The Six Pillars of Writing Goals That Get Accomplished

how-to-write-goals-part-ii

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“Nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small jobs”

― Henry Ford

As mentioned in part 1, as far as how to write goals that get accomplished, writing on your list “Be happier” or “Be healthier” is not going to cut it if you’re actually serious about tangible results. If you missed it, and need some context, you can read my own personal journey of how I figured out how to write goals that get accomplished.

The recommendations in this article are a combination of what I’ve learned from reading books on the subject, as well as what truly played out in my life over three years of directed focus using a particular tool.

According to the Holmes and Rahe stress scale, there is a list of 43 stressful life events that can contribute to illness, stress and anxiety are quantifiable.

That said, do you think there could be a quantifiable assessment of happiness, achievement, self-worth and well-being? I’d propose that there is, and with that a way to measure your own. To take this approach you have to be self-aware enough to know what brings you the most happiness, and then chunk those down into bite-sized, measurable pieces.

How to Not Rob Yourself of Accomplishing Your Goals By Using Self-Delusion 

You do not want to write goals that let yourself cop out – making them easy or vague enough to rationalize pseudo-accomplishment.

Some examples of happiness are feeling like one has: more freedom, autonomy, is loved, financial security, a sense of spiritual connectedness, is making an impact on others, and/or is in good health.  All of these can be broken down into sub-parts and/or a result, which is what you must do to make headway. Shoot for a result, not a cadence. “Work out three times a week” is not a result or milestone; it’s a cadence without an end goal.

You will become disillusioned or disappointed if you make cadence-style goals, because it’s very easy to “fall off the horse” early-on with the process. Doing this also becomes a non results-oriented  “how,” which is not what you want to focus on as a goal.

It’s much better to come up with a result as a goal, and then realize that you might or might not know what you will get to that result. It may be revealed to you over time, which is exactly how many of these goals will play out.

Furthermore, only make goals that are active, not reactive. Focus on what you want, not what you don’t want. For example, instead of writing down “Don’t drink too much coffee at work,” rephrase it to “Drink no more than one cup of coffee at work per day.”

This active phraseology puts your mind in the driver’s seat, with less “white knuckling” that makes you feel like you’re punishing or denying yourself.

By making your goals in the positive proactive position (not a judgement of good or bad, but a description of language), and factoring in that you may fall off the horse, you’ll avoid the “What the Hell Effect” ( a real phenomenon).

For example, if you wrote, “Don’t eat ice cream and sweets after 6pm,” for those times when you are craving, you’ll have “just a little bite”, and then go way overboard. You do this because you told yourself might as well, “If I’ve gone this far…” This is a real and proven psychological phenomenon. Avoid cadence and avoid the word “don’t.”

Take full responsibility for your goals by getting a firm grip on your internal locus of control. Make your goals dependent on you, not others’ actions toward you. Even if you’re not sure how you will reach them, your only work is identifying them and having a burning desire to achieve them.

Make Accomplishing Your Goals Inevitable

Find ways to make those goals happen inevitability. For example, if your goal is to eliminate a certain amount of credit card debt by such-and-such date, then your next step would be to automate extra payments where it’s completely paid off by your goal date. Automate that exact payment and forget about it. However, celebrate milestones. Make a Facebook post that says “Only $1000 left to go on my personal credit card debt.” All the congrats comments you receive will give you a small dopamine burst, and keep you going.

Focus on the feeling you’ll have when it’s all paid. Plan what you will do with that extra cashflow every month. Set up an auto-payment with your bank, write down and memorize your projected day of freedom. Then stop worrying about it, and move on to the next one. At the end of the day “getting out of debt” is not what most people want. They want the feeling of freedom and flexibility that not having debt affords him/her.

Another key, even if you haven’t achieved the goal yet, but it’s one that you have automated, add check marks to the goals on your whiteboard. If you missed the technique explanation on the 50 Goals Whiteboard Challenge and the psychology of why it works in this series of articles, go here.

If it’s a reasonable expectation that you’ll be reaching certain goals by automation, without unforeseen circumstances, check only those few off.  Leave them on the board list. This frees up psychological space in your mind to accomplish your other goals in less time.

How to Avoid Common Psychological Pitfalls

This is another huge key, don’t feel guilty, angry, or like a failure at the perceived passing of “too much time” between achieving these goals. Become detached from “the how” of the ones that don’t seem possible, once they are written.

If some seem insurmountable, you’re going to be frustrated, just realize it’s going to happen and deal with it psychologically now. It’s OK to erase certain goals or changes quantifiable numbers on goals judiciously. Just don’t do something silly, like wiping your board clean!

What if others see my goals displayed? So what. That’s great. This creates accountability, and causes your subconscious to try even harder to present your conscious mind with creative solutions. If you are embarrassed and not open about your goals, how are others going to help or feel compelled to introduce you to others that can help you achieve those goals?

The more people that know your “Think Big” goals, the more people you’ll find that want to help you (even those you don’t know yet).

Think BIG, Think VERY BIG

Simply by making “Think Big” declarations, there will be people, things, and opportunities that 
come into your life that you cannot even possibly predict . This type of goal setting is a seemingly contradictory; take full responsibility and control, while not knowing how it’s going to happen.

All great thinkers, inventors, business people, and scientists have done this one thing either consciously or unconsciously in his/her careers or personal lives that have led them to create history-changing accomplishments and innovations – had the confidence that it’s going to happen.

Do not underestimate the power of believing you’re creating your reality, without knowing “the how” of it happening. For more information on thinking big, read The Magic of Thinking Big by David J. Schwartz. It will change the way you think and the limiting beliefs you may have. I’ve read it several times over the years. Although it was originally written in 1959, it has been updated and the information and advice is timeless.

Don’t Worry About “the How”

To reiterate, not all of your goals will be accomplished in a neat and orderly way on a perfectly timed schedule of milestones, all according to your prioritized chronological list. Some will take on a roller coaster effect where you may be nowhere near reaching it, when something comes out of the woodwork that propels you to surpass that goal. It’s truly magical.

Become Detached From the Outcome

Lastly, meditate and visualize yourself achieving these goals. Feel the feeling of yourself achieving each goal you’ve written down one-by-one. Lastly, let go. Don’t stress. Become relaxed and detached from the outcomes. Counter-intuitively, an indirect path can often become the most efficient path.

You don’t want this board to be a cause of pain in your life. Look at it as a fun exercise that could very-well make your life look much different three years from now. Don’t make these goals do or die; they are supposed to make your life better.

Summary: How to Write Goals that Get Accomplished

1. Be specific (not vague), and quantifiable
2. Focus on what you want, not on what you don’t want
3. Set up circumstances so certain goals become inevitable
4. Think BIG, Very Big
5. Let the “How” reveal itself
6. Detach yourself from the outcome

That’s how to write goals that get accomplished.

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– Neil