You’ve probably heard this one before: “Don’t make resolutions; most people who make resolutions fail within the first [insert short amount of time here] of making them.” Apparently by making goals for yourself, you’re already set up for failure.
So what’s the alternative, just letting life come to you as it may? That’s silly, if no one set goals they’d rarely achieve anything. People should set realistic goals and do so in a way that aligns with their personality, age, responsibilities and capabilities.
So I’ve compiled 5 of my favorite ways to conceptualize and achieve long-term goals. These tricks were developed in a think-tank over decades and have been scientifically proven to work 100% of the time*
*These statements were not evaluated by anyone.
5 Tips to Set and Achieve Your Long-Term Goals
1. Set Realistic Long-Term Goals (The Million Dollars or Bullet to the Brain Test)
Many of us millennials were raised to believe that anything in life is possible. I have to admit that I am torn by this sentiment. On one hand, I do believe that success is largely determined by one’s motivation and dedication. On the other hand, not just anyone can play professional sports or become the next A-list actor.
So I came up with a weird way to test whether my goals are even possible. I call it The Million Dollars or Bullet to the Brain Test. It works like this: For anything difficult you are considering undertaking ask yourself, “Could I accomplish this goal, if upon successful completion I would be paid a million dollars?” Or alternatively, “Could I achieve this if the consequence of not doing so would cause my death?” I suppose this only works for people who value money (and aren’t suicidal). However, it demonstrates that most things are possible with the right motivation. Everything else is probably beyond your control.
For example: One of my professionals goals was to transition from tax consulting into wealth-management. Could I do this by next year? Sure! It would involve hundreds of hours of study to become re-licensed, starting from the bottom-rung (again) and a huge pay cut for several years, but it’s possible. However, I still don’t have the right motivation. If it really was the money or the bullet, I would do it in a heartbeat. But achieving this goal for it’s own sake is not important enough for me to sacrifice my current career. Thus, this process has proven to be a highly effective way to isolate the steps to achieving my goals and decide whether they are worth my time.
And though I’m not a fan of the concept of luck, in terms of achieving the next-to-impossible goals, opportunity definitely comes into play.
Luck Is What Happens When Preparation Meets Opportunity – Seneca
2. Single Word Goals
People often stop working towards their goals because they have too many. Having too many goals, or sometimes more than one goal, can make it difficult to start attacking them. One interesting way to ensure that you’re not bogged down by goals is to define all of them using a single word.
For instance, instead of saying, “I will work out 3 times per week for the entire year and not eat any sugar,” think of this year’s goal as,”fitness” or “health.” Instead of, “I will make a lot more money this year” think “career” and “revenue.” The single word trick removes the possibility of instant failure and allows you to isolate and target your goals with ease.
My only issue with this idea is that it doesn’t provide any metrics for achievement. However, if you treat your word like a mantra, it’s hard to imagine not making significant strides towards achieving your long-term goals.
3. Schedule (and organize) Your Goals
This is sort of the opposite of the Single Word Goal trick but also works well for me. First I categorize goals into major topics, for instance: health, career, social life, charity etc. and then sub-categorize specific goals.
- Develop side-revenues
- Create valuable content
- Increase social media exposure
- Explore other platforms
- Fill up Brittney’s Roth IRA
- Develop side-revenues
- Workout weekly
- Join a gym
- Limit sugar intake
- Increase protein and healthy fats
- Workout weekly
This concept combines the single word goal trick with a solid way to measure success in several areas. And if you put your goals on the calendar throughout the year (and look at your calendar) you’ll have a nice, if not annoying reminder of what you need to do.
4. The Buddy System.
Working with a friend makes achieving your goals more social and perhaps even competitive. Competition is often an excellent motivator.
Create a rewards system and get a few people with similar goals together. You remember The Contest from Seinfeld right?
5. Develop a Healthy Relationship with Guilt
This weird trick to achieve your long-term goals only works if you can use guilt as your primary motivator. That is, you tend to punish yourself for your failures. For some people guilt is not really a motivation driver. For some others, I wonder if it even exists. If you’re like me however, there’s nagging voice pestering me to either make a move or admit I was never going to.
In my experience looking internally for ways to improve has always proved more effective than blaming outside sources. But a tool as effective as guilt might have drawbacks.
What are you favorite ways to achieve your goals?
I’ve kept a paper planner for most of my life and it’s been awesome for staying productive. I find ways to “create” more time during my day to achieve my daily goals. It’s easy to be productive if you make it a priority. 🙂
I’ve tried to keep a paper planner but I find that I dislike my handwriting so much that I avoid looking at it! I’ve done a lot better with post it notes and short, organized lists on the computer. Goes to show how each person is motivated differently. Thanks for commenting.
Achieving goals is easy when aligned with deep-seated needs as, sadly, alcohol and drug addicts show us. So we would want to find higher quality deep-seated needs. That takes some time and reflection.
Totally agree. I wonder how you create a healthy need where it didn’t already exist in some way? I think many people have ideas of what they want but not a strong enough motivation (hunger, discomfort) to make a change. I’ve made many proclamations of change only to find that I didn’t follow through with them over time.