I came up with a ten-step process which can be applied to any goal.
I explain the ten-step process below in case anyone out there needs some help keeping up with their goals and resolutions. I’m also going to use this analysis to modify my approach for a couple of other goals that aren’t coming along so well.
So, without further ado, below you’ll find ten steps for guaranteed goal achievement.
1. Choose a Goal That Motivates You.
One of the key elements of successful goal achievement is motivation. When you set a goal, make sure that it’s important to you, and that it has value. That is, the goal must have clearly defined benefits. In addition, the goal should be relevant to your life’s bigger picture. When you set a goal make sure that you’re highly motivated to achieve that goal by doing the following:
- Ask yourself if you feel pushed to set the goal based on the expectations of others, or if it’s something that you feel pulled to do based on your own needs, wants, and aspirations. Obviously, you want to make sure that your goal falls into the second group.
- Ask yourself the following: “From 1 to 10, how badly do I want this goal?”
- If you had to explain to a friend why you’re working on this particular goal, what would you say?
- Write down all of the benefits that you expect to receive if you achieve your goal.
Lastly, ask yourself how your goal fits into your life’s bigger picture. As an illustration, reading “War and Peace” fits into my medium-range goal of reading the most important books of Russian literature. That, in turn, fits into my long-term goal of reading the 365 most important books ever written.
Once you’re sure that you’re very motivated to pursue the goal that you’ve set for yourself, move on to the second step of the process.
2. Make It Specific.
I’m sure you’ve heard the following a million times: vague goals produce vague results. If you want positive, unambiguous results, your goals have to be specific. Below you’ll see how the goal of “Read ‘War and Peace'” goes from being extremely vague, to being incredibly precise and specific:
- I want to improve myself.
- I want to read more.
- I’m going to read the classics.
- I’m going to read the classics on my list of “365 Classics to Read Before I Die”.
- I’m going to read the Russian Classics on my list of “365 Classics to Read Before I Die”.
- I’m going to read Leo Tolstoy’s two greatest works: “War and Peace” and “Anna Karenina”.
- I’m going to read “War and Peace”.
- I’m going to read the Maude translation of “War and Peace”.
- I’m going to read the Maude translation of “War and Peace” found here.
- I’m going to read the copy of “War and Peace” I’m holding in my hand (after I had purchased and received the copy that I wanted from Amazon).
Look at your goal and ask yourself where it would fit in the above continuum in terms of specificity. Keep asking yourself, “How can I make this more specific?” until you can practically hold the goal in your hand.
3. Set a Deadline.
Deadlines are one of life’s great motivators. They’re vital for getting things done. My deadline for reading “War and Peace” is December 31st 2017. Whatever goal you’re working on, make sure it has a deadline.
If you need some additional inspiration, focus on the first four words of deadline: “dead”. Pretend that if you don’t achieve your goal by the deadline, you’ll be shot dead.
4. Set Up Milestones.
A milestone is a transition from one phase to another. When a goal is far-off in the distance, milestones act as signposts that allow you to track your progress and make sure that you’re on the right path. They also give you goals with shorter time-frames to shoot for, a reason to celebrate each time you achieve a milestone, and the motivation to keep going.
The version of “War and Peace” that I’m reading is divided into four books. Therefore, I’m using each book as a milestone. I already read Book One. Since I read Book One within the time period that I had allotted for reading it, I know that I’m on track toward the achievement of my goal.
5. Reward Yourself.
Rewards are a great incentive for getting yourself to work on your goals. Ideally, the process of achieving your goal will be the reward in of itself. In my case, I love to read. However, I also incorporate additional “fun” elements into my reading time.
Most days I’ll read at a club that I belong to — I sit next to the pool, put my feet on the grass, and have a capuccino and a papaya shake as I read. Enjoying the process that will allow me to achieve my goal makes it much more likely that I’ll keep going until I cross the finish line at the end of the year.
In addition, I’m going to give myself a book-related reward each time I reach a milestone. When I finished reading Book One I got myself a tin of book darts which I’m using as book marks. Future rewards will include a book lover’s mug, a cushion with a literary quote on it, and a t-shirt that says:
“Yes, I’ve read War and Peace”.
6. Break the Goal Down Into Small, Achievable Steps.
One of the main reasons that people procrastinate on their goals is that they’re not sure how to proceed. In order to work toward the achievement of a goal, you have to know exactly what to do. That is, you have to break the goal down into small, achievable steps.
In the case of my goal of reading “War and Peace”, I broke it down as follows: Read one chapter of “War and Peace”—each of which is approximately 4 pages long—every day.
Any goal can be broken down into small steps. If you’re not sure how to proceed, do some research and develop a plan. Look at the following:
- If your goal is to write a novel, write a page every day.
- If your goal is to run a 5K, find a plan like Couch to 5k and follow along.
- If your goal is to learn French, purchase a program with a good reputation–such as Assimil–and complete one lesson each day.
- If your goal is to learn to code, choose a language to learn–such as C, Ruby, or Python–, find a great online course that teaches that language, and complete a lesson a day.
Once you’ve broken down your goal, set a performance goal. In other words, write it as a task. Here’s my daily performance goal or task: “Read today’s chapter of ‘War and Peace'”.
7. Schedule It.
Once you know exactly what you’re going to do each day, you have to decide when you’re going to do it. In other words, you have to schedule it. I read my chapter of “War and Peace” every day after lunch. As soon as I’m done with lunch I wash my hands, grab the book, and start reading.
Make sure that during your scheduled time you work on your goal without any distractions. When I’m going to read I sit away from my laptop, and I turn off my cell phone. That way I’m not tempted to check my email, go on Twitter, answer calls, and so on. My reading time is 100% for reading.
8. Measure Your Progress.
There are studies that show that making progress toward your goals improves well-being and increases levels of happiness. By measuring your progress as you work toward the achievement of your goals you’ll be making sure that you stay on track and you’ll be increasing your self-satisfaction.
I created and printed out a calendar that shows all of the days of the year on one page. Every day I write down on the calendar the number of the chapter of “War and Peace” that I read that day. That way I can easily see at a glance how I’m progressing on my goal.
9. If You Fall Off the Wagon, Get Back On.
It’s almost a certainty that while you’re pursuing your goal you’ll fall off the wagon (at least once). In my case, I was almost mugged in mid-January. I managed to fight off the mugger and run away, but I lost my copy of “War and Peace” in the struggle.
Since I live in Panama, I had to order another copy of the book from Amazon, and it took a couple of weeks for the new book to arrive. Therefore, I fell a couple of weeks behind on my reading. When the new book arrived I started reading two or three chapters a day until I caught up. On March 8th I finally caught up, and then I went back to reading one chapter a day.
If you do fall behind on your progress toward the achievement of your goal, get back to work as soon as you can. Then, do whatever you can to catch up. Make sure that you don’t let setbacks derail you from your objective of achieving your goal.
10. Find a Way to Hold Yourself Accountable.
Accountability is making a public commitment, and then accepting responsibility for doing what is necessary in order to achieve that obligation.
As I indicated at the top of this blog post, during the first week of January of this year I announced on this blog that I was going to read “War and Peace” this year. In addition, I am now honestly reporting that I am up-to date on that commitment.
A great strategy for keeping yourself accountable is to work on your goal with others. I’m following along with Brian E. Denton who is writing a brief reflection of each chapter of “War and Peace” every day of this year on Medium.
Most days I leave a comment on Brian’s posts, and a lot of the time Brian responds to my comments. I also read comments left by others who are also working on this goal. This makes me feel like I’m part of a community that’s reading “War and Peace”, which helps me with my accountability.
On the subject of accountability, I wrote on this blog that Iwould finish an eBook on how to learn faster by December 31st of 2016. I did write the eBook, but I’m now applying the process that I developed in said eBook to learn new skills so that I can offer proof that it does, indeed, work.
Today it’s March 12th and I’m happy to say that I’m on track with my goal of reading “War and Peace” this year. If you need some help achieving your goals, use the ten step process explained above. Live your best life by getting really good at goal achievement.