We’re all familiar with the story: You finally decide to reach for your dreams and ambitions! You vow to ask that person out, to get in shape, or start that YouTube channel, etc. You’re excited, enthusiastic, and can’t wait to begin! It feels different this time, even though it felt different all those other times as well. But THIS time it is different! So you set your goals and tell yourself you are going to follow through.
But once some time has passed and your exhilaration becomes a distant memory, you are left with yourself and your well-intentioned goal. Except now, that elevated exuberance has been replaced with a feeling of apathy toward the objective that electrified you just a few short days prior.
We’ve all experienced some version of this before. I’ve gone through this process more times than I’d like to admit. It’s frustrating, annoying, emotionally taxing, and completely unnecessary. I have found that there are a few simple and easy-to-follow actions we can implement to begin making progress toward our goals, instead of abandoning them.
1. Write It Down
This may seem rather rudimentary, and that’s because it is. It’s an effortless act to pull out a piece of paper and write down what you want. Yet, most people don’t do it because they don’t take their goals seriously. Writing down your ambitions is the FIRST step toward achieving them.
This simple act says that you’re serious, it communicates that your desires are important and that you’re going to constantly remind yourself of that fact by writing it down and reviewing it every day.
The other powerful effect writing your goals down has on your psyche is that it becomes more real, it becomes more concrete. Instead of it being some abstract and vague idea floating around in your mind, you have now given it life by putting it down on paper.
As a result, this small and seemingly insignificant action tells your subconscious mind that this matters to you. And when a particular outcome is important, you begin to notice ways to make it happen in your life. This is because there is a part of your brain known as the Reticular Activating System (RAS), that causes you to hone in and focus on things that are of significance to you.
How Your Brain Works When You Set Your Goals
There are a billion distractions in the world constantly fighting for your attention. And your brain, as amazing as it is, can’t possibly keep up with all the noise.
So in an attempt to bypass all the clamor, your brain’s RAS focuses your limited attention on the things that matter most to you, while drowning out almost everything else. So when something becomes important in your world, your RAS literally filters out the things that aren’t in alignment with that objective.
For example, have you ever wanted to buy a particular car, fixed in your mind the exact brand, make, and model, and then started seeing that vehicle everywhere you went?
That’s your RAS at work!
It’s not that that car wasn’t around before. It’s that your brain is fixated on that aim, and as a result, that is what you begin seeing all around you. This is what writing your goals down helps you to accomplish. It activates your brain’s RAS, sharpens your focus, and heightens your sensitivity to the goal.
But if you still have trouble knocking your goals down, then tip number 2 will be the next step for you.
2. Accountability (Tell A Friend)
It’s difficult to always hold yourself accountable. Often times you make up stories or come up with excuses. You conjure up contrived reasons why it won’t work, or why your goal is a stupid idea, etc. For this reason, having a trusted friend or a close family member to share these details with can really come in handy.
Personally, I have an accountability group I meet up with every 2 weeks to discuss goals and objectives. We hold each other to a higher standard for reinforcing accountability. This, in turn, lights a fire under my ass because it’s no longer just me that knows about my goals.
Now I have others involved. And they aren’t going to let me off the hook so easily.
Use the Power of Accountability When You Set Your Goals
Having someone else to answer to helps keep you focused. It forces you to push through the self-doubt that would normally hold you back. Consequently, you have no choice but to step up and get out of your own way because let’s face it, no one wants to look lazy or incompetent in the eyes of others — especially if it’s our friends.
Why make things harder on yourself than they have to be?
Find a person you trust who will help hold you to a higher standard. You can both act as each other’s sounding board to push each other higher than you could go on your own. You share tips and advice to aid each other in difficulties, you give encouragement to one another when you are feeling downhearted and despondent.
It’s a great relationship to have, and it will help keep you focused and accountable when you set your goals.
3. Think of the Consequences
Humans will do more to avoid pain than they will to gain pleasure. With this in mind, a great way to gain emotional “leverage” over yourself to take action and remain committed, is to look at all the painful consequences of not following through.
What are all the negative things that will happen as a result of not staying committed? Have you ever taken the time to ponder this? It’s a good idea. Two things that come to mind for me personally are:
1) You Will Remain Stuck Where You Are
By quitting prematurely, you are — by default — choosing to remain where you are. You want a better status quo, that’s the reason you set your goals first place, right? Because you wanted something better; a better partner, a better job, a better car, a better body, etc.
The only reason you set goals is to reach for a higher standard of living and to become a more well-rounded person in the process.
So by giving up on your objective, you’re communicating to life, the universe, and yourself that you’re fine right where you are. And of course, as time passes, as it surely will: 5, 10, 15, 20 years from now, you will still be stuck in the same position — wondering what if…
Regret is a scary and painful thing. And the second negative consequence of quitting is:
2) You Will Damage Your Confidence and Self-Image
You probably wouldn’t expect this just from coping out on a couple of goals. But the truth is, every time you fail to follow through on your commitments, you are subconsciously telling yourself that your word doesn’t mean anything, that your promises are valueless.
Each time you quit prematurely, you are breaking trust with yourself.
And over time, this habit will subtly erode your confidence and self-efficacy, because now you have a track record built up of noncommittal behavior acting as evidence to support the idea that you can’t be trusted.
And this will spill over into other areas in your life. Think about the consequences of always giving up, write them all down, and remember what’s really on the line in those moments of weakness.
Staying committed to your goals is tough, but at the end of the day, if you have a good support system (friends, family, the right mindset, etc), then things will be infinitely easier for you.
It’s not that you’ll never run into roadblocks or difficult times, it’s just that when you do encounter them, they won’t be enough to make you second guess yourself and question your motives.
4. Create a Plan
You aren’t going to accomplish your goals by accident. It takes intentionality to move toward your grandest dreams. And a big part of that process revolves around making plans.
To reach your aims, you need a plan of attack, a course of action. For this reason, taking the time to sit down, and create a plan is essential when you set your goals.
Begin by doing some research…
The internet is brimming with videos, blogs, articles, and ebooks on how to do anything and everything. You can develop a foolproof plan for any objective by simply copying a tried and true method from someone who has the results you want.
Of course, you could just as easily make your own plan as well. And while there’s nothing inherently wrong with this, it could hinder your progress.
Why try to reinvent the wheel?
If you’re striving to attain an outcome, it’s much better to learn and implement the same steps from someone who has already done it. It’s called best practices.
5. Habits Over Resolutions
Resolutions are tempting. There’s just something about making a declaration to yourself that feels so definitive and absolute. However, as 80% of people who fail at their resolutions at the beginning of a new calendar year will tell you, declarations are rarely effective.
Now, why do you think that would be?
Answer: Because resolutions without habits and rituals backing them are meaningless. It’s what you do every day that will determine whether or not you hit your objectives.
Therefore, when you set your goals, it’s imperative that you look at your actions and ask yourself, “Is what I’m doing every day in alignment with my desires?” And if it’s not, then you have two options: You either need to modify your actions or you need to modify your goals.
All of this to say: quit making resolutions. Instead, start forming habits. Once you’ve determined your aim (aka your goal), then realign your daily habits so that they are congruent with your desired outcome.
As the old saying goes; actions speak louder than words.
There is no need to tell your resolutions to anyone. But rather, allow your habits, actions, and daily rituals to do the talking for you. And when you finally achieve your coveted goal, your results will speak for themselves.
Are You Ready to Set Your Goals?
Goal setting is a beautiful thing. It can take you from where you are now to where you truly want to be in life. And that makes this whole process crazily worthwhile.
With this in mind, are you ready to set your goals and begin making progress toward them?
If so, then be sure to download my free ebook The Disciplined Mind. In it, you’ll gain a plethora of techniques, strategies, and ideas to align your habits with your goals — whatever they happen to be.