Successful goal-achievement is the act of identifying something specific you want and executing on a plan to get it. While goal-achievement may seem random, there are actually defined steps you can employ in any environment to achieve any goal. It all starts with proper goal-setting and ends with incremental and compounding progress.
Here are six proven steps that can help you achieve your goal:
1. Create a Goal-Setting Action Plan
The first step to achieving any goal is actually setting the correct goal(s) and turning them into a cohesive action plan. This is done by vision-setting, creating a “North Star” destination, and then setting a series of goals that build off each other using the SMART goal-setting framework.
This way, even your short-term goals feed into your longer-term vision to ensure you’re headed in the right direction. Then, you can focus on the daily work and the incremental progress and improvements needed to achieve your goals.
Do the following to identify the correct goals and translate them into an actionable plan for goal-achievement:
- Identify Your Overall Life-Vision: Think of this as your “North Star” vision, which you can use as your guiding light when setting goals so you ensure that every goal you set helps get you closer to your desired destination.
- Segment Your Vision Into Buckets: Once your North Star is set, segment your defined vision into its component parts. Each of these parts (or buckets) represents an area of your life in which you want to set goals, such as “health” or “career”. The summation of these goals should result in your North Star.
- Set An Annual Goal for Each Bucket: Within each of these identified buckets, set an annual goal that gets you one step closer to your overall life-vision. Each of these annual goals should follow the SMART goal-setting format.
- Translate Annual Goals into Quarterly Sprints: Break each of your annual goals into a series of successive quarterly sprints that build off each other and help you achieve your annual goal within the time allotted.
- Turn Quarterly Sprints Into Weekly To-Do’s: Now that you have four quarterly sprints, turn your first-quarter’s goal into a weekly to-do list to start attacking your goals, one week at a time.
From here, you should be able to make incremental, weekly gains towards your overall goals. For more detailed information on how to set goals and create an action plan, check out my article on goal-setting the right way. However, achieving your goals doesn’t stop here, and you’ll also want to consider the following steps.
2. Clearly Define Your Overall “Why”
Goal-achievement is nearly impossible if you don’t even want the thing you’ve set out to achieve. Because of this, clearly understanding and defining the “why” behind your goal—i.e. why you even want to achieve the goal in the first place—is paramount for success.
Luckily, if you follow the SMART goal-setting framework outlined above, then your why should already be built into your goal. This is because SMART is an acronym, and the “R” stands for “relevant”. This way, all your goals are relevant to your life and the things you actually want out of it.
However, ensuring your goals are relevant won’t help you achieve them alone. You also need to write down or depict your why so that you see it daily. For me, I use a whiteboard like this one I got off Amazon. Alternatively, you can use a more visual vision board outlined by Jack Canfield.
Use whatever works for you. The important part is to prominently display your why. By doing so, you’re constantly reminded of the reasons behind your goal which can motivate you to achieve it, especially in moments of doubt.
3. Enlist an Accountability Partner
Setting out to achieve your goals can be a lonely experience. Success or failure is largely dependent on you, and when the going gets tough, it’s often hard to rely only on yourself. To help, make sure you enlist the help of an accountability partner.
An accountability partner is self-explanatory as someone who helps hold yourself accountable for your actions and the achievement of your goal. The best accountability partners are people on a similar path and those willing to have regular check-ins as you pursue common goals.
However, if you don’t have someone in your network on the same path, you can also enlist the help of friends or family. Sometimes even by telling someone important about your goal, it better motivates you to achieve it. Even better, your friends or family may even be willing to hop on a regular call to hold you accountable.
Enlisting the help of an accountability partner requires you to set regular check-ins similar to a mastermind group where you discuss previous weeks’ work and what you’re going to do in the coming weeks. Then, you’re motivated to get the things done you promised because you’ll have to report back.
For more info, there’s a great article on how best to use an accountability partner, which you can find here. Within it, you’ll read the benefits and drawbacks of an accountability partner, including the steps needed to leverage one successfully.
4. Focus on Chipping Away Incrementally
It’s going to take time to achieve your goals. Rarely does goal-achievement fall in your lap. As you execute on the action plan created in the first step, make sure you focus on chipping away incrementally rather than being overwhelmed by large or lofty goals.
This is why it’s important to translate your long-term vision into manageable, bite-sized chunks and then focus on the work that’s right in front of you. If you set your goals correctly, you’ll have a long-term plan that’s broken down into incremental quarterly goals and weekly to-dos.
Rather than focusing on the shiny object at the end of the road, worry about making the next hour, day, and week count. Over time, these shorter timeframes will compound and build off each other and get you closer to your ultimate destination.
For more information on the power of incremental progress, check out the book, The Compound Effect, By Darren Hardy, founder of Success Magazine. Within it, you’ll find verified tips and tactics on how to leverage the compound effect to your advantage.
5. Evaluate Your Compounding Progress
As you move through each day and week in the pursuit of your goal, things will change. Action items you thought you could complete may not get done, destinations you think you’re headed to will move, and goals you thought you wanted may lose their luster.
For this reason, it’s important to review your progress either weekly or monthly. Remember that your quarterly goals each build off each other to achieve the annual goals you’ve set. In order to ensure you’re on track to meeting your quarterly initiatives, it’s important to conduct a retrospective on your past progress.
To do so, make sure you build in a few hours each week and/or month and review your past progress. Then, use that past data to inform your next steps as you set out to achieve your goals.
For me, I like to spend the last hour on Friday each week doing a retrospective and planning my next week. Additionally, I will try to block off a few hours on a weekend each month to do a monthly retrospective where I may even do some journaling to clear my head and get ready to gameplan next steps.
6. Celebrate Wins & Adjust Course as Necessary
When evaluating your compounding progress, make sure you do one of two things. First, if there are any near-term wins, even something as small as a good day or week, make sure you celebrate it! Stop and smell the roses every once in a while, even if your goals are far away. This will help keep yourself sane and motivated
Second, if you find yourself straying too far from your intended path, or if the destination goal you set is no longer relevant, adjust your course. Don’t be afraid to iterate and improve on your actions and direction so that you achieve your goals in the most effective and efficient manner as possible.
In fact, both situations might be simultaneously true. You may have a chance to both celebrate a near-term win and also need to adjust your course. That’s ok. Don’t be afraid to be honest with your progress and change things that aren’t working. This isn’t failure, this is being realistic. Failure would be burying your head in the sand.
Additional Tips for Achieving Your Goals
Here are some additional tips that can help you further achieve your goals:
- Don’t Be Too Hard on Yourself: Achieving goals is hard. Sometimes failure is a necessary step in the eventual attainment of your goal. If you face opposition or failure, don’t be too hard on yourself. Instead, take it as a learning experience so you’re better equipped to achieve your ultimate goal.
- Stay the Course: Don’t expect to see immediate results. Often, achieving high-level goals takes the long-game view. Even if you sometimes feel like you’re spinning your wheels you may be knocking on the door to success. Don’t take lack of immediate results as a signal of failure.
- Don’t Be Afraid to Adjust: That said, sometimes it makes sense to adjust your course if you aren’t finding the success you expect. Adjusting your course does not signal failure. In fact, knowing you need to change course and not doing so out of pride or fear is actually failure.
- Find a Mentor if You Can: We discussed the importance of an accountability partner above, but if you can, also try to find a mentor. A mentor is someone with advanced knowledge in the space you’re operating in and someone willing to help guide you through your goal-achievement process.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
The best way to set goals and achieve them is to start with your long-term vision and break it down into a series of achievable goals. Then, focus on weekly progress, find an accountability partner, understand your why, evaluate your progress, and either celebrate wins or alter your course.
Conclusion: How to Achieve Goals
Goal-achievement starts with setting the right goals and turning those initiatives into an actionable plan. Then, focus on incremental progress and consistently conduct retrospectives on how things have been going and what needs to change in order to achieve your goals.