If you’re like me, you’ve always been a goal-oriented person, but you haven’t always reached the goals you’ve set for yourself. You’re looking not just to achieve your goals, but absolutely blast them out of the water. I get it.
I’m here to give you some mind-twisting news… you aren’t going to achieve those goals the way that everyone has been telling you to. That standard advice simply doesn’t work, and that’s why you’ve failed so many times.
In this article, I’m going to give you 5 ways to achieve your goals this year, and every year, for the rest of your life. I’ll give you plenty of examples of how these techniques played out in my own life so you can see if you think they’ll work for you, too. (Hint: they will!)
What’s the Standard Advice for Achieving Goals?
If AI bot “Standard Advice” gave you a list of 5 ways to achieve your goals, it might look like this: 1) set a SMART goal, 2) get organized, 3) get to work, 4) berate yourself when you slide off the path, 5) make sure you reward yourself when you get to the end.
Standard advice give us a very “yang” energy answer. It’s persistent, it punishes you when you get it wrong, and it rewards you when you get it right. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with rewarding yourself once you’ve achieved your goal, but hopefully, the act of achieving your goals is the real reward.
Some examples of the last goals that I achieved using this typical advice would be graduating from my undergraduate program and getting my first job. That was about 17 years ago, and that method hasn’t worked for me since then. Plus, I quit after four years because I had burnt myself out from trying to climb that linear line to success.
Why the standard advice doesn’t work
So why doesn’t standard advice really work to achieve your goals? Simply, because it’s too short-sighted. Life is more dynamic than the above advice allows for. Life swings like a pendulum… one moment you might be riding high, and the next, you’re struggling to keep your head afloat.
This is normal.
We move houses, we go through divorce. We have kids (or maybe when we think we’re all done having kids, we end up with an unplanned baby!). A pipe in the house bursts. A parent falls ill.
Most of us (and I’m speaking for Millennials, here), have been taught that life is one big uphill climb toward retirement, and then you can relax. But these curveballs that make us readjust are just a part of the normal process of life, and I bet if you asked my grandparents’ generation, that they would say the same thing.
Standard advice for achieving goals simply doesn’t account for the reality of life.
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5 Ways to Achieve Your Goals, With Examples
So if we’re trying to achieve our goals while honoring the ebb and flow that is life, how exactly do we do this? Try these 5 techniques.
1. Be more flexible with your progress
We tend to think that progress toward success looks like a linear line going upward. We like to kid ourselves that progress is consistent and always remains at the same difficulty.
But the truth is that the path to success has peaks and plateaus. The difficulty or resistance we encounter while we’re working toward our goals changes as life changes, as we reach different levels of success. This article by Eric Graham on his LinkedIn includes a perfect visual representation of this.
Thus, when we want to be successful, we need to have a greater understanding that our path will look like this. It means that when we’re struck with extra time or extra inspiration, that we utilize the opportunity by working toward our goal abundantly. We “get ahead” and, hopefully, enjoy ourselves in the process!
But when life chucks us under the bus, we’re able to be more giving. If you get sick and can’t work for a week (or longer), your progress is not in jeopardy. If you’re tasked with other things that suck up all your energy and creativity and have to put your goal on the back-burner for a while, you’re able to easily pick it back up and find the kind of progress you’re looking for.
I’m working on a novel, so many of my examples may be related to publishing a book. Let’s look at NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. The goal is to write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November.
For many people, writing 50,000 words every single month is unachievable. But when you focus your attention on just one month, you’re able to achieve more than a typical month. Plus, NaNoWriMo comes with a built in community of people working toward the same goal, which is the next way to achieve your goals.
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2. Lean on others
Kudos to people who do everything. If they’re trying to publish a book, they write, edit, create the cover, do the formatting, upload to platforms, and do marketing. But often, this is the quick path to burnout!
We avoid burning out by delegating tasks, hiring others, or simply asking your partner to take some of the load. You are not an island. Leaning on other people, asking them for important or even integral things that we simply can’t do by ourselves helps to guarantee our success.
Even if we don’t give tasks to others to help us out, just having a community of support and guidance can absolutely make or break whether you achieve your goal.
You might argue that this diminishes some of the credit or reward. I argue differently. Because you share your achievement with others, this actually increases the reward you feel. You may experience a great amount of gratitude for the connections and relationships you have in life. After all, quoting Christopher McCandles:
“Happiness is only real when shared.”
Read the acknowledgement section of any book. Typically the author will mention dozens of people.
Listen to acceptance speeches given by Oscar winners. They don’t talk about how they never had help from anyone. They usually thank others for all the guidance, help, opportunities, or support they’ve given.
(Here’s some SAG Awards transcripts that I found. Check out how many of them talk about how other people contributed to their win.)
3. Let go of other aspects of life
This is a tough pill to swallow: part of the experience on this earth as a human being is that we’re confined by space and time. Whether it’s a big or small thing, if you’ve set a goal, you need to make room in your life to achieve it.
Something small getting in the way of achieving your goals might be stopping at Starbucks and wasting 10 minutes in the drive-through line, or something big might be your soul-sucking job. It’s important to cut out the dead things in your life to clear space for something alive!
Either way, we have to make concessions in order to make space for what we really want.
Again, this goes against that standard advice that you truly can have it all and do it all. But the reality is that we need to prioritize, whether it’s for a short amount of time, or for the rest of our lives.
There are many influencers who quit their corporate positions to take the risk of going into business for themselves. These people had a vision and goal, and once they had planned their risk, they took a leap of faith.
4. Motivation follows action, not the other way around
If you wait until you’re motivated to work toward your goal, it’s never going to happen for you. We spend so much time on staying motivated that we don’t think about whether or not it’s important to be motivated in the first place.
The more we act toward our goal, the more motivated we become. (If you’re taking actionable steps toward your goal and you’re not feeling motivated, then perhaps you’ve set the wrong goal.)
So get going. Do it scared. Do it bored. Do it exhausted.
Don’t wait until you’re motivated. The key is that you work toward it every day, but that, like in #1 above, you might spend 8 hours one day and 15 minutes the next. That’s okay!
If you need to be motivated, try hacking your mindset with some affirmations for motivation.
If you have a bigger goal or project you’re working on, you may lose motivation thinking about the monumental task ahead. But if you break it into smaller pieces, the goal becomes more manageable. Take action on that first small piece even if you don’t feel motivated.
After you’ve taken action on that smaller thing, you may feel more motivated to do more!
5. Clear your mind to sift through your thoughts
As discussed above, life is full of all kinds of stuff that we have to think about. It’s important that we not just create space in our schedules for our goals, but also create space in our minds. Living mindfully and being in the present moment are the ways that we do this, and it has been proven that mindfulness helps you achieve your goals.
Mindfulness is defined as the mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment. Whether you choose meditation, self-hypnosis, quiet reading time, walking through nature, or another manner, it is essential to find quiet time to be mindful.
Mindfulness is also the calm acceptance of feelings, thoughts, and sensations. This helps us process the work that we’ve done and the work that we have yet to achieve towards our goals. It helps us refocus on the important tasks, and it gives us reprieve from a more strenuous mindset.
As demonstrated in the “Standard Advice” section above, when you stay in a headspace of “pursue and unrelent” it can take a toll on you and you might become burnt out.
But there are so many examples of famous, successful people who employ mindfulness to help them stay focused and achieve their goals. Here’s a list of celebrities and athletes that meditate every day. I’d say that’s some powerful evidence right there.
Because I like using affirmations, you might also try using these affirmations for self-confidence.
When you’re working toward your goals, try thinking outside the box. While they might not be your conventional advice, these 5 ways to achieve your goals really work.
Hold onto your goals loosely while allowing life to happen. Your mindset and overall happiness will prove to you that this is the way.