So many of us love talking about goals, but achieving them is another issue. It’s exciting to think about the possibilities of what can happen when we accomplish new goals. But unfortunately, lots of us give up or don’t even get started, so we've come up with 5 ways to achieve your goals for real and in spite of obstacles.
Remember that although you have to work hard to achieve your goals it's totally worth it!
What is stopping you from achieving your goals?
When the calendar year is coming to an end, do you find yourself writing clear lists of goals for the coming year? Are you a goal-setter at heart?
And if you are interested in changing your life by achieving your goals, what is stopping you from achieving your goals? You can start by thinking about the challenges you face every day. You might have troubles because of:
- People who doubt your potential.
- Not enough hours in the day.
- Low self-confidence.
- Uncertainty on how to take action to achieve your goals.
- Financial limitations.
Millions of articles and thousands of books exist that can teach you the best ways you can work hard to achieve your goals. You’ve likely heard a few of these, but if you’re serious about making progress for real then check out our 5 ways to achieve your goals.
5 Ways to achieve your goals plus examples
We’re going to look at strategies for goal-setting as well as some techniques for changing behavior or habits. These 5 ways to achieve your goals along with specific examples can apply to any part of life, including health, career, financial, and personal aspects.
1. Set the right goals
The first of 5 ways to achieve your goals is to focus on proper goal-setting. Too many of us set goals that are unreasonable, or we don’t have a plan for reaching them. Setting SMART goals is a top strategy for setting goals you can actually accomplish.
Use the SMART Goal method
In 1981, an article in Management Review coined the terminology of S.M.A.R.T. goals. You’ve probably heard of them, and there have been a few variations of what the acronym should stand for. The guidelines are that your goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound.
Here is how to use the SMART goal method to take action to achieve your goals:
Make your goals specific
First of all, it helps to set very specific goals. Rather than something vague like “I want to be healthier,” you need specific goals regarding what aspect of health you’re focusing on.
For example, you could say, “My goal is to eat 9 fruits and vegetable servings every day.” That’s specific. Plus, you’ll see in a moment that it meets criteria for other parts of SMART goals.
Make your goals measurable
The “M” in SMART stands for measurable. (Other versions might use “meaningful” or “motivating,” but I prefer “measurable” because that’s been one of the keys for me in reaching my biggest goals.
If your goals aren’t measurable, then how will you know if you’ve achieved them? You could continue reaching for something more, never stopping to celebrate your accomplishments.
One of happiness guru Gretchen Rubin’s “Secrets of adulthood” is “You manage what you measure.” She also calls this the strategy of monitoring. I’ve found this to be quite accurate—if I want to follow a reasonable diet, I need to track my calorie and nutrient intake.
A measurable goal is one that comes with clear numbers. Phrases like how much, how many, or how often may be applicable.
Examples of measurable goals are:
- Read for 20 minutes every day.
- Send pitches to 2 potential clients every weekday.
- Take your kids to the park three times a week.
Make your goals attainable
Next, when designing your goals, it’s important to keep them attainable. That just means it’s within reach! You may need to play with your definition of “attainable,” though.
The key is to pick goals that challenge you, but not so much as to be impossible. You can always set gradually more advanced goals as you progress, but if you focus too much on a goal that feels light-years away, you might give up before you even get started.
My advice would be that it’s great to dream big, but when it comes to setting your goals that you can actively work towards now, try not to shoot too far. In other words, if you’re a new college graduate, it’s great to dream of being CEO of your own company one day.
But it could take a few years, so you might start smaller, perhaps aiming to get your first promotion within one year.
Professional development goals, health goals, interpersonal goals, and other types can all benefit from focusing on what’s attainable. This isn’t to discourage you from aiming high, but just to make sure you’re close enough to your current goals to stay motivated.
Make your goals relevant
A fourth step in finding ways to achieve your goals: Be sure your goals are relevant. They need to speak to you and be important to you. It can be too easy, especially for women, to center our goals around others’ needs and wants.
If you don’t have a strong desire to accomplish something, there will come a day that you decide it’s not worth the effort. It’s hard enough finding ways to achieve your goals as it is—don’t make it harder by picking things you don’t care about.
For example, if you’re setting financial goals, you have to dig deep and figure out what you truly want. Of course, getting out of debt is good for all of us. But what’s your "why?" What would becoming debt-free do for other parts of your life?
The same goes for achieving early retirement. Retiring at 40 isn’t necessarily the goal for everyone. If you pursue early retirement, you need strong motivation. Make that goal relevant by figuring out what you’ll do when you’re retired. Will you volunteer at a homeless shelter? Travel the globe? Write a book? Clarify your goals to fit your personality.
Make your goals time-bound
A final step in the SMART goals framework is to give a time limit on your goals. This simply offers boundaries so you know how much effort you need to put in and for how long.
- I will get 30 minutes of cardiovascular activity every day for 30 days.
- After three months, I will have sent my resume to at least 15 companies.
- I will save $10,000 by the end of this year.
When making time-bound goals, it’s useful to set goals on different timelines. By setting mid-term goals, for example, you can tackle different levels of accomplishment than with short-term or long-term goals.
This also goes hand-in-hand with the “attainable” part of SMART goals. Setting goals with different timelines can help you hone in on what’s attainable in certain periods of time. Another way to look at this is by setting benchmarks—smaller steps along the road to your ultimate goal.
Don’t set too many goals
The thing to remember when utilizing these 5 ways to achieve your goals, is to limit the number of goals you have! Along with using SMART as a guideline to help you set goals, you can improve your chances of success by limiting the number of goals you set.
Have you ever written a to-do list that was as long as your arm? That kind of pressure can be overwhelming, and it’s why it’s good not to set too many goals at once.
Of course, we all fill many different roles every day. But if you want to know what is stopping you from achieving your goals, one possibility is overzealous goal setting. You get frustrated and can’t focus enough to accomplish any of those goals.
Similar to the way Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps can break down financial goals, you can increase your odds of success by focusing on one or two big goals at a time.
Goal example: Become debt-free before saving for a house
Goal example: Focus on starting your business before running a marathon
Maybe you’ve dreamed of running a marathon for years, but you also dream of quitting your day job to run your own business. Decide which is more important. If it’s the business, then you might hold off on the marathon, since training can take up a lot of time. Trying to do both, you might just get burned out.
Yes, you must work hard to achieve your goals, but setting a limit to how many you focus on at a time can make it easier on you.
Focus on process goals instead of product goals
Here’s another part of these 5 ways to achieve your goals. You can set the right goals by focusing more on “process” rather than “product.”
In other words, many of us might say “I want to raise kids who become honest, hard-working adults.” That’s great—but it’s a product. Could you break that down into smaller “process” goals? Perhaps focus on the age they are now, and daily steps you could take to help them become those amazing adults you know they can be one day.
Process goals emphasize what you’re in control of right now. You can control your actions, but you can’t always control how your circumstances go. For example, a process goal might be to lift weights three times a week or walk 20 minutes per day. A product goal would be to lose 20 pounds.
2. Keep records to help achieve your goals
Recording your goals is a way to help you get closer to achieving them. Often, we do better with things we write down. This is why it's one of the top 5 ways to achieve your goals!
Write down your goals
Whether you write them in your private journal or on a sticky note you place above your desk, the act of writing down goals is useful. Writing them forces you to clarify your goals, and you can revisit them regularly to see how you’re doing.
When writing these goals, be sure to write them out in full. Include all of the aspects of SMART goals if possible.
State goals publicly
Many of us benefit from sharing our goals in public. This gives you some outer accountability. Even if the people you share it with won’t care, the very act of stating the goal to someone else can make it more real to you.
Find an accountability partner
You might move closer to goals by having one or two people to keep you accountable. Maybe you pick one friend, and you text her every day to tell her your step count for the day. (Make sure she knows what your goal is!)
You could also find a friend who shares your goals. For example, working to save $5,000 in six months could be easier if you have a friend who’s doing the same. You can cheer each other on and stop each other from impulse spending when necessary.
Share your goals on social media to achieve them more easily
Another strategy for achieving goals is to post them to your social media. You know you’ll get responses from friends or followers that might be encouraging. You don’t have to talk daily about these goals on Instagram, but posting your progress weekly or monthly could be helpful.
Monitor your progress
Monitoring your progress is essential when you’re setting goals. After all, if you don’t track how you’ve done, how will you know when you’ve achieved them?
This step is what we discussed earlier in the “measurable” part of SMART goal-setting. However, you choose to monitor your progress, keep track of your efforts and the benchmarks as you pass them.
3. Stay focused on your goals
Staying focused is next up on our list of 5 ways to achieve your goals. With any important goal or dream, a singular focus is important. Don’t let distractions or discouragement drive you away from achieving what you want to do.
Keep learning through educational resources
Books, podcasts, newsletters, and other resources can help you keep your focus. Anything that can help you learn more could help propel you to work hard and achieve your goals.
If you really want to learn a musical instrument, you need to take lessons, practice and think about that instrument—a lot. That education can help you maintain focus.
Make visual reminders as a way to achieve your goals
Having a goal means having a vision, right? You need to envision a different life, whether in terms of family, career, health, or something else.
Put visual reminders of your most important goals everywhere. You can stay motivated and focused when you see notes, artwork, or photographs that remind you of your goals.
For example, if you want to move to Europe after retiring early, put photos of the country you want to live in all over your home, computer, car, and phone. Or make a vision board to keep you motivated!
Ask for help
Sometimes we need the help of others to remind us what we’re working for. Your accountability partner is a natural choice, but you can ask anyone you trust for help. Talk to your spouse about picking up extra slack with the kids, or ask your friend to remind you of your career goal and what it’ll help you accomplish.
Talk to business mentors
When you’re working towards a big career goal, a professional mentor can have a great impact. Talk to your business mentors when you start to veer off course. Ask them what strategies helped them to get to the goals you’re hoping to achieve.
4. Arrange your environment
Environment plays a huge role in our success in building habits and achieving goals. Build your environment for success!
Make it easier to do tasks you want to do
James Clear, the author of the best-seller Atomic Habits, writes a lot about making your environment support your habits. You can more easily achieve your goals by making it easier to do certain things. An example he gives is if you want to practice a musical instrument, place it in the middle of the living room.
For example, if you want to eat healthier, set up recurring orders of fresh produce. (If you’re like me, you order groceries online, so you can save your favorite healthy items in your online account for convenient ordering.)
Here is also an example to make saving money easier.
To save more money, set up automatic savings deductions from every paycheck. Automation is awesome. It takes the decision out of your hands, so you only make that saving decision once, and it remains your routine until you cancel it.
Both of these examples make things easier for you to do something positive for yourself. Although you have to work hard to achieve your goals. you can make them easier to accomplish!
Make it harder to do things you want to avoid
The reverse is also true: you can improve habits by making bad habits harder to do. Make them inconvenient or difficult, and you won’t do them as much. This can help you stay on the path to achieving your goals.
For instance, to eat healthier, you can stop buying junk food. (If you don’t have the willpower, ask someone else to do the shopping.) For many people, once the chips or cookies are in the house, they’re tough to resist. So keep them out of the house completely, and then it’s a huge hassle if you crave sweets.
To save money, you can switch to an all-cash system for a few months. Paying by credit card can be all too easy. Switching to cash will make you consider every purchase carefully, so you feel the pain of spending.
5. Plan for obstacles and failure
That’s right, I said you should plan for failure! That doesn’t mean you’ll fail forever, but that we all should expect some level of failure or major obstacles along the way to achieving our goals. Here is how to use failure as a step to success, so you can still take action to achieve your goals!
Decide how you’ll deal with setbacks
It’s almost guaranteed that your journey won’t be smooth sailing all the way. Whether you’re hoping to become a millionaire, launch a business, get out of debt, or any other goal, planning ahead for setbacks can help you succeed.
You can decide in advance what your response will be in certain situations. For instance, if your goal is to save $500 in a month, but you come up $200 short, don’t throw in the towel. Look at your budget and your earnings and make a game plan for how to save more next month. (Or, adjust the goal if necessary—there’s zero shame in that.)
What you don’t want to do is quit on yourself after your first setback. Mistakes and failures are part of life. These affirmations can help you get back on track after you get derailed from goals.
Learn from failure
This is one of the hardest things to learn and one of the most valuable: failure is a great teacher. What is stopping you from achieving your goals? One problem might be that you haven’t learned how to fail.
Failure is actually an important part of how you can become great. Thomas Edison famously said of his numerous attempts at inventions, “I have not failed 10,000 times—I’ve successfully found 10,000 ways that will not work.”
By reframing the way you think about failure, you can start to see it as a tool you need in order to succeed. This is a great way to achieve your goals, no matter how difficult they seem.
Use these top 5 ways to achieve your goals starting today!
The great thing about goals is that they can always keep evolving as you do. After all, we never really stop learning, so why wouldn’t our goals change along the way? Implement just a few of these ways to achieve your goals, and you’ll be unstoppable.
So, what are you waiting for? Take action to achieve your goals today!