by Molly Cain
Remember that one glorious night not too long ago when you were pumped full of champagne and big ideas?
You promised yourself that this would be the year you accomplish <insert goal here>, and you resolved to make it happen. And then you shouted something inaudible above the crowd to your friends, kissed a random stranger and then danced the night away. Yep, that night.
It’s now time for a pulse check. How are you doing on <insert goal here>? Have you accomplished it? Are you at least on your way to accomplishing it? The year is about 25 percent complete by the way (pretend I said that in my most optimistic voice).
Let’s hypothetically say that you gave up on the goal you set for yourself. Or maybe you’ve since set more goals (the less vetted versions of these are called dreams) and now you’re sitting there wasting away doing nothing about them.
We set goals of all calibers for ourselves every single day (heck, this morning I set a goal to remember to eat breakfast). We’re not setting goals for our health (well, wait, some of you are), we’re setting goals because we want to become better versions of ourselves or we want to upgrade our life experiences. We have personally selected these milestones as a way to make it happen.
There’s a reason you want to accomplish these things, so respect that desire and do something about it. You can turn this train around if you commit yourself to doing it. Here are six tricks that may help.
Look at it. A goal that you can actually see is massively more powerful than a goal you write down on a checklist. This is a favorite technique of mine and it works very well if you’re a visual learner.
Every year, a friend of mine spreads magazines all over her living room and invites her girlfriends over for a “vision board” party. Vision boards are comprised of pictures (from the magazines) that motivate the creator of that board. Want to lose weight? Cut out a pic of a bikini clad model (don’t pick a model that’s totally out of your league, be realistic). Want to make more money? Cut out a pic that speaks to you on that level. You get the idea.
These days, you can even hit the interwebs for a little vision board action. If you have a goal to become a better cook at home, you can visualize (and motivate yourself) much better if you throw a few attractive recipes up on your Pinterest board. Have a goal to make it to the next level in your career? Hit up Instagram and find someone who posts quotes all day long. Or visit sites like Muffin-Topless.com (awesome name, right?) for some fitness and health inspiration.
Tell people. I was perusing Facebook recently and stumbled on my friend Jennifer’s blog post. In it, she was announcing her intentions to change her world in a big way, getting in shape and becoming that healthy mom she’s always wanted to be. She was open with her goals and descriptive in what she was aiming to accomplish.
And you know what? I firmly believe she’s going to do it.
Making yourself accountable to your friends and family is one of the best ways to reach your goals. Sure, it’s uncomfortable to share your setbacks. But when you do, you’re going to get emails from friends who have experienced the same and they’ll get your mind back on track. And when you tell them about the milestones you reach, you’re going to get applause from people wishing they were you and reaching those same goals too.
When you tell people your goals, they will jump in the boat with you and help you get there. You will be shocked by the support you’ll get from your network. You’ll be even more surprised by the people who come out of the woodwork to join you in your journey or privately cheer you on, knowing what you’re going through.
And if you’re the masochistic, egotistical type, this tactic works wonders. Just think…you’ve told everyone you know that you’re heading out to accomplish this goal. If you don’t do it, there will be some embarrassment in it for you. Hey, whatever works!
Break it up. Many people abandon goals because they’re just too dang big. If you’ve done this to yourself, stop now. Change your game plan.
Take for instance the goal of becoming your own boss. It’s a noble goal, but if you’re a cubicle dweller, it’s a hefty one. So break it up into bite-sized chunks. Start by launching a side hustle (this girl has nearly perfected her side hustle) and see where that takes you. Select milestones to get there and make each of those a tiny goal. Perhaps a percentage of traffic increase on your website, or reaching a certain number of clients or bringing in a certain amount of revenue. Breaking your big goal into small ones will make jumping off the cliff of self-employment a much more feasible option for you.
You have long dreamt of vacationing in Rome, but you never seem to have the cash when it comes time to book it. No problem. Figure out how much it will cost you and start saving small increments of cash into an account you never look at. If you’ve calculated correctly (and I can’t help you there, I write for a living), you’ll have no trouble paying for the trip when it’s time to lock down your summer plans.
Some people may refer to this tactic as “creating a plan,” but I was trying not to go too Type A on you here. I have an image to keep up.
Set a date. One of the best ways to knock out a goal is to put it on your calendar. If you put a stake in the ground and impose a date on yourself, you’re much more likely to reach it.
Do you want to run your first marathon? That’s awesome, but it’s useless if you don’t even know which one, when or where. So before you buy those pretty pink shoes, join a running team or even get off the couch, I recommend you just suck it up and sign up for the actual race. Set a date for yourself so you have something to work toward (not to mention paying for something really throws some skin in the game).
One of my goals? To pet a whale. Yes, I’ve been waffling for more than two years on the decision to finally take that dream sea-kayaking, whale-watching journey. And I know, all I really need to do to knock this off my to-do’s is to actually book the trip. I’d say it’s time to eat my own dog food with that one.
Be realistic. I’m sure if I asked everyone here, you’d all be just as interested in magically obtaining a bazillion dollars or finding the cure for cancer as I would. But there are some goals that are just too out of this world (although Elon Musk might actually reach his goal in this category). Simple but true…you’re more likely to reach goals that you realistically set for yourself.
Maybe you won’t become a body builder or a famous rail-thin model, but you can sure as heck lose some body fat and waltz around confidently in your favorite outfit in no time if you just put some elbow grease into it.
Don’t set yourself up for failure by letting your dreams get bigger than your abilities. That’s not to say don’t set hard goals for yourself, just make sure they’re attainable.
Commit to yourself. Last but not least, there’s only one person in this goal-setting process that matters. You. You’re the one who has to put the hours in at the gym. You’re the one who needs to stay late at the office to finish that task for your boss so you can score the promotion. You’re the only one receiving the paycheck that will eventually pay you out of credit card debt. It’s all on you, my friend. Commit to yourself and then re-commit yourself each time you fall (because that definitely happens along the way).
There’s a great quote out there that says, “It’s funny how day by day, nothing changes but when you look back everything is different.” One year from now, you’ll be one year older no matter what. What can you do with your goals today that will make looking back to today feel really different and really satisfying?
Molly Cain is the Editor in Chief of GlassHeel.com, contributor for CultureMap and an award-winning business communicator with an eye for the humorous moments in today’s workplace. When she’s not at the office or on Glass Heel, Molly’s burning off her ADD by running half-marathons, traveling or hanging out with her retired racing greyhounds. Follow Molly on Twitter @MollyCain.