How to Achieve Your Goals: 6 Steps You Can’t Leave Out

Sometimes in life, you may feel lost or behind. During such moments, setting a goal can be one of the best things to do. By setting a goal, you can reflect on what’s important and then focus on it, which will help you gain direction and move forward.

Goals add value and purpose to our lives as they give us something to do, challenge us, push us out of our comfort zones, and help us learn about ourselves and what we are capable of. Attaining that first goal can open so many opportunities for the next goal and beyond.

Achieving your goals will require hard work, having the right mindset, discipline, perseverance, and a combination of many other things. Planning the goal is the easy part, but starting and continuing is the hard part.

Determination to Achieve your goals

In this article, we’ll discuss how to achieve your goals, and the crucial initial steps of setting up a goal to increase the chances of achieving it. We will also provide additional tips and advice on how to continue your journey once you begin.

6 Steps to achieve your goals

The beginning stages of goal planning and taking the first action steps are imperative to your entire journey of pursuing that goal. It shows how serious and dedicated you are about what you want to do and it will reveal whether the goal will be reached or not.

There is a long list of things to focus on when you are going after a goal, but trying to gather all that information at once can be overwhelming. The important part is beginning, the six steps below are the only ones you need to focus on first before you move on.

1. Write them down

(What is your goal?)

Write down your goals

Writing your goals down makes them real, your idea is now on paper to become a reality rather than a thought you once had in your mind. In this study, you are 42% more likely to achieve your goals if you simply just write them down.

If you need a guideline, one popular method is called the SMART method, and it stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. You can click here for our guide on how to use it. SMART helps you write down the details of your goal, which will help you get to your goals a little easier because you’ll better understand what you want and what you need to do to get there. The clearer you can get, the better the direction.

Check out this article here for the 7 types of goals you can set if you need ideas.

2. Make a plan

(How are you going to get there?)

A goal without a plan is a wish. To take it one step further in solidifying your dedication to the goal, you must break it down and write how you are going to get there. Break your goal down into manageable steps and small milestones to reach to make it more attainable.

If your goal is to run a marathon, break it down to how much you will run every week, then start with a 5K, then 10K, then a half marathon, and before you know it, the big marathon day will arrive and you will be ready. If you have many books you want to read, break it down into a few pages a day. Whatever it is, scale it down into actionable steps.

This step will require being honest with yourself and being realistic about what you can or cannot do. Create a plan that is reasonable for your ability and your schedule. Make it to where you know you can commit and stay consistent.

When you have big ambitions but no action plan, it can feel unattainable because even the idea sounds large and overwhelming, but when you break it down into small steps, you are more likely to begin.

3. Tell the right people

(Who should know about this goal?)

The same study mentioned above also showed that people who wrote their goals down and had an accountability partner sent weekly progress reports to achieve significantly more than any other group.

Choose someone that you trust and that you know supports and encourages you. If you pick someone meaningful, it will motivate you to keep going because you won’t want to disappoint them.

4. Do one small thing

(What is the first action step you’re going to take?)

Now that you’ve done the easy part of writing down your goal and the plan to get there, it’s time to get started. This is the hardest part for many people, but if you have already done the work of scaling the goal into manageable and actionable small steps, this part will be easy.

Make the first step the smallest possible thing to do. If you want to start running every day, put on your shoes, step outside, and come back in. If you can do that, then it’s considered a win. Then do the same thing the next day until you can walk a farther distance or begin jogging. When you start jogging, you can jog for 10 seconds then stop and keep walking, and keep doing that until you build up your stamina and do a full run.

Micro actions will make the process feel easy, and people love doing easy things. Additionally, doing these micro-actions leads to micro-wins, and accomplishing things releases the happy chemicals in our brains. The more we feel good about our actions the more likely we are to keep going.

Watch this inspiring Tedtalk below about achieving your ambitious goals, you won’t regret it. Stephen Duneier talks about the importance of the many decisions we make and how to break down and accomplish even the most ambitious goals. He shares his technique about making marginal adjustments to your routine that lead to accomplishing anything you want. He proves it by listing the many goals he made and achieving them all, goals that people marvel at and spend their lifetime trying to do, and it is inspiring.

5. Celebrate

(How are you going to reward yourself?)

Keep track of your progress because every win no matter how big or small always deserves a celebration. Rewards make the process more enjoyable, but the gratification of the reward is what makes us want to work for it.

Of course, we would prefer the big reward of completing the goal, however, it’s easy to lose sight of because completing the goal will take time. Smaller rewards along the way are more satisfying and they remind us that we’re making progress and that we’re on the right track.

6. Turn it into a habit

(What is a schedule I can stick to?)

Once you begin taking action on your goals, the next critical step to ensuring you keep the momentum going and staying consistent is turning it into a habit. In James Clear’s Atomic Habits, habits are who you are, and what you do daily is what you are.

“You don’t rise to the level of your goals, you fall to the level of your system”

James Clear

You can’t rely on motivation or wait until you “feel like it” to work on your goals. You must force yourself to do it consistently no matter how you feel until it becomes part of your routine and you do it without thinking. Doing something regularly over time will get you to your goals faster than doing something spontaneously and randomly.

Make a schedule of when you will dedicate time to work on your goals and commit. It doesn’t necessarily have to be daily, as long as it is consistent. If you want to start exercising, you don’t have to commit seven days a week, you can commit to Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday.

If you’re feeling ambitious to start a productive morning routine, check out this article here for habits to start incorporating.

Additional Goal-Achieving Tips

How to Achieve Goals

Once you have the first six steps down and have established a good routine for reaching your goals, these are additional tips to consider when you are working on your goals. Just know that the process is not easy, and there will be many times when you want to give up, but that is normal and part of it.

Make your goals visible. Have your written goals somewhere visible where you can review and look at them almost daily to remind yourself what you said you were going to do.

Constantly remind yourself of your why. You embarked on this journey for a reason and you made the decision to change to improve your life. Keep a reminder of your reason close to you so it can help motivate you on days when you don’t feel like it.

Anticipate obstacles and failures. This journey is not going to be easy, that’s why so many people have a hard time even starting or they give up. Understand that facing failures and difficulties is part of the process, and what makes you grow is learning how to overcome them. You can’t just stop every time something gets hard, otherwise, you’ll never get anywhere.

Related: 12 Common Obstacles in Achieving Goals and How to Overcome

Be kind to yourself. Not everything is going to be perfect, and this is a journey of learning. If one day doesn’t go as planned, write it down and improve the next day, that’s how you get better. Be kind and practice self-compassion.

Work on your mindset. Mindset is everything, what we think is what we are, and what we repeat to ourselves daily is what we become. Don’t distract yourself with negativity and noise, stay focused and speak positively to yourself. This study by McKinsey showed mindset is more powerful than socioeconomic background.

Have a clean environment. When our environment is cluttered, our mind gets cluttered. Keep your workspace nice and organized so that a messy environment is one less thing to worry about.

Eliminate Distractions to achieve your goals

Eliminate distractions. When working on your goals, keep track of what is slowing you down. Do you reach for your phone a lot? Are you scrolling on social media more than expected? Find a way to reduce distractions so you can stay focused. If you reach for your phone a lot, one way is to leave it in another room.

Related: 6 Things highly productive people do to stay focused.

Don’t be a perfectionist. You don’t have time to dwell, spending time on minor insignificant details is procrastinating. This is usually personal for each individual to work on, but just know you are wasting time by fixating on something when in reality, good enough is good enough. Keep going and keep learning, you will improve as you move on.

Practice Time management. Time management is a great skill to be proficient in because it allows you to live a balanced life. You get to work on your goals while also working on other things purely for joy and spending time with the people you love.

Related: The 4 P’s of Time Management for Success.

Develop your skillset. Along the way, have you noticed something that is holding you back or something that is slowing you down? Then take additional time to learn about that skillset to improve your process.

Avoid procrastination. Each day, have a plan before you even get started. Prioritize your most important and meaningful tasks and work on them first thing to get them done to avoid procrastinating. Read here on how to beat procrastination.

Visualize and have the long-term in mind. When are you feeling doubtful of the process, visualize what it will be like once you reach your goal. If it helps, visualize what it would be like if you didn’t finish your goal. It’s easy to forget why you do what you are doing on a daily basis especially if the goal takes longer to get to. Check out this power of visualization article.

Don’t give up. The most important part of the entire process is to not give up. No matter what happens, no matter what difficulties and struggles come up, no matter how you feel…keep going. You can’t truly fail unless you give up. Once you give up, you’ll always have that “What if” thought, and it will nag you and haunt you for a long time. Don’t label yourself as a quitter, you got this, don’t give up.

Benefits of Achieving Goals

Goal Target

Purpose and meaning. Goals make us feel important and that our time is valuable. They help us find our purpose and add meaning to our lives.

Direction and clarity. Having a goal to go after gives us something to do. When we feel lost or confused about the direction our life is heading, goals help by sitting us down and reflecting. They make us think about what really matters to us in our lives that we should focus on.

Growth and learning. Setting a goal and achieving it is about challenging yourself and seeing what you are made of, and what you are capable of. If you don’t have goals, you are stagnant, you are not moving, growing, or going anywhere. Not to say that’s a bad thing, but most people feel like they are made for something bigger and better, and the way to find out is to set goals and see where they take you.

Inspire others. Inspiration can strike at any moment and it strikes all the time. Bettering your own life inspires other people, it sets an example and provides hope that they can do it too. Achieving goals doesn’t only benefit your life but it can benefit others too.

More opportunities. One goal can open the door for other goals because achieving them increases confidence and motivation. When you are more confident and motivated you start setting bigger goals and going after more opportunities because you now have all the learned skills from the previous goals of overcoming obstacles.

You get better at problem-solving and encounter failures as learning opportunities rather than a stopping point. You are now more resilient and are not afraid to set unrealistic goals because you know the journey and what it could potentially lead to.

When should you set goals?

You can set a goal any time you want, there is no perfect time of day or perfect time of year. The most important part is not waiting, do it when you want to and start immediately, don’t wait until everything aligns first, don’t wait until Monday, the next month, or even the next year.

Set a goal when you:

1. Feel lost, behind, or confused about the next phase of your life.

2. Want something to change that will improve your life.

3. Want a new challenge.

4. Don’t have anything to do.

How can achieving goals improve your life?

Many people in life feel they never have anything going on for them. They feel like they are made for more and have so much to offer, but they don’t know where to begin. They don’t know how to start making changes or how to explore, that’s where goals come in. Creating a goal requires thought and reflection, so starting with one goal can lead to more opportunities.

When people don’t know what to do, they stay still. They lay on the couch and scroll on social media to fill that void and emptiness, but doing that makes them sad, and the sadder they are the more they scroll, and the cycle continues. Pursuing a goal requires taking action, and that will break the cycle.

What most people don’t realize is that the act of going after a goal at all is already a rewarding process. Having something to look forward to and to work on that’s meaningful and important is already a win. That alone is the whole point.

The most common mistake people make is thinking, “I will be happy when…”, and when they reach it, it doesn’t bring them the long-lasting happiness that they expected.

Focus on the journey and the process, and look at opportunities as more chances to learn.

Is it Bad To Not Have Goals?

There is nothing wrong with not having any goals. If you are perfectly content with how you are living your life and you don’t feel the urge to strive for more, then that’s okay. Goals don’t tie to your worth, your life is defined by how you want to live it.

Ultimately, life is about enjoying it, and a lot of people struggle with that, so setting goals is one way to more fulfillment. However, if you don’t struggle with that feeling, then by all means, keep enjoying your life.

Hong Singer

I'm the creator of Ambition Forward. I keep things simple by focusing on the goal and being consistent in my actions to get the results I want, and I'm here to help you do the same. I encourage you to look for the things that bring you joy and go for it!

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