Most people go about setting goals for the next month, year or decade in a totally absurd way. You can see these common mistakes in live action around the New Year — people decide they want to achieve some vague dream, fail to adequately motivate themselves and soon give up because their only strategy is depriving themselves of a habit or vice that they love. These people fall into the same cycle every time they set an intention because, put simply, they haven’t gained clarity.
You don’t have to be one of these people. Even if you’ve fallen into these traps before, you can get out and work your way to prosperity. You just have to reframe the way you think of your goals.
The difference between a goal and a thing you might like to happen is a sincere sense of purpose. If you don’t have a strong reason behind your goal, you won’t have a deep enough pool to draw from for motivation and will quickly burn out.
Write down a list of ten goals you want to achieve in the next year. Go down the list, and for each one, ask yourself, “Why? Why do I want to achieve this? What does it mean to me?” Then, ask yourself again. And again. And again. Each time, push to another layer of depth and document why this milestone is something you really want.
Checking in with yourself like this ensures that you’re pursuing your own dreams, not someone else’s version of success. Anything you’re going to accomplish is going to take huge levels of effort, work, and dedication, so you might as well take the time to analyze whether all that work will actually make you feel happy and fulfilled when you’re finished.
Your goals should be laser-focused. It isn’t enough to set a goal for the way you want your life to be — first, you need to set a goal for what it’ll take to get there. For example, if your dream at first glance is to be debt-free, think through how much money you’ll need to pay off your debt and how quickly you want to be able to pay it off. Once you look at it through that lens, your goal is no longer being debt-free, but rather, generating a certain sum of additional money.
If your dream is to take a vacation with your family, decide exactly where you’d like to go, who you’re bringing, what hotel you’ll be staying at and what’s on your itinerary. If you want to move into a new home, figure out where you’d like to move, what your new home will look like and how much it’ll cost. Once you’ve reached this level of specificity, you’ll know exactly how much more income you’ll need to generate to turn your vision into a reality.
In “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” Dale Carnegie suggests that to get great things out of others, we have to give them a fine reputation to live up to. You can do the exact same thing for yourself by seeking accountability from people who care about you and will reliably check in on you.
Tell the people around you what you plan on achieving within the next year. Encourage them in advance to check in on the progress you’re making. External motivation is what gives you the power to persist when times are tough. When you put in the time to think about what it would mean for your loved ones if your plan either does or doesn’t work out, you’ll feel especially compelled to take every step possible to make sure you come out a winner.
When a client of mine told me that he wanted to take his family to Disneyland, I said, “Go tell the kids.” He was shocked and said, “Why would I do that? If I tell the kids, they’ll be so disappointed if it doesn’t work out.” Little did he know that was the entire point.
Remember how you asked yourself “why” four times? Now it’s time to do the same thing, except by asking yourself “how.” If you really think about it, you probably already have a massive arsenal of skills and ideas that can help you get what you want.
Compile the ideas that make sense into a concrete and sensible action plan, to-do list or step-by-step guide to success. If you make a massive list of actions that you know will get you closer to your goal and then make it a point to get really busy doing those things, this time next year you’ll be drafting a list of bigger and better goals because you’ve already achieved the ones you set out to finish today.
Everyone’s story of success is laced with hard work, grit and determination. Everything that’s been truly successful takes twice as much time and three times as much effort as anyone imagined it would take at the start. But guess what? It’s the ones that keep trying and keep pushing who truly succeed.