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Table Of Contents
- 1 Introduction
- 2 12 Reasons Some Have No Success With Goal Setting, While Others Do
- 2.1 12 Reasons People Have No Success With Goal Setting
- 2.1.1 1. They have vague goals that aren’t written down.
- 2.1.2 2. They set result-based goals they have no direct control over.
- 2.1.3 3. They think “Goal setting doesn’t work for me.”
- 2.1.4 4. Thinking that they don’t need goals to be successful in life, or that they aren’t the ‘goal setting type’.
- 2.1.5 5. Thinking that the purpose of goals is only to achieve the goal itself.
- 2.1.6 6. Allowing yourself to be defined by your goals.
- 2.1.7 7. Using somebody else’s goals and action plan.
- 2.1.8 8. Not taking immediate action to move toward goals (or at least setting a plan in motion to achieve them).
- 2.1.9 9. Not creating structure to support the journey toward goals with daily habits and accountability.
- 2.1.10 10. Not reviewing goals regularly and cultivating a ‘burning desire’ for the thing they want to achieve.
- 2.1.11 10. They train themselves to debate their actions, instead of training themselves to take as many actions as possible and learn from the results.
- 2.1.12 11. They train themselves to worry about what they have to lose, rather than focusing on what they have to gain.
- 2.1.13 12. Believing that falling short of a goal is a negative thing.
- 2.1.14 Now that you know these common goal-setting problems, I’m going to give you everything you need to avoid them.
- 2.1 12 Reasons People Have No Success With Goal Setting
- 3 The Goal Setting Checklist
- 3.0.1 Step 1. What Goals Should You Create? AKA What Do You Really Want Out Of Life?
- 3.0.2 Step 2. SMART – The Best Method To Create Useful Goals.
- 3.0.3 Step 3. Create Your Method / Action Plan.
- 3.0.4 Step 4. Turn Your Action Plan Into Habits.
- 3.0.5 Step 5. Motivation, Passion & Getting Down To Work.
- 3.0.6 Step 6. Accountability and Goal Tracking.
- 3.0.7 Bonus Step:
- 3.0.8 The Skill Proficiency Crash Course: 10 Steps To Learn Any Skill Quickly
- 3.0.9 These are the core Steps you’ll need to set goals that will make you excited to get up in the morning.
- 4 Step 1: What Goals Should You Create? AKA What Do You Want Out Of Life?
- 4.1 So, What’s Fulfilling To You?
- 4.1.1 1. What can I do with my time that is important? What activity would be a good investment of time, that could give me long-term fulfilment?
- 4.1.2 2. If I could perform only one activity and had to sacrifice everything else in my life, what would that activity be?
- 4.1.3 3. What activity could you enjoy doing even if you were embarrassingly bad at it for the rest of your life?
- 4.1.4 4. What activity makes you lose all sense of time and personal hygiene? Do you ever forget to use the bathroom because you’re so immersed in something?
- 4.1.5 5. If you had to turn your life into something exciting and fulfilling in two weeks from now or you would literally be beheaded, how could you do it?
- 4.1.6 6. How would you act right now if you were going to die in an hour from now?
- 4.1.7 7. How do you want people to talk about you when you’re gone?
- 4.1.8 8. What do you want to leave behind for your family and friends?
- 4.1.9 These are your Passion Activities.
- 4.1.10 That way, you can focus on the things that make today fulfilling while working on your long term goals indirectly.
- 4.2 Balance Your Life With Activities That Are Naturally Fulfilling
- 4.3 Where Do My Work Activities Come In?
- 4.4 Choose Your Activities & Write Them Down
- 4.5 Wait – Am I Choosing The Right Activities? AKA Paralysis by Analysis
- 4.1 So, What’s Fulfilling To You?
- 5 Step 2: S.M.A.R.T. – The Best Method To Create Useful Goals
- 6 Step 3: Create Your Plan Of Action
- 7 Step 4: Turn Your Action Plan Into Habits
- 7.1 How Habits Work: The Habit Curve.
- 8 Step 5: Motivation, Passion & Getting Down To Work
- 8.1 Cultivating Motivation
- 8.2 Create Momentum
- 8.3 Overcoming procrastination, fear and uncertainty.
- 8.4 One Last Thought About Passion and Motivation
- 9 Step 6: Accountability and Goal Tracking
- 9.1 1. Create mental accountability.
- 9.2 2. Make your intentions public. Put your progress out in the open.
- 9.3 3. Set-It-And-Forget-It Accountability
- 9.4 3. Get an accountability partner
- 9.5 4. Use Mastermind Groups to keep you committed and to see problems from different angles.
- 9.6 5. Get Coaching.
- 10 Bonus Step: Learn Skills Quickly
- 11 Common Obstacles To Setting Goals & Frequently Asked Questions
- 11.1 1. I forget about my goals. How do I pursue them when life keeps getting in the way?
- 11.2 2. What if I don’t possess enough talent to achieve a goal?
- 11.3 3. I don’t like to set goals because I’m not a “goal driven person”. I enjoy being taken by the wind and seeing where I’ll end up.
- 11.4 4. I’ve set goals before, but I’m constantly disappointed and demoralized. I let myself and others down.
- 11.5 5. I feel like life will be less exciting with goals. Isn’t life better with more spontaneity?
- 11.6 6. What if I decide that I don’t want to work toward a goal I set anymore?
- 11.7 7. What if I feel too discouraged and I want to stop?
- 11.8 8. Doesn’t the road to achievement and success make people miserable?
- 11.9 Step 1: What Goals Should You Set?
- 11.10 Step 2: SMART – The Best Method To Create Useful Goals
- 11.11 Step 3: Create Your Method / Action Plan
- 11.12 Step 4: Scheduling & Habits
- 11.13 Step 5: Motivation, Passion & Getting Down To Work
- 11.14 Step 6: Accountability and Goal Tracking
- 11.15 Bonus Step: Learn Necessary Skills
- 11.16 Recap:
- 11.17 What To Focus On, Day-To-Day:
Do you wake up in the morning excited to tackle the challenges and opportunities of the day, or do you have to drag yourself out of bed?
Have you heard a lot of talk about the effectiveness of goal setting, but whenever you set goals you’re usually disappointed?
Do you feel like you’re ‘just going through the motions’ 90% of the time? Do excitement and opportunity come around only once and a while?
Do you spend most of your life helping others to achieve their goals, without going after your own?
Like so many people, maybe you feel like you have hidden potential that’s waiting to be ‘unlocked’. Many people dream of better personal lives, better jobs, or better health. Unfortunately, these dreams remain just dreams, for most people. They might write down goals, but then life gets in the way, and they forget about them.
Or worse, they set ‘to-do lists’ in a rigid structure they learned from a dusty old personal development book. Then they become goal-seeking automations that get lots of busy work done, but never work toward anything meaningful. Because of this, they don’t feel fulfilled by progress. And they don’t feel passionate or energized in every day life.
It’s long been known to the world’s most successful people that the secret to living a life filled with passion and energy is to set goals that truly inspire you. You see, humans are naturals goal-seekers and problem solvers.
But going after the wrong goals can leave you frustrated, disappointed, and indifferent towards life.
I know the feeling – I used to be an under-achiever in just about every area of life.
To solve my problem I dove into books about the psychology of procrastination, personal productivity, and goal setting.
And now I firmly believe that goal-setting, when done correctly, is one of the most important factors in a person’s happiness and well-being in all areas of life.
Looking back on my life, I now see that every accomplishment I’ve ever achieved started in my head as some kind of goal. Up until a few years ago, I did not have a process of creating goals and implementing actions that could help me achieve what I wanted.
As a result, I didn’t get what I wanted most of the time. And worse, I allowed myself to become demoralized and de-energized, which caused me to waste years of my life.
You see, at the time, I misunderstood how goals work and how to use them properly.
But now, the goals I set energize me toward a purpose. I have more fulfilling days. And even if I don’t achieve exactly what I set out to achieve each time, I still achieve something great compared to what I would have achieved without a goal.
Goals are a tool that put you on the path to an exciting journey. They should excite and inspire you. They should PULL you. They should never feel like you have to PUSH to achieve them.
So in this book I’m going to give you a checklist to setting goals that will pull you toward what you want in all areas of your life, and more importantly, make you exited to get up every morning and enjoy the process of tackling your goals.
You see, goals aren’t only for improving your future life. Effective goals improve your immediate life as well.
One of the immediate benefits of goal setting is that goals make you work harder, but paradoxically, life seems easier. That’s because you’ll be focusing on positive, exciting ideas instead of uncertainty and what you stand to lose.
Here’s what you’ll learn in this guide:
- A special ‘twist’ on the effective SMART goal setting method. SMART goals are an effective way to set goals, but they were originally designed for business management. This little alteration is makes sure you’re always energized and motivated toward achieving goals for personal development.
- A process to setting goals that come from your true values, beliefs and desires, so you don’t go after something you don’t actually want, or something that isn’t ultimately fulfilling.
- The 4 sources of energy that high performance executives and CEOs use to ‘fully engage’ life.
- How to create your own action plan to go after your goals
- How to turn your action plan into ‘automatic’ habits you can continually refine. When you do this, progressing towards your goal becomes easier & easier.
- The reason why it’s easy to give up on goals and become demotivated, and how to create motivation and passion for any goal you choose to pursue.
- The Skill Proficiency Crash Course – A 10 Step process to become proficient in any skill you need to achieve a goal, in the shortest possible time.
- How to use structure and accountability to make sure you follow through on your goals
Plus much more.
It’s all compressed into very few pages because I know your time is valuable, and I know your results are all that matter. The material is dense, and every page has at least a few important nuggets. Because of that, I wouldn’t recommend skipping any sections or skimming.
I strongly suggest you take your own notes on this book, because you’ll want to remind yourself of the things that you, personally, don’t already know. That way, you won’t have to read the entire book again if you want to refresh your memory.
You can use the quick start Checklist I’ve provided, but everybody learns differently, so you should create your own notes that will be effective at teaching you.
You’re your own best teacher, after all.
Also, you should know that fitting a new and exciting goal into your life will probably require sacrifice. However, once you know what you want, and you resolve to achieve it, I guarantee you won’t mind giving up a few unimportant things in your life.
Working towards a goal, passionately, is more fulfilling than any simple pleasure.
Goal setting has many positive benefits, so you might be wondering: Why doesn’t everybody set goals all the time?
Well, there are a handful of common barriers that prevent success in goal setting. I’ll go through them with you in the next chapter so you can steer clear of them.
12 Reasons Some Have No Success With Goal Setting, While Others Do
I’m sure you’ve heard that many successful people credit their success to goal setting. But even though there are mountains of evidence that goal setting works, most people still don’t set goals.
As it turns out, there are a few specific reasons goals do not work for everybody. The reasons mostly concern preconceived beliefs many people have about goal setting.
Maybe it seems a little too incredible that writing down a ‘wish’ on a piece of paper could actually help make it come true.
Or maybe writing down what they want just doesn’t ‘feel right’ to them.
There are many roadblocks to setting effective goals. Here are the most common ones.
12 Reasons People Have No Success With Goal Setting
1. They have vague goals that aren’t written down.
Most people have general ‘dreams’ like “I want to live in a big house”, or “I want to make a lot of money”, or “I want to have a happy family”. But these are just dreams and wishes. Most people have them, and unfortunately, most people never achieve them. That’s because they don’t go any farther with them beyond dreaming about them every once and a while.
Until these wishes are written down and turned into more specific targets, they will not have any effect on real life.
The main problem with goals like these is that they do not drive motivation and action.
2. They set result-based goals they have no direct control over.
This is a common cause of failure with goal setting, because when you set a goal you have no control over, there’s nothing you can do to achieve it.
Let me explain.
Sometimes, it’s hard to tell whether you have control over a goal or not. An common example of a goal that seems reasonable, but is actually a bad goal to set, is “I want to lose 10 pounds”.
There are simply too many variables that go into weight loss. You only control a few of them.
A controllable goal is “I will go to the gym every morning for 45 minutes and do my strength training routine”. It is specific, always under your control, and it is measurable. Therefore, it can keep you motivated as you progress toward your fitness goal.
If you set the first goal, some unknown variable could cause you to gain weight. If that happens, you’ll be totally demoralized. With the second, you can learn from your mistakes, adjust, develop your habits and stay focused.
More on how to set effective goals soon.
3. They think “Goal setting doesn’t work for me.”
This belief becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Most people who have this belief are not setting the right goals, and have been disappointed by goal setting in the past.
A well-formed goal is a lot like a plane taking off in Los Angeles and landing in New York. Along the way, the plane will be over unknown, unrecognizable territory. The wind will cause the plane to be off course 95% of the time (technically). Only constant course corrections by the pilots, using a map to their destination, will get them to New York.
It’s like this with goals. You need to know exactly where you want to go. That will provide you with the correct course corrections.
If you don’t know where you want to go or why you want to go there, you won’t have the way or the will to get anywhere.
4. Thinking that they don’t need goals to be successful in life, or that they aren’t the ‘goal setting type’.
When you don’t have a clear destination, the world will decide where you end up. And in the end, it probably won’t be where you wanted to go.
Without a specific goal in mind, you are subject to random chance, and are living from one moment to the next. You’re simply reacting to what life throws at you, rather than taking control. When you start setting goals in all areas of your life, another world of possibilities opens up.
And even when you don’t set formal goals, chances are, whenever you wanted something in your life, you had an idea of what you wanted beforehand. This was a goal, whether you like to call it one or not.
So why not set more goals, to have more chances of success?
Of course, if you are 100% satisfied in every area of your life and you’re sure that you’ll never have any regrets, then congratulations, you are part of a very small, fortunate minority.
5. Thinking that the purpose of goals is only to achieve the goal itself.
Though it isn’t much talked about in most goal setting books, ‘success’ does not equal achievement of the goal. After all, if you create goals just to knock things off a to-do list, you’ll get a lot done, but you won’t feel successful. You’ll feel like a robot, and this is not fulfilling.
When you set goals in the right way, they are tools to help you lead a better, more passionate, more inspired life doing what you were truly meant to do. Achieving goals can feel amazing, and it is still important, but in my opinion, the achievement is secondary to enjoying the process of achieving.
The great news is that you don’t have to wait to get this result. You don’t have to wait for your goal to be accomplished. The second you create a well-formed goal is when you can start to reap the benefits of goal setting. I’ll explain more about this soon.
6. Allowing yourself to be defined by your goals.
Goals are merely part of the bigger picture. When you define yourself by the goals you set, any minor setbacks can cause disappointment, self-doubt and floundering motivation.
Imagine an Olympic athlete working toward a medal in swimming for years, making it to the games, and then choking when get off the starting blocks. If they are too invested in in goal itself, this could cause major psychological disturbance.
But if they take it in stride and make a point to enjoy the journey, then it will remain an enriching experience. In the end, Goals are tools that provide motivation and inspiration towards fulfillment in life. If you have setbacks along the way toward a goal, that doesn’t mean all is lost.
7. Using somebody else’s goals and action plan.
When you try to copy somebody else’s goals and the journey to achieve them, you will probably run into problems. Everybody creates their goals and action plan according to their own values, and according to what they already know.
When experts create systems to solve a problem, they leave out parts that they already know. Therefore, their system is missing things.
This problem even exists in this book. I’m trying to be as comprehensive as possible, but there will be some readers who will feel like there’s something missing from the instructions.
Let me give you a simplified example. If I give you a system to solving the multiplication problem 7 x 25:
Multiply the 3 by the last number in 25 (5) = 35
Multiply 3 by the first number in 25 (2) = 14
Add 14 and 3 together to get the first 2 digits = 17
Answer is 175.
This is simple because you know how to perform all the steps.
But what if somebody didn’t know how to add? I didn’t give instructions for how to do that. If they didn’t already know how to do that, they could never follow my system to get the right answer.
There’s no way around it. I’m blind to what they don’t know, because I’ve known it for a long time and I think it’s common knowledge. I call this the ‘Expert Dilemma‘.
8. Not taking immediate action to move toward goals (or at least setting a plan in motion to achieve them).
If you set a goal and never refer back to it, or forget about the actions you need to take to achieve it, you’re missing the point of goal setting.
Goal setting is useless if you don’t have a process to turn your goals into reality, so I’m going to give you a step-by-step guide to doing that in this book.
9. Not creating structure to support the journey toward goals with daily habits and accountability.
A component necessary to achieve most big goals is creating daily habits to work toward them. When you create habits, the process of working towards a goal becomes ‘automatic’ and almost ‘effortless’.
Another important factor is creating accountability to keep you on track toward your goals Eg. A network of friends and family who support you in your goal, daily reminders and calendars, habit-tracking apps.
10. Not reviewing goals regularly and cultivating a ‘burning desire’ for the thing they want to achieve.
I like to call it forming a ‘Healthy obsession’. It feels amazing to have something you are passionate about. The world is framed in a different way. You are constantly thinking of the world in terms of your singular passion.
And when you decide to do something with absolute focus, your mind automatically collects information to further your progress. Your brain’s Reticular Activating System is trained to pick up important information related to the thoughts on your mind.
Have you ever been in the market for a particular type of car, and then you start to see it everywhere you go?
It’s not like everybody started buying that type of car just because you were thinking of getting one yourself. They were always there.
But now that you’re focused on that particular car, you become aware of it and your brain records each one you see into memory.
10. They train themselves to debate their actions, instead of training themselves to take as many actions as possible and learn from the results.
Successful people tend to have a few core habits in common, and one of the most important is ‘Speed of Implementation’. It’s the ability to take action before they feel ‘ready’.
For example, if you have an idea but you take 2 weeks to think about it, research it, and make sure that you’re doing it right, that’s much less effective than implementing it right away and seeing what you can do to improve it based on real feedback.
Then you can implement more ideas and gather even more real feedback.
11. They train themselves to worry about what they have to lose, rather than focusing on what they have to gain.
It’s natural to focus on loss rather than gain because loss generates more powerful emotions. The problem is, loss tends to paralyze. Gain is more effective at motivating us to action.
Therefore, when we think about what we stand to lose, we don’t take as much action to improve our situation. And since loss it a more powerful emotion, worrying and anxiety becomes habitual.
When we focus on what we could gain by taking action, we have a powerful tool for achieving the things we want in life. I’ll show you how to do that soon.
12. Believing that falling short of a goal is a negative thing.
This is a very important point that I need to drive home. Missing a goal is not the end of the the world.
In fact, if you set really big goals correctly, you’ll probably miss 30-50% of them. But in the end you’ll still achieve more than if you didn’t set effective goals at all!
Goals are there to get you excited about living and making an impact in the world.
Accepting that you won’t achieve 100% of all your goal targets is just part of the process. And once you realize that goals don’t need to be set it stone, the pressure is off.
All that remains is the motivation to work towards an exciting goal.
Even though I don’t achieve more than half of the goals I set, I still believe that shooting for barely-attainable goals is the key to getting the most out of life.
Now that you know these common goal-setting problems, I’m going to give you everything you need to avoid them.
You’re going to get everything you need to avoid these pitfalls to goal setting, and learn how to create goals that consistently provide you with results.
You’ll also learn how it’s possible to set a goal you’ll never regret setting… even if you never achieve it.
In order to create goals like these, I’ve created my own personal goal-setting system. It has allowed me to figure out what I really want from life and to set business and personal goals that energize me to get moving.
I’m going to lay it all out for you in the following chapters.
The Goal Setting Checklist
The checklist is a process I’ve developed to create goals and turn them into real life, fulfilling actions. It includes checks and balances, based on what I’ve learned and my personal experience, to make sure you set the right goals and stay on track to achieve them.
Of course, due to the ‘Expert Dilemma’, some people may still have problems with the checklist.
Here’s an overview of each major Step in the Checklist:
Step 1. What Goals Should You Create? AKA What Do You Really Want Out Of Life?
Of course, if you’re going to create goals, you should begin with figuring out what you really want. If you haven’t set your goals yet, consider yourself lucky… Most people fall into random goals that life chooses for them, but you now have the opportunity to design the life you want.
Ask yourself these questions:
What will be the most exciting outcome, or set of outcomes, you could achieve with your life? What goals are most likely to make you feel fulfilled happy / content / at peace?
And more importantly, what goal could you choose that would make the journey to your end-game the best it could possibly be? (After all, setting a goal that will get you a result 10 years from now but make you miserable today is probably not the best goal to try for, in my opinion).
Your goals should be based around your personal beliefs and values, and they should focus on what will give you and those around you the most fulfilling lives possible.
If you’re going to dream, why not dream big?
In this section, you’ll get a simplified method and a set of questions that will help you figure out the goals you should be setting.
Step 2. SMART – The Best Method To Create Useful Goals.
Next, you’ll learn the best method to create effective goals that will inspire you. The most effective method I’ve ever used is called SMART goal setting which is generally credited to the management principles of Peter Drucker.
But since they are meant for company management, there is a small ‘twist’ I learned that makes them more effective for personal development.
Step 3. Create Your Method / Action Plan.
I’ve noticed that most goal setting books fall short in this category. Though they always mention you have to take action on your goals to achieve them, they rarely give a method to doing it.
In this chapter, you’ll learn how to create a process that makes it dead-simple to implement the right actions that will make your goals a reality.
Step 4. Turn Your Action Plan Into Habits.
This is an extension of the action plan from the last chapter, and in my opinion, it is the most important part of goal setting.
Every successful person has rituals and habits they perform on a daily basis that help them to automatically drive toward their goals. Every athlete has their workout routine, every executive has their morning ritual.
The ability to form habits is a quirk of human psychology that allows you to turn actions into daily, effortless, automatic rituals. In this chapter, you’ll learn how to create habits from your action plan, how to schedule your action plan, as well as a list of tracking apps you can use to implement your habits.
Step 5. Motivation, Passion & Getting Down To Work.
When it comes to going after goals, the main driving force is your level of motivation and passion.
If you think you haven’t found your Passion yet, this chapter will show you how to create and cultivate one, starting today. No more waiting to ‘find’ the thing you love in life.
Step 6. Accountability and Goal Tracking.
To achieve your goals you may need to set up structure in your life including a network of friends & peers, a schedule, reminders, partners, masterminds, coaching apps and more. In this chapter, you’ll learn how to set up your life so you can’t help but achieve your goals.
The Skill Proficiency Crash Course: 10 Steps To Learn Any Skill Quickly
Many goals that you set could require new skills to achieve them. In this chapter, you’ll get a method to become proficient in necessary skills in the shortest amount of time possible. New skills are an important part of goal setting because becoming good at something new is very satisfying. The ability to become good at new things quickly is a powerful motivating force. It’s also one of my favorite things about setting goals, and about life in general.
These are the core Steps you’ll need to set goals that will make you excited to get up in the morning.
I’ll also be providing you with a guide to common problems and frequently asked questions, as well as a Quick Start Checklist, so you can start to use this information today.
Ready? Let’s get to it!
Step 1: What Goals Should You Create? AKA What Do You Want Out Of Life?
The first aspect of goal setting is setting the right goals. You need to make sure the goals you set are the right goals for you.
They can’t be the goals that somebody else wants for you, and they can’t be adaptations of somebody else’s goals. If they are, you’re probably setting yourself up for a big disappointment and lots of regrets later in life.
Here’s a great quote from Paulo Coelho about choosing your own goals:
“Ester asked why people are sad.
‘That’s simple,’ says the old man. ‘They are the prisoners of their personal history. Everyone believes that the main aim in life is to follow a plan. They never ask if that plan is theirs or if it was created by another person. They accumulate experiences, memories, things, other people’s ideas, and it is more than they can possibly cope with. And that is why they forget their dreams.'”
― Paulo Coelho, The Zahir
Unfortunately, a huge portion of society goes down the path of ‘accumulating other people’s ideas’, without ever knowing that the choices they’ve made were actually somebody else’s.
So what’s the solution to this problem?
Well, I believe there are two good questions to start with:
‘What makes life fulfilling?’
‘What makes fulfilling activities, fulfilling?’
These are not easy questions to answer. Especially because the answer is probably different for everybody.
I’ve come to learn that the best way to choose goals is to start from 2 different perspectives…
First, find the activities that will give you the most fulfillment in every day life. Your goals should be aligned with these activities. That is, you should choose goals that allow you to perform fulfilling Activities in everyday life.
Second, you need to choose activities that balance out your life, so you use your energy in the most optimal way. I’ll explain what this means shortly. First, here’s how to choose the best activities.
So, What’s Fulfilling To You?
What Can You Be Passionate About, and What’s Your ‘Purpose’?
These are not questions with easy answers:
What do I want to do with my life?
What am I passionate about?
What is the purpose of my life?
If you can answer those questions, great. Consider yourself very lucky. Of course, if you could truthfully answer those questions, I don’t think you’d be reading this book.
Unfortunately, the majority of people can’t answer these questions with absolute certainty. There’s way too many choices in real life to figure out the ‘one perfect thing for you’.
So here are some simplified questions that should lead to clearer answers:
1. What can I do with my time that is important? What activity would be a good investment of time, that could give me long-term fulfilment?
2. If I could perform only one activity and had to sacrifice everything else in my life, what would that activity be?
3. What activity could you enjoy doing even if you were embarrassingly bad at it for the rest of your life?
4. What activity makes you lose all sense of time and personal hygiene? Do you ever forget to use the bathroom because you’re so immersed in something?
The answers should provide a strong clue for what you could dedicate your life toward.
This first set of questions should help stretch your mind to see what Activities are important and fulfilling to you.
Don’t think too much about these questions, or about finding the ‘one perfect thing’. Just create a list of everything that comes to mind, for now.
And here’s the critical next step:
Don’t just look at the activities you wrote down themselves. Also look at the principles behind each of them.
Maybe you’d like to play video games all day long. But doing that all day long would obviously lead to a very unproductive life.
So, what do you like about video games?
Maybe it’s the instant satisfaction and feedback. Maybe it’s the constant improvement and competition. Figure out the characteristics that make it so enjoyable to you.
Then, choose another goal that includes these properties and also adds value to your life and the lives of others.
For example, take learning to play a musical instrument.
Now, how can you make learning to play a musical instrument more like a video game? Maybe by working with others, maybe by giving yourself awards for reaching important milestones etc.
Getting the idea? Great. Now, next question:
5. If you had to turn your life into something exciting and fulfilling in two weeks from now or you would literally be beheaded, how could you do it?
What would you do differently in these next two weeks if you wanted to avoid getting your head lopped off?
This thought experiment is very useful. It can be used to pull inspiration out of your own head by adding some imaginary pressure. When confronted with a mortal problem, you’ll see that your mind suddenly becomes a lot more resourceful.
Ask yourself about the specifics of what you’d do differently in the next two weeks. You’ll probably find your mind coming up with all sorts of other interesting questions… How could you find something that’s fulfilling? How do I measure when my life is fulfilling, or not? What could make the activities I already do more exciting? What new activities would I incorporate into my life?…
This question can be applied to any area of life, of course. How would you do X differently if you would die if you fail?
6. How would you act right now if you were going to die in an hour from now?
Another great concept that I love, but not everybody is comfortable with, is to be at peace with the fact that your life could end at any moment. It sounds a little dark, but I like to keep this on my mind as often as possible. Here’s why:
It gives me freedom to enjoy the present moment. And it also happens to be true.
When I think life is going to end soon, there’s no room for the past and the future… there is only room to enjoy and make the most of the now.
What activity would you do right now if you were going to die in an hour?
7. How do you want people to talk about you when you’re gone?
What will they say about you?
What can you do today so they’ll remember you in a positive way?
8. What do you want to leave behind for your family and friends?
What will your legacy be?
Will you leave behind something for the world to remember you by, or something that contributes to the world even after you die?
What could you do to make sure you left this behind?
There’s more about how to find your passion in my earlier book: Plug-In To Your Passion – How To Find Your Passion, Develop Successful Habits, & Tap Into All-Day Energy To Pursue Your Dreams. Grab it if you’re interested in learning more.
Make sure to write down any ideas you get for activities that could be fulfilling to you in the long term.
These are your Passion Activities.
Now, because they are your most fulfilling activities, you’ll want to spend most of your time doing them.
So in the following pages of this guide, we are going to create your goals around them. The idea is that your goals should guide you to a life where you spend most of your time doing fulfilling activities.
Makes sense, yes?
So we’re going to build long-term goals around your Passion Activities, and then we’re going to work backwards to find specific actions to take today.
That way, you can focus on the things that make today fulfilling while working on your long term goals indirectly.
That’s the key that makes this system work.
Immediate gratification = motivation
By the way, as we put your system together, it might seem like there are a lot of components. Starting from Passion Activities and Engagement Activities, you’ll create Passion Goals, Engagement Goals, 5 Year Goals, 1 Year Goals… And a few more.
But don’t worry. You’ll get a clear checklist to doing this, and a list of all the components you’ll need at the end. It may seem complicated, but it really only takes ~10 minutes once you know how to do it.
And afterward, you won’t need to keep all these things on your mind.
They are designed to lead you to the right things to focus on. Each day, you’ll only need to focus on a few things.
OK? Let’s move on to the next step in the process.
Balance Your Life With Activities That Are Naturally Fulfilling
OK, now you have ideas for the best activities you could pursue in life…
But if you want to live an energized and engaged life, you’ll also need to find balance and time to recharge.
You’re only human, so you need to avoid burn-out. To do that, you can set goals that build balance into your life automatically.
IMPORTANT: Keep in mind that ‘recharge’ doesn’t mean laziness. Many activities that seem like they recharge you (like video games or TV) do not provide more energy for life. Rather, they drain your energy and condition more and more laziness. As you’ll see, recharging activities are activities that feed your mind, body, and spirit, so that you have more energy for what’s important.
Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz have a ‘high performance’ consulting practice that teaches executives to manage their energy and time, and they’ve documented their findings in their comprehensive book The Power Of Full Engagement. It’s a fantastic book. I suggest you add it to your reading list.
Their philosophy is that to lead a fulfilling life, you need to stop trying to manage ‘time’. Instead, you must wisely invest your energy into things that naturally fuel the human spirit.
We aren’t machines. We have a finite amount of energy to use each day, and we need time for renewal. By using energy to satisfy all of our human needs and by including regular renewal into our schedules, we can gain momentum, contribute more to the world, and lead more fulfilling lives.
According to Loehr and Schwartz, there are 4 key sources of energy that everybody has in common, and we can ‘exercise’ each area to live a more engaged life:
Physical – This is the quantity of your physical strength and endurance. It is your physiological health. Activities to exercise this area include weight training, running, sports, good diet, adequate sleep.
Emotional – This is the quality of your emotional health. Activities to exercise this area of life include spending time cultivating relationships, practicing gratitude & patience, and meditation.
Mental – This is your ability to focus on what’s important at any moment. Activities to exercise this area of life include cultivating habits and positive attitude, visualization, meditation, and mental preparation.
Spiritual – This is the force of motivation, passion and purpose in your life. Examples of activities to exercise this area include setting goals, spending time to find and connect to your true purpose in life, and practicing honestly, courage, and persistence.
Most people are undertrained physically and spiritually, and overtrained emotionally and mentally. That is, most people have too little physical and spiritual activities in their lives, and too many emotional and mental activities without adequate recovery periods.
You can build ‘capacity’ in each of the 4 areas by exercising each area and then recovering. Just like athletes build physical strength and endurance.
When you have all 4 areas in balance, with periods for building capacity and recovery, that’s a recipe for ‘Full Engagement’ (a fulfilling, active life).
When it comes to Goal Setting, you can use these 4 areas to create goals that will ultimately create a fulfilling life. You just have to find the Activities you want to perform that will satisfy each area, and set goals for each.
Let’s call these activities your Engagement Activities.
Choose 1 or 2 activities that you already perform, or that you’d like to perform, to satisfy each of these 4 areas.
By the way, one area will probably be your main focus at any given time. For example, if you’re training for a marathon, your main area of focus will be Physical. The rest of the areas will support the main area of focus.
In the next section, I’ll show you the best way to set goals in each of the 4 Areas.
For now, here’s a checklist that covers the characteristics of ‘healthy’ activities. Use it to make sure you’ve chosen activities that will be fulfilling to you in the long-term.
- Does this activity fulfill one of the 4 areas of Full Engagement?
- It is a ‘creative’ activity and not a ‘consuming’ activity? Will it result in something good in your life, and contribute to the world somehow? (Watching TV, a consuming activity, only results in wanting to watch more TV)
- It adds to the lives of others in some way, or it has the potential to add to the lives of others. An example of an activity that has the potential to help others is playing golf. It’s an individual sport, but because so many others love golf, you can play golf with friends, teach golf, or even entertain with the skill of golf. Personal improvement, such as meditation, is also a good example because working on yourself can give you the ability to help others more effectively.
- It aligns with your core ethics and values (if you’re a vegan you shouldn’t become a butcher, obviously)
- It’s an activity that can be mastered and improved for the rest of your life.
- The activity is a good investment of your time. I believe this is an important factor to consider. If I have the choice, I don’t like to start new things that I’ll only be able to do for a few years.Take learning American football, for example. If you already have a lot of passion for football, that’s great. In that case, it’s a game worth pursuing. But the problem is that as a football player, you have an expiry date. The sport is hard on your body, and if you play with any intensity, you’ll wear yourself out before long. Then you won’t be able to use what you’ve learned anymore.If you have the chance to choose what goals to pursue, it’s better to choose something that you can do for a long time.
- Do other people who enjoy the activity have a similar personality to your own? And do they form groups and ‘cults’ around the activity? This is a sign that this activity is particularly fulfilling to people in general. For example, if you have the same personality and are friends with people who passionately attend Crossfit classes, it’s probably something that’s worth a try.
After going through this checklist, you might end up with a handful of activities you’d like to go after in each area.
Make sure to write them all down.
Keep in mind that you’ll probably need to test each of these activities. If you don’t actually go and do these things, you probably won’t know what you like best.
Keep in mind that as you begin a new activity, you might not feel any passion for it.
But don’t write it off just yet. After all, if it’s new to you, you probably aren’t any good at it. For now, just use the criteria I’ve outlined to choose activities that will be fulfilling for you, and keep in mind that passion typically only comes after continuous action.
Where Do My Work Activities Come In?
Any of these activities can include work. It will all be part of the same schedule and plan. Work influences personal life, and personal life influences work life, so they shouldn’t be separate.
One of your Passion Activities might be work, or maybe not… Maybe the only reason you have a job is to support your real passions outside of work.
The way you choose the activities in your life is totally up to you, and either way, you’ll use the same process to create goals from these activities.
Choose Your Activities & Write Them Down
At this point, you should have an idea of what activities will be most fulfilling to you, as well as the activities that will balance each of the 4 areas in your life.
Now, fit your Passion Activities into the 4 Areas of Engagement. For example, if you found you love to do yoga and you love to meditate, then they might fit into the 4 areas like this:
Physical – Yoga
Mental – Meditation
Sometimes, the activities may satisfy more than one category. Yoga and Meditation could also be in the Emotional and Spiritual categories.
In that case, fit them into the category that most fits your motives for doing the activity. If you do Meditation primarily for improved concentration, then fit it into the Mental category. If you do Meditation primarily for emotional therapy, then fit it into the Emotional category.
Next, round out the 4 areas with Engagement Activities:
Physical – Yoga, good diet
Emotional – Spending time with friends, practicing gratitude every day
Mental – Meditation, visualization
Spiritual – Weekly goal planning, Cultivating patience
In theory, incorporating all of these activities into your life will lead to a more balanced and ‘fully engaged’ life (And that has been my experience). But you will need to experiment here to make sure the activities satisfy the areas in your life.
Write your activities down for each of the 4 Areas. In the next chapter, you’ll learn the best way to create inspiring goals around each activity.
Wait – Am I Choosing The Right Activities? AKA Paralysis by Analysis
You’ve got a list of activities you might want to pursue, but maybe you’re wondering if they’re really right for you… Maybe you’re worried about wasting your time pursuing things you aren’t interested in.
Believe it or not, most people spend their lives in this ‘mode of indecision’. They aren’t sure what they want to be passionate about, so they take what other people give them or whatever activity they happen to fall in to.
Most of their goals are hand-me downs.
If you aren’t completely sure about what goals to pursue, it’s OK. You’re not alone. But if you want a chance at a meaningful life, you’re going to have to jump in and try something. Hopefully, by using the instructions in this last section, you’ve got a list of things to pursue. Start by choosing the ones that look best to you, and go after them whole-heartedly.
Don’t wait. Don’t let fear of making a mistake paralyze you.
The truth is, there’s no other way to find out what’s ‘right’.
The most successful people are typically the people who make the most mistakes, as fast as possible. When you make mistakes, you can learn from experience.
When you take the time to debate if you’re making the right choice, you’re not learning anything.
If it turns out that a goal you choose isn’t the thing for you, then you can choose another. It’s that simple.
But you have to start somewhere.
Next, I’ll show you how to create goals from these activities.
(By the way, instead of providing chapter summaries, there will be a summary of the entire Checklist process at the end of the guide)
Step 2: S.M.A.R.T. – The Best Method To Create Useful Goals
Now that you have some new activities to pursue, you need to form them as Goals so that they inspire you to behave differently and perform consistently.
The best system I’ve used to format my goals is the SMART Goal setting system, so let me start by explaining how it works.
The SMART Format For Goal Setting
There are several different definitions for the SMART acronym. The words behind the initials are changed when setting goals for different purposes.
In this case, we’ll use: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound. This is the best format for goal setting in personal development.
Each of your goals must have these characteristics:
The goal must be very specific to start with. If it’s vague, then you’re going to have problems with the rest of the SMART system. You won’t be able to measure it, you won’t know if it’s relevant to you, you won’t be able to achieve it, and you won’t be able to set a time period to achieve it. Another reason it must be Specific is because it must be under your control in the present moment.
For example, if you goal is simply “I want to lose weight”, there are way too many variables that are out of your control. Your weight depends on genetics, diet, stress levels, exercise, and many other things that are out of your control right now.
So narrow it down. Now your goal is “I want to lose 5 pounds”. That’s a bit better. But the truth is, that goal is still mostly out of your control. There are too many variables that go into losing 5 pounds, as before, such as exercise, hormones, diet, stress levels etc.
Let’s take it a few steps further. Now your goal is “I want to go to the gym every morning at 6am for 1 hour every day next week”.
Now there’s a specific goal! And since this goal deals only with exercise, maybe you’d use another specific goal that helps control your weight: “I want to buy foods at the grocery store that will allow me to create healthy, delicious recipes”
Each of these goals can be controlled in the present moment, and each of them has the possibility of being Measurable, Achievable, Relevant as Time-Bound as well.
You should be able to quantify each of your goals so that you know when you’re making progress, when your progress is slowing down, and when you’ve completed the goal.
As I’ve already mentioned, goals in each of the 4 areas of life can be measured by different metrics:
Physical goals are measured by ‘Quantity’ (eg. Weight lifted, distance ran, speed of movement)
Emotional goals are measured by ‘Quality’ (eg. Positive / negative / neutral emotion)
Mental goals are measured by ‘Focus’ (eg. Ability to concentrate. Can be measured on a scale of 1-10)
Spiritual goals are measured by ‘Force’ (eg. Amount of motivation, passion, ‘healthy obsession’)
There should be a definite end point for each goal, so that you know you’ve achieved it.
If you set the goal: “I want to go to yoga class every morning at 6am for 1 hour”. That is incomplete because there’s no end point clearly built in to the goal. A goal without an end point saps your motivation because it feels like endless, pointless work.
A simple change to create a well-formed goal: “I want to go to yoga class every morning at 6am for 1 hour every day, for 7 days in a row”.
This goal has a clear endpoint. After you’ve gone to Yoga for 7 days in a row, you can celebrate!
When it comes to your daily and weekly goals, each of your goals must be achievable. They should be small enough so that you already know you’ll be able to complete them in the given time period.
As I’ll soon explain, there’s a ‘Twist’ on the SMART goal setting system when it comes to personal development goals, and it has to do with the Achievable characteristic.
Each of your goals must be meaningful to you in some way. This goes back to setting goals for your own purposes, as opposed to ‘inheriting’ your goals from somebody else.
If you don’t feel like you’d want to celebrate after achieving the goal… OrIf the thought of completing the goal doesn’t fire up your spirit to set even more goals and go even farther… Then you’re probably setting the wrong goal.
Each goal you set has to be done within a specific time period. If you don’t set a time period, chances are that you’ll make very slow progress.
Without a time requirement, you’ll probably procrastinate on the goal until it becomes boring to you (even if it was meaningful to you in the beginning), or until you find something else that’s more exciting.
Parkinson’s Law states that the time it takes to achieve a specific goal tends to take up the entire time period allowed. If you allow 10 minutes to complete a goal or if you allow 10 hours, it’s likely that you’ll take all the time given. When we have more time, we usually find things to fill it up.
Each goal you set should have a specific end point that’s always shorter than what you’re used to. Be strict with your time periods. You’ll probably go over time with many of your goals, but that’s OK. You’re training yourself to work faster.
When you go over time, simply set a new goal for the new situation. Never keep the old goal and go into ‘over time’. If you fail to achieve your goal, you fail. Move on, and learn from your mistakes. Make a note of what you can do differently next time.
Remember, the purpose of goal setting is to affect your behavior in a positive way, not to achieve everything you go after 100% of the time.
Use goals to push yourself to your limit, expand your boundaries, and learn how to do better next time.
Set Goals for Each of Your Activities
Now that you know how to set SMART goals, it’s time to create goals for each of your Activities.
Start with 2 Passion Activities. In the example I used from the last chapter, they were Yoga and Meditation.
These are going to be your main focus, so you’ll set the most ambitious ‘Passion Goals’ around them.
For the Engagement Activities, you’ll set Engagement Goals. These are, for the most part, ‘maintenance goals’ that don’t require as much time and energy in your life. They just keep you energized and healthy.
Like it or not, you only have enough energy and focus to accomplish 1 or 2 major goals at any one time. Any more than that, and you’ll be spreading yourself too thin, and you won’t have a chance to accomplish any of your goals!
Later on, after you’ve made progress on the first goals, you can always set new goals and focus on another area of your life.
Start From Your Passion Goals
The best way to form your goals is to start with your ultimate goals in mind. To stay with the example I’m using, you’d set one Passion Goal for Yoga, and one Passion Goal for Meditation.
Now this is where the ‘twist’ I was talking about comes in. SMART goals were designed as management goals, and they are great for setting day-to-day goals you can manage and achieve.
The problem is that they aren’t very exciting. They don’t motivate and PULL you. You usually have to use energy and PUSH toward them if you set goals that fall within the SMART criteria.
So when setting your Passion Goals, ignore the ‘Achievable’ category.
It’s impossible for you to know what is actually achievable until you have years of experience in a certain field, anyway. And even then you might not know what could happen a few years down the road. We tend to underestimate our abilities.
You should create goals that are far and above what you ‘believe’ you can accomplish.
You might only achieve 1/3 of the goal you set, but if you set a smaller goal, you’d probably achieve only 1/3 of that one, too.
For example, if I set my writing goal at 24 books this year, I’ll probably only write 10-20 in reality. But if I set my goal at a more realistic 10 books, then I might only write 4-5 books this year.
Use big goals as a tool to pull you up and raise your standards.
Though you don’t have to follow the normal Achievable rule, there are still a few rules for what’s achievable:
- You must be willing to pay the price for this goal. What will you need to sacrifice? Are you OK with that?
- You may fail many times on your way to the goal. Are you willing to persist no matter what happens? Is this a goal you can absolutely commit to?
- Is this goal humanly possible? There are some goals that cannot be reached, of course. You probably won’t be able to visit Pluto within your lifetime.
However, always keep in mind that it’s not easy to tell what’s possible.
The story of Roger Bannister and the 4 Minute Mile is a great example of how beliefs prevent us from achieving new milestones. For nine years previous to Bannister’s record-setting run, the world record was slightly longer than 4 minutes. Because of that, the myth that the 4-Minute-Mile was impossible seeped into popular culture, and because of that belief, nobody could break the barrier.
When Bannister broke the record in 1954, however, his record only lasted for a few weeks. Once other athletes began to realize the 4 Minute Mile was only a mental barrier, they soon beat it as well.
Today, it’s almost routine for male distance runners to run a 4-Minute-Mile.
So, what’s humanly possible? I’ll leave that up to you… But my suggestion is to go for a goal that makes you say “Wow, if I could achieve that it would be incredible…” Shoot as high as you possibly can along a worthy path, and see what happens.
The only way you can go wrong with this type of goal setting is to set a goal that isn’t based on something fulfilling, or setting a goal that’s too small (If your goals are not borderline-crazy, they are probably too small, by the way).
These two Passion Goals are the things that are most important to you. Once you set them, you can build the rest of your life around them.
Round Out Your Plan & Create 5 Year Goals
After you have your Passion Goals, now it’s time to create the rest of your goals.
These goals are going to be more realistic. In addition to being motivational, you will design them to provide a practical roadmap to achieve each of your Passion Goals.
I suggest that you start with 5-Year goals for each activity.
5 years is long enough to achieve most goals, or at least it’s long enough to see what the next step is. Setting goals any longer than that isn’t useful because it’s too hard to know what will happen in the future.
So let’s set the 5 Year Goals. I’ll explain how to do it with an example.
If this is your list:
Physical – Yoga, Good diet
Emotional – Spending time with friends, practicing gratitude every day
Mental – Meditation, visualization
Spiritual – Weekly goal planning, cultivating patience
And if these are your Passion Goals:
Yoga – Become a famous yoga instructor, write books and courses about yoga, start a chain of yoga practices.
Meditation – Reach enlightenment.
Then your 5-Year goals could be as follows:
1. In 5 years from now, I will be a Yoga teacher with my own yoga practice + students
2. I will know how to cook at least 10 healthy recipes that will form the basis of my diet.
1. I will practice gratitude for 5-10 minutes at the beginning of every meditation session.
2. I will make time to buy a small gift for a friend once per month.
3. I will schedule dinner with friends twice per week.
1. I will be in the habit of meditating 2 hours per day regularly.
2. I will schedule time to attend a meditation retreat for 2-3 days once per month.
3. I will be in the habit or practicing visualization before every activity I start.
1. I will take 2 hours every Sunday to revise my goals and plan my week.
2. I will take 5 minutes every day to record how patient I was with others during the day, and what I can do to improve.
Notice how the goals other than the 2 main focuses (Yoga and Meditation) don’t require as much commitment. These are your Engagement Goals that maintain your other needs as a human being.
Some of them aren’t Goals as much as the ‘state’ you’d like that area of your life to be in, or good habits you’d like to build.
Write Down Your Goals Where You Can Easily Access Them
You can write down your goals almost anywhere. Just keep them somewhere you can frequently review.
You can use:
- 3×5 index cards + index card box
- A computer folder with text files
- A note taking app such as Workflowy – This is what I use to record my goals. I also use it for all my note taking, and even outlining. It’s a minimalist point form notes app that beautifully expands and focuses on each note like a file system. It’s easy to review every day. It also syncs between my computer, phone and tablet each time a new note is entered, so I can review all my notes anywhere.
The next step is to work backwards from these big goals to figure out what you can be doing today to work toward them.
Step 3: Create Your Plan Of Action
As I mentioned before, you can’t use somebody else’s action plan because there are parts of the puzzle missing. They unknowingly leave out things they already know. This causes the Expert Dilemma.
So now it’s time to create your own Action plan. You can do this by breaking down your goals and figuring out the best actions you can take today to reach them.
Break Down Your 5 Year Goals into Milestones
The next step is to work backwards from your 5 year goals and set smaller milestones that are Yearly, Quarterly, Monthly, Weekly, Daily.
By doing this, you’re creating a rational progression toward your goal. Remember that this might not be the exact path you’ll follow in real life. It’s just the beginning of the process. You’ll continually update this plan as you progress toward your goals.
Start with your 5-Year goals, and work backwards.
Ask yourself the question: What are the components/skills/assets that would allow you to reach your 5 Year Goal?
Outline each milestone along the way from where you are to where you want to be.
Grab a piece of paper and draw a dot representing ‘where you are now’ on the left hand side of the paper, and another dot on the right hand side representing ‘where you want to go’ (your 5-Year Goal), like this:
Draw a line in between the two dots. After you do that, outline 4-6 Major Milestones along the path to get your goal.
Where are you now? Do a comprehensive overview of where you are now in the process.
What skills do you already have? What are you missing? Be honest with yourself. It’s impossible to get anywhere without knowing where you are now.
At each milestone, there may be different daily actions you have to take.
Keep in mind that it will probably need a lot of adjusting as you progress towards your goal. In fact, it might look completely different by the time you’re halfway there. But you have to start somewhere if you expect to get anywhere, and it’s easy to adjust course along the way.
Starting from your 5 Year Goal, break down the Milestones into each of the next 5 Years, with year by year goals.
Break down each of your 5-Year goals into 1-Year goals. What do you need to accomplish in each of the next 5 years year that will allow you to accomplish your 5-year goal?
What skills/abilities/assets are required to reach each of the milestones?
What daily actions could help you achieve each of these skills/abilities/assets?
After you have your 1 Year Goals, you can further break them down into Quarterly Goals. Ask yourself:
What do you need to accomplish in the next 3 months in order to accomplish your 1-Year Goal?
1 Month Goals:
What do you need to accomplish in the next month to ensure you accomplish your 3 Month Goals?
1 Week Goal
What do you need to accomplish in the next week to ensure you accomplish your 1-Month goals?
At this point, it’s helpful to plan the next 4 weeks in detail and set deliverables for the end of every week.
Plan the next 4 weeks once per month by setting up deliverables you’ll need to have done at the end of each week. I usually do this on the last Sunday before the month.
Set as strict a timetable as you can. You might not be able to meet your deliverables every week, but you need a plan to start from. From there, you can adjust to something more realistic, and then you can improve on it.
If you start out with goals that are too lenient, you’ll never push yourself to get better.
Once you have your 1 Week Goals, you can set daily goals for the week.
1 Day Goals (Weekly Scheduling)
I do this once per week on Sunday, at the start of the workweek. I review & alter the weekly goals I’ve already set, and I set my goals for each day of the coming week.
Robin Sharma likes to say: “What gets scheduled gets done.” If you have an important task that you need to get done, it’s worth scheduling into your week.
Keep each day as simple as possible, with up to 3 Most Important Tasks (MITs), plus supporting goals that don’t take much time.
Ask yourself, “What could I accomplish to make today satisfying?”. The truth is, it usually only takes 1 or 2 major things.
IMPORTANT: Before going ahead to create your action plan, make sure to read the rest of this book. I’ve included instructions on how to create habits from your action plan, how to cultivate motivation and passion, and how to create accountability. You may want to factor some of these skills into your action plan while you’re creating it.
After you have all your goals written down and an Action Plan to reach them, you’ll need to schedule regular review to change your plan. This will allow you to adjust as circumstances change.
Think of reviewing and changing your goals as the ‘homing mechanism’, or the ‘course corrections’ that will keep you headed in the right direction.
Schedule Tomorrow, The Night Before
The night before each workday, review all of your goals, starting at your 5 Year goal. This will prepare your mind so that there’s no guesswork involved in the morning. This will make sure you always start the day off right.
Add new goals, review, and modify the goals you set during your weekly planning.
Then, write down the 5 Essentials For The Day:
- My 3 Most Important Tasks (Work MITs) For Work Tomorrow
- My 3 Most Important Non-Work Tasks (Personal MITs)
- People I need to communicate with
- People I’m waiting on
- Necessary Admin Work
Make sure that each of your MITs are formatted as SMART Goals. Most importantly, they each need to have a measurable end point, and they need to be achievable during the work day.
After you have this list, block out sections of your day to complete each task. Keep your schedule as simple as possible.
Your Work MITs are your most valuable tasks. Get these done first, while you have the most focus and energy.
The Pareto Principle states that 20% of the work you do accounts for 80% of the profit, so make sure that your MITs are part of that 20%.
If you’re a writer, then your MITs should focus on writing and editing and research, for example. These are the things that make a writer valuable.
Schedule to get these done in the first few hours of the day. During that time, focus on those and nothing else.
On my best days, I always make sure that the first 3 hours of my day is dedicated to creating new content, and nothing else. This is my most valuable activity.
When I slip up and check my email or check web statistics, I’ve noticed that I tend to get stuck going down the Internet rabbit hole… Checking Facebook, email, and stats continuously on a loop. Maybe you’ve experienced the same thing.
It can waste a surprising amount of time.
The best thing to do is to schedule time to check email & stats, and everything else that needs checking, all at one time. I usually do this just after lunch during my afternoon ‘slump’. At this time, it’s tough to do creative work anyway.
Your non-work MITs are non-negotiable tasks not related to work.
Maybe they fall under the category of meditation, yoga, or time with family.
Some people say that you should separate work and personal life, but the truth is that they’re all part of the same day, and the same schedule.
And therefore, they’re intricately linked in your mental state. By scheduling time to enjoy life and scheduling time for personal renewal every day, you’ll have a better state of mind at work.
You’ll be able to look forward to a recharging activity every night.
Neil Fiore, psychologist and author of the Now Habit, calls this concept the Unschedule. By making sure to schedule the things that are recharging, it tells your brain that it’s OK to get to work now, because there will be reward later on.
Begin The Day
At the start of each day, review your goals again, from your 5 Year goals down to the MITs you have planned for today.
This might seem repetitive. But what’s more important than your goals? If you do think of something more important, then maybe you should make that into a goal.
Repetition helps you to keep these important things on the top of your mind. It helps your subconscious mind choose the right information to absorb as it filters your reality. Review also helps to cultivate motivation and passion toward your goals (but more on that in the chapter on Motivation and Passion).
Onward. Each morning, review and edit your daily goals, and start work. Finish the most important tasks first. Only after making progress on your 3 Major Daily Goals should you start on the smaller goals and other tasks (such as checking emails and stats, answering phone calls etc).
Set up your day to finish the most important things first, so that you don’t get swept away by the day and forget about them. They are the most important things in your life. Don’t forget that.
Step 4: Turn Your Action Plan Into Habits
Now it’s time to turn the goals and activities you just created into daily habits. You can incorporate what you’ll learn in this section into your Action Plan, and it will make getting to your goals easier.
Most guides to creating goals do not show you how to do this, but I truly believe that your daily habits are the most important factor to reaching any goal.
You see, in order to reach your goals, they must influence your moment-to-moment behaviour. If they’re just items in a list that you never review, you’ll never reach them.
Every successful person turns their goals into habitual actions that they follow every day. They are able to pull ahead of the rest of the crowd because these actions become ‘automatic’ for them, while others struggle.
They don’t think about it. Olympic runners wake up, they drink a power shake, they put on running shorts, they go for a 10k run. There’s no room for debate.
But you can’t have the habits of an Olympic athlete from day 1… You need to build up to it. To do that, you need to know how habits work.
How Habits Work: The Habit Curve.
As you can see, when you’re first starting to perform a new activity, you’ll feel the most ‘resistance’ to the activity. The first 7 days are the hardest. During this phase, it takes a surprising amount of willpower and motivation to start the new activity every day.
After this ‘incubation period’, it gets much easier. Though some people say that forming a habit takes 21 to 30 days, recent studies on the nature of habit report that it can take anywhere from 20 to 200+ days. It all depends on you, and the habit itself.
Since there’s no definite length of time to form a habit, just remember that any activity immediately gets easier with repetition. After ~20 days in a row, it will be easy to continue the activity with just a bit of willpower.
To make it easier to form habits, I’ll be giving you some tips to make the beginning smoother, and to prepare you to continue the habit long-term.
Once you establish a habit and you no longer have to fight yourself, the period of indecision is over. You can start making progress every single day. In addition to that, you no longer have to use any willpower to support the habit.
This frees up energy to create new habits, which allows you to ‘stack’ good habits, one on top of the other.
One of the most recent habits I established was to wake up before 7am every day. This was not easy because I woke up at 9-11am for most of my life. During the first week I tried to wake up early every day, I was a zombie.
However, I had faith that my body could adapt because I had formed habits before. So I kept to the plan as well as I could. To my surprise, I began to wake up 10-20 minutes before my 6:50am alarm every day, even on weekends. These days, it’s hard for me to sleep in past 630 at all, even when I go to bed at 1am.
Now that I’m comfortable with that habit, I could push it even farther – possibly getting up at 6am to exercise first thing.
When you create habits that provide you with more time and energy, they build exponentially and provide even more room, for more good habits.
This is how goals that once seemed impossible come within your reach.
For a more comprehensive guide to creating habits as well a guide to the most important habit of all, in my opinion (the Morning Ritual Habit), you can download my book: Morning Mojo – How To Get More Energy, Get Motivated & Achieve Your Goals With A Morning Ritual (Amazon Link).
But for now, here are some important tips to use habits to advance toward your goals:
Start by figuring out which of your goals will require habits.
It’s usually easy to tell. Any goal that requires effort on a daily basis can be turned into a habit. For example, a goal like “I will only buy healthy food at the supermarket” is not a habit-based goal, while a goal like “I want to learn Spanish” is a habit-based goal because it takes daily practice to accomplish it.
Figure out what those habits are.
There could be more than one habit for each goal. Eg. For marathon training, the habit of getting up early to train, as well as running every morning are actually two separate habits that each have to be conditioned.
Anchor new habits to existing habits with “Implementation Intentions”
The easiest way to incorporate a new habit into your life is to anchor new habits to old ones. You probably already have a lot of habits in your life. You might not notice, or pay attention to all of them, but any activity you do with regularity has probably become habit.
That is, if you have to stop doing the activity one day, you’ll probably feel uneasy, ‘out of your element’, and you’ll miss it or at least think about it. It could be something as small as your breakfast routine or the route you take on the way to work.
To attach a new habit to an old one, simply make the decision that you’ll do the new activity whenever you do the old one. This is called an “Implementation Intention”. Make it as specific as possible.
Say to yourself:
“When I do X, I’ll do Y”
Or “Right before/after I do X, I’ll do Y”
So for example, when I was creating my ‘Morning Ritual’, I said to myself:
“The moment I wake up I’m going to put on my running clothes and shoes, and I’m going to go out for a walk.”
To make the new habit is as easy as possible to execute, I always make sure that I know what I’ll be wearing and where my shoes are the night before.
Use external support to maintain your habits.
Here are a few examples of external support:
- Put the tools you need for your habit somewhere easy to access. Eg. If you want to play guitar for 30 minutes every day, don’t put your guitar in the closet. Put it in the living room where you see it all the time. This can make a big difference. Likewise, if you want to go for a run in the morning, get your clothes ready the night before and place them beside your bed.
- Use an ‘onramp’ ritual to get you in the mood to perform your habit. If you’re going to meditate, for example, light a candle and get in the ‘mood’ before you start. Lighting the candle will become your ‘trigger’ to start the habit.
- Commit to your habit in front of friends and family, and ask them for help. Having other people remind you of your habits is a great way to stay on track.
- Put a sign on your door when you’re working, or let others know that you always work during certain hours. This prevents distractions, and also helps to ‘convince’ yourself it’s time to work.
Expect and prepare for setbacks.
At first, if you’re not used to pushing your boundaries and developing habits, it will be hard to have faith that you can make changes in your life. Until you see the changes you can produce for yourself, it’s easy to give up.
But I guarantee that if you use patience, suspend your disbelief, and keep trying again and again, you’ll experience permanent habit change soon.
And when you have your first success, your life will change forever because you’ll know that with small changes, you can create massive change over time. This will give you the confidence you need to build more and more good habits into your life.
Step 5: Motivation, Passion & Getting Down To Work
To get to work on your goals, you’re going to need the motivation to take action.
Problem is, for 99% of us, it’s hard to summon motivation and passion out of nowhere. Even for things that are important to us.
Writing your goals down won’t guarantee you results. But writing them down, and taking consistent action toward them WILL guarantee that something will change in a positive way (even if you don’t achieve the exact goal).
So in this section, I’m going to give you practical productivity and motivational techniques that will provide the drive you need to implement habits and reach your goals. I’m also going to give you solutions to common problems people run into when trying to get to work.
The first thing you’ll want to do is saturate yourself with your goals. Develop a ‘healthy obsession’ with the activities that will help you achieve your goals. When you achieve this state of mind, not only do you get a lot more valuable things done, but the focus it provides makes work feel engrossing and enjoyable.
Here’s how to do it.
First, use visualization correctly.
Napoleon Hill called passion your ‘burning desire’ in his famous book ‘Think and Grow Rich’ and he encouraged you to visualize your goals as if they had already come true.
However, there are a few common pitfalls to visualization that can cause goal-setting to fail.
Sometimes, when people visualize their ideal future, it can sap motivation for immediate action. This was documented in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology by Heather Barry Kappes and Gabriele Oettingen in 2011. Apparently, visualizing an amazing future can drain your energy to achieve it.
That’s because visualization can make it feel like you’ve already achieved your goals! And already being successful removes the drive to action.
This tells us that we shouldn’t visualize our ultimate goals if they are something material, such as a big house, a nice car etc.
However, visualization does work in other cases. For some people it works because they’re actually focusing on the ‘gap’ between where they are and where they want to be. That gap drives motivation for immediate action.
Visualization has also been proven to work for goals that involve self-identity. When you imagine yourself as a ‘successful type of person’, and everything about how this type of person would act, it tends to bring about those behaviours in real life.
This is like how boxers ‘shadowbox’ their opponents before a match, but for everyday activities and habits.
You see, visualization can shift your behavior to the state of mind you are imagining. If you imagine yourself as successful, productive & prolific, you’ll begin to behave like a more successful person. But if you imagine yourself as already wealthy and surrounded by luxury, you will become lazy and undisciplined, like the pampered son of a millionaire.
Don’t use visualization to imagine the material end results of your goals. That makes it feel real, and therefore saps your motivation to get there.
Instead, use visualization to put yourself in the shoes of the person you want to be. A boxer gets to know his opponent, then shadowboxes him to imagine how he would deal with his opponent’s style and skills. You can get to know what it takes to be successful at any goal, and then visualize how you’d need to act to get there.
Treat visualization like a ‘life simulator’ that allows you to practice before you get into a situation.
Second, schedule a daily review to examine your goals and what you want from life, and ‘cultivate your passion’ for the activity.
Yes, this is a strange practice for anybody who has never tried it before.
But if you want to be successful, cultivating your motivation for what you want is essential. Action creates passion, and not the other way around.
Here’s exactly what to do during your daily review:
- Before you start work every day, set aside 5 minutes to cultivate motivation. Start by writing down your ultimate ‘Passion Goals’.
- Break down the goals into actions you can take right now. If you’ve already broken down your goals according to the Action Plan section, you have these actions.
- Frame your daily activities in terms of choice. That means you should feel like you’re choosing to do them, instead of feeling like you’re forcing yourself. Don’t say “At 2pm I have to spend 1 hour learning Spanish.” That’s a recipe for resentment. Instead, say “At 2pm I want to learn Spanish, rather than anything else.” It’s a subtle but important difference in mindset.
After you know what you want to do for the day, there are five things you can do to cultivate motivation:
- Review what would happen if you didn’t perform the action. What are the negative consequences? What bad things would happen in every area of your life if you didn’t take these actions today? Embarrassment? Regret? Financial Loss?
- Visualize the obstacles and setbacks you would need to overcome to be successful at the activity. Kappes and Oettigen call this ‘Critical Visualization’. Visualizing possible solutions to the problem gives you confidence to overcome it because humans are natural problem solvers.
- Review stories about people you look up to. Read their training material and success stories.
- Watch videos that glamorize the activity. There’s lot of them on Youtube about nearly every topic.
- Write down the reasons you want to do this activity. What do you stand to gain?
Since I’m a writer, I read a lot of books about writing. I read success stories of other authors, and educational books about writing. When reading I learn a lot of technical details from other authors, but I also get something that’s more valuable to me: the motivation to write more and more.
I’ve come to realize that keeping momentum and movement is important for consistent motivation. Here are a few ways you can do this.
Create a list of to-do’s that excites you enough to push you through.
Create a long list of To-Do’s, that are all exciting to you, so that you can’t wait to get to the next item. When I have 5 books in line that I’m excited to read, I always finish the first book a lot faster because I can’t wait to read the next ones on my list.
Keep track of progress where you can review it every day.
Create a visual representation of your progress, and post it somewhere you can see it every day. Get a whiteboard and draw a graph to map your daily progress. If you can, put this chart somewhere other people can see. That way, the fear of embarrassment will drive your progress.
Although keeping a motivational to-do list and keeping track of your progress can be very helpful, my personal favorite way to keep momentum is through physical ‘movement’.
I picked this term up from one of my heroes of writing, the late Gary Halbert, and it’s deceptively simple: it just means keeping your blood flowing while you work.
The problem is that we’re usually so focused on the mental aspect of motivation and productivity that we forget about the physiological aspect.
When you work at a job that’s sedentary, like writing, the ‘stimulant’ chemicals that keep you alert aren’t replenished in your blood stream. After a few hours of sitting, you come in to a lazy state of mind. You might think you’re just starting to feel ‘lazy’ or ‘unmotivated’, or maybe that you’re running out of willpower, but the truth is that you’re just out of available physical energy.
Without getting too technical, you run out of willpower because the automatic, habitual and emotional processes of the brain take much less energy than the prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex is the seat of conscious thought and willpower (specifically, the function that inhibits the brain’s automatic processes), so when you’re low on energy, your automatic processes take over.
For example, you might have noticed that when you’re low on energy late at night, it’s hard to resist a bowl of ice cream.
To replenish your willpower and keep momentum going, the best thing you can do is get moving physically. This releases stimulating chemicals into your bloodstream which ‘unlocks’ the chemical energy stored in your body, and makes it available to your brain.
I usually go for intermittent runs during the day to keep my energy up, of under 5 minutes each. But you can also do exercise on the spot, such as burpies, running on the spot, jumping jacks, arm rotations, pushups etc.
I’ve found that the best way to make this short routine effective is to make sure that it’s high intensity… When I go for my runs I warm up for 1-2 minutes, and then to 2 sprints of 20 seconds each, at 90% intensity, with a 20 second break in between.
Keep in mind the only purpose of this exercise is to get your blood pumping and to get your energy up. It’s not to tire you out. And you shouldn’t have to take a shower afterward.
Though I don’t get tired and I don’t sweat from this short routine, I always feel energized and ready to take on the next task when I sit back down to work. It’s even better than caffeine.
Overcoming procrastination, fear and uncertainty.
Uncertainty, anxiety and fear can cause aversion to work. It’s pretty common.
As a writer, I know something about it. ‘Writer’s block’ is a common outcome of fear and anxiety. It gets worse and worse as a writer begins to doubt his or her ability to write anything at all.
Joseph Mitchell, who was widely regarded as one of America’s great non-fiction writers, stopped writing in 1964 and famously suffered a case of writer’s block that lasted 30 years. He continued to come into the office all that time, only to produce nothing.
Fortunately, there are ways to avoid procrastination and fear that can prevent you from working, and these techniques apply beyond writing.
1. Trust in an external entity to give you ideas.
Elizabeth Gilbert, the popular author of Eat, Pray, Love, gave a TED talk on this subject. After the major success of Eat, Pray, Love, she began to doubt her ability to write anything good again.
This made it hard for her to get words on the page, until she started thinking differently about the problem.
In the days of ancient Rome and ancient Greece, people didn’t believe that creativity came from human beings, but rather from a divine attendant spirit called a ‘genius’. This allowed writers of the time to escape responsibility for their creativity. If the words were brilliant, it was the gift from the divine. If the words were not so brilliant, then their attendant spirt was taking the day off. Either way, ego was removed from the equation, which made it impossible to take writer’s block personally.
So Gilbert thought: why not imagine that the words weren’t coming from herself, but were ‘gifted’ to her by some unknown entity? As it turned out, this worked for her.
If you’re having self-doubt about your own work, try this out. After all, we now know that creativity comes from human beings, but we aren’t really in control of the process. It’s still very mysterious.
All we can do is feed our brains with as much information as possible and make sure we’re working when creativity finds us.
2. Another way to eliminate uncertainty is to create a checklist process you can put your trust in.
Once you create this checklist, you don’t need to think about making progress on your project, you just need to focus on trusting in the checklist you’ve created.
Create a process that covers everything you’ll need to accomplish a goal, much like I have in this book. When you have a checklist like this, getting to work is much less intimidating.
3. The All-In-One Getting-to-Work Motivational System.
I created this system by experimenting and combining many different methods of getting to work. It was meant for somebody with a serious procrastination problem (me), so used correctly, it should work for you as well.
Rely on these 4 things to avoid procrastination and get to work consistently:
A Timer, Goal Review, Source Material (or a Checklist), and Boredom.
Here’s how it works:
- First of all, prepare to work in advance. Schedule a time each day to focus on your work and nothing else. Plan it the night before so you know what you’re doing for the day. You shouldn’t need to decide in the morning. For example, my most important work is writing content. It is the hardest and most important thing that I do. So I schedule this work at 8am-11am every morning, and I resolve to check messages / emails and do other busy work afterward.
- When it’s time to work, start by eliminating all distractions. Make sure you’re ready to work for the next hour without interruption. Go to the bathroom. Close your office door and put a sign on it. Set your phone to Airplane mode. Do not check Facebook/Twitter/Website Statistics.
- The Working ‘Onramp’. This will get you in the mood for work, moving from a standstill. Set timer for 10 minutes, and review what you want to do for the next few hours. Cultivate Motivation, as I explained before. Give yourself all the positives. ‘Sell’ work to yourself.
- Start timer For 30 minutes immediately after the 10 minute timer runs out. During this time, this is all you’re allowed to do:Can stare at the wall.Can drink water or coffee.Can do absolutely nothing for 30 minutes.Cannot leave chair or workstation for any reason.Can do the work.
- When the 30 minute timer goes off, immediately set the timer again for 5-10 minutes and take a break to do something else. Even if you’re in the middle of the sentence. Go to the bathroom, or go out for a quick run around the block. This is an excellent way to discipline yourself to respect your own time in a low-pressure way.
- After the break timer goes off, immediately set the clock for another 30 minutes, and start the next work period.
- Repeat 6-8 times every day.
There are a lot of interesting psychological concepts at work here. You might notice when you try this. It’s incredibly elegant in it’s simplicity. Using the timer, boredom, and strict 5-10 minute breaks are especially important.
But the end result is that your brain has no alternative but to get to work and stick to the task.
It might take a few days to get used to the system, but people who try it are typically up to speed within a few days. Just expect a small adjustment period.
Also, expect slow work during the first few work periods each day. For me, it would be unusual if I’m able to produce more than 300 or 400 words during the first 30 minutes of my work day. I’m usually just getting my bearings and figuring out what to write. After 1 or 2 work periods I’m usually up to my normal average speed of 600-900 words per 30 minutes.
Also, keep in mind that the work periods are adjustable. There’s nothing special about the 30 minute work period. It can be as short as 15 minutes, and as long as 50 minutes. I just suggest you stick to about the same ratio of breaks to work (50 minutes work, 10 minutes break). The optimal length depends on the type of work you’re doing at the time and what ‘feels right’ to you, so you should experiment with what works.
Lately, I’ve been using 30 minute periods with 5 minute breaks in between. When editing, I typically use 15 minute work periods because it requires less thinking and I don’t need to be too deep in the material.
I keep track of the number of words I edit every 15 minutes, and turn it into a game where I try to beat my ‘best score’ each period. This fast pace keeps me focused and makes editing more enjoyable.
One Last Thought About Passion and Motivation
Passion is the result of action and also the cause of more action… But the only way to become passionate about something is by taking action. You need to get the ball rolling, even if you don’t feel the passion you’re expecting to begin with.
Passion is a cycle fuelled by action. If action is taken away, it is impossible to have passion.
If you sit around waiting for passion to happen to you, it probably never will.
So don’t wait.
Choose a worthy goal to invest your time in, and schedule a time to start making progress. The more time you immerse yourself in a worthy goal, the more passionate you’ll become.
Step 6: Accountability and Goal Tracking
It’s not always easy to stick to plans we set for ourselves. Life makes demands on us and pulls us in different directions until we forget about our dreams.
To make consistent progress toward your goals, you’ll need to create some kind of accountability in your life.
Maybe you’ve already done this for some activities. In some cases, it’s common sense. For example, getting a workout partner for the gym.
However, there’s a wide variety of options for creating accountability for each of your goals, and the more the better. With more accountability, it’s becomes easier to focus. There won’t be any room to procrastinate, get distracted, or debate with yourself about getting to work.
Here are a handful of ways to create more accountability right now:
1. Create mental accountability.
The first kind of accountability is 100% mental. You can manipulate your thoughts by imagining the worst possible scenario if you don’t make progress on your goal today.
What’s the worst thing that could happen if you don’t make any progress toward your goal today?
What could you do right now to stop that from happening?
It’s also useful to go to the extreme:
What if you were going to be murdered at the end of the day if you don’t make X amount of progress toward your goal?
What would you do differently to make enough progress?
I know this sounds a little strange, but stay with me. Imagine this scenario in vivid detail for a minute or two.
When you make it seem very real, your mind automatically starts to think of new ways to accomplish the goal. It’s forced to think of solutions to the problem.
Try it. You might surprise yourself.
And coming back to another idea about mortality that I mentioned earlier: Become comfortable with the fact that you could die at any moment.
Accept it, and keep it on your mind. Not that you actually might die, but that it’s possible your life could end at any moment. It’s true, after all.
I think this idea is strangely empowering… It will set you free to take advantage of every moment, and thoroughly appreciate ever bit of life you have left.
You can only live your life in the present moment, so living with the mindset that life could end at any time forces you to focus on the moment, instead of daydreaming about the past, or worrying about the future.
Neither of which actually matter.
As Thich Nhat Hanh said, “My actions are my only true belongings.”
2. Make your intentions public. Put your progress out in the open.
Peer pressure is usually seen as a bad thing, but in this case you can use it to your advantage. Instead of allowing people to pressure you into doing the things they think are right for you, ask them to help you progress towards goals you want!
The first way to do this is to use a visual progress board. Say your goal is to meditate for 5 total hours every week, and 20 hours every month. Use a whiteboard or a piece of paper and draw a progress chart. Maybe a thermometer-style graph, like the ones charities use for pledge drives.
The top of the chart is your goal, 20 hours, and the bottom is zero hours. Write a clear date on the top and bottom to display the timeline in which you want to accomplish this goal.
Then post this graph up where many people can see it. Put it up in your house, or even scan it and post it to social media or your blog every day.
Every day, record your progress.
Let people cheer you on. Or ask them to criticize you. Having other people behind you will make it much harder to give up on your goal. They’ll give you support when you’re falling behind, and you’ll have more people to share success with.
You can also contact people directly and tell them you’re going to accomplish a certain goal.
Ask friends and family to interrogate you about your meditation, and tell them to check your progress graph to see if you’re meeting your daily goals.
You can also send a friend weekly progress updates by email. They don’t have to respond to your emails, but you can ask them to read it every week. Just knowing that somebody will be looking over your shoulder is enough good pressure to make sure you don’t weasel out of your goals.
3. Set-It-And-Forget-It Accountability
You’ll also want to build ‘automatic’ accountability into your life using technology. Your phone and email account can be great distractions, but they can also help you accomplish things that are important.
Create calendar, phone and email reminders.
Set up deadlines and deliverables in your electronic calendar app. I use Google Calendar for this, and I set deadlines as often as possible for every project I have. If I don’t set deadlines, I’ll procrastinate and get distracted, and I’ll never get to the next project.
In Google Calendar, it’s simple to create an entry and click ‘Add Notification’ on the event settings page. This will automatically email you or send you a pop up notice at any time you like. You can set several notifications, at different times, to remind you of an important deadline.
Schedule and create deadlines for everything you do, as often as possible.
Here’s a roundup of the most useful online accountability & coaching apps to help you to stay on track to your goals.
Best Apps For Accountability / Coaching
Commitie – This one is like your online accountability partner. It sends you reminders, motivates you to stay on track to your goal, and helps you to form good habits. You can also join the community, make your resolutions public, and cheer others on as they work toward their goals.
Coach.me – this app offers in-app expert coaching, a community of people all geared towards accomplishing goals, and analytics to track how you’re progressing.
If your goals are anything measurable, such as running, weight, time spent on Twitter or time spent writing, you can use Beeminder to stay on track. You can pledge money to the site to keep yourself accountable, and if you go off track, they charge you. It can be integrated into many different apps such as IFTTT, duolingo, gmail, Fitbit, Runkeeper, Garmin and more, so that you can track your goals automatically. It provides graphs and analytics to help you see patterns in your habits, as well.
If you’re into simple apps, this one’s for you. You pledge $21 to stick to a habit for 21 days. If you stick to the habit, you get your money back. If not, you’re charged. The idea is that hopefully, after 21 days, your habit becomes automatic.
Helps you to improve your real-life habits by turning your life into a game. You can improve your habits to advance in the game and collect in-game gear and prizes. If you start slipping in real life, then your in-game character loses health, items or money. You can compete with friends and get support from the community for any type of habit. You can even connect it to chrome, and set yourself up to lose points when you browse unproductive websites.
Mind Jogger (iTunes Store)
Remind yourself of things you need to do consistently throughout the day with this convenient little app.
3. Get an accountability partner
If your goal is related to any social activity where you’re practicing around other people, it’s usually easy to find people to partner up with.
At the gym, for example, there are lots of people to partner up with. If you don’t know anybody at the gym, you could post a note on the gym corkboard that you’re looking for a workout partner in a similar situation to your own.
However, finding accountability partners for other goals can be more complicated. Personal development goals, such as reading, meditation, or writing, aren’t usually done around other people. So how do you find partners to help you with these goals?
Here are some places to look:
Online forums and blogs in the topic
Post in the forum or comments section that you’re looking for a partner. Search google for “[topic] forum” or “[topic] blog”, and you’re bound to find people with a common interest.
Meetup is a great place for like-minded people to find others in their local community. Unless your goal is very obscure, there’s bound to be people in the local community who are looking to partner up.
Facebook is probably the easiest way to find groups of people who are interested in a certain topic. Trying searching for your topic in the Facebook search bar, and filtering your search for Groups only.
Who should you look for?
Look for people who are positive, committed and honest enough to set you straight if you stop making progress toward your goal. Don’t be afraid to go through a few partners before finding somebody with similar personality, goals and motivations as yourself.
Schedule meetings with your partner on a regular basis to talk formally about progress. Decide exactly when you’re going to be meeting. You could schedule meetings weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly.
During your meetings, you can discuss:
- What your previous weekly goals were and how much you actually accomplished.
- What you could do differently next time to meet / exceed your previous goals.
- What problems you each ran into, and what solutions you came up with.
- Your goals from then until the next meeting.
By discussing each of these points during meetings, you’ll be able to provide advice and a valuable new perspective to each other.
You’ll be able to learn from each other’s mistakes and solve each other’s problems much more quickly than you could on your own, and you’ll have extra incentive to exceed your goals more often.
4. Use Mastermind Groups to keep you committed and to see problems from different angles.
Mastermind groups are basically large groups of accountability partners. In general, you’ll talk less about your own personal motivation and your own problems, and more about the common problems you face.
You’ll be able to see the problems of others and hear stories of how they solved them.
The type of people that attend mastermind groups are usually the type of people who are passionate about pursuing their goals. It’s a good idea to expose yourself to as many of these people as possible if you want to achieve your goals, as well.
In a mastermind group, you can get honest feedback from a large number of people on your current ability and results. A problem that has seemed impossible to crack for months could be solved instantly at a mastermind group by a single person who’s been through the same thing.
You’ll also be able to share contacts, know-how, skills, and resources to help each other reach your common goals.
5. Get Coaching.
Hiring an experienced coach is another option. If you’re serious about success in a certain field, hiring an expert coach could take years off the learning curve.
A coach can help you view your problems from a different perspective, and provide motivation when you start to get lazy.
Some coaches help you in a specific area, such as a martial arts coach, a gym coach, or a business coach. There are also coaches who are there to motivate you in general and provide honest feedback about problems. These coaches might also be called ‘mentors’.
In either case, you should choose a coach who has similar interests to you and has already been through the problems you’re facing. A coach on a specific topic is more useful because you can get motivation and advice in addition to their expertise on the subject you’re interested in.
Where can you find a coach?
When you start looking for a coach, you’ll likely find lots of people who would like to share their experience and knowledge with you in one way or another.
Here are a few places to start:
Local businesses and organizations that specialize in the subject you’re interested in.
Ask an Expert websites that charge by the minute rates, such as http://www.prestoexperts.com.
Upwork and Elance
You can find professionals to give you advice on a particular problem, and hire them hourly or by fixed rate.
This is probably the best way to get a coach, because when a client is referred to a coach by somebody she knows, she will always make an extra effort to deliver quality results. You can ask people at local organizations, or even in online communities. Ask experts if they know anybody they would recommend as a coach, or if they would like to take you on themselves for a weekly coaching session.
The ‘Virtual Coach’ Option
If you don’t want to hire a real-live personal coach, you can always follow the teachings of a coach who produces courses and books. Take notes on their teachings and learn from their mistakes.
To use their materials most effectively, keep a file folder (a real folder or a folder on on your computer) with teachings that would apply to different situations and problems.
For example, if you’re learning how to play guitar, keep separate folders on strumming, fretting, stringing your guitar, intervals, blues, metal etc.
That way, you can consult your file system quickly if you need advice on something in particular.
If you don’t have this file system handy, you’ll have to sift through the courses again… And because this takes so much effort, you probably never will.
Bonus Step: Learn Skills Quickly
To achieve goals, it’s usually necessary to learn new skills.
Even though it’s not part of the Checklist, I’ve put together a short Crash Course with 10-Steps to learn any new skill to proficiency, fast.
Just click here to read it after you’re done with this guide:
Common Obstacles To Setting Goals & Frequently Asked Questions
1. I forget about my goals. How do I pursue them when life keeps getting in the way?
It’s easy to set goals and then forget about them after a few days. We all have a lot on our plates, and most of the time, it seems like there aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done.
We also have habits we perform almost ‘automatically’ every day, which are hard to give up.
However, if you want to achieve a new goal, the reality is that you’re going to have to give something else up. Goal setting is a method of prioritizing what’s really important to you.
The good news is you now have the opportunity to examine what’s really important to your in life, and cut out the activities dragging you down. Once you establish a new set of important goals, it becomes easier to remove bad habits (such as watching too much TV) and fill that time with something meaningful and fulfilling.
If you tend to forget about goals after you set them, make a point to decide on the activities you’re going to sacrifice, as well. You’ll end up with extra time, and you can use that time to work on your new goals. If you watch 3 hours of TV every night, for example, there’s three hours you can use to learn a new language or a a new instrument.
You just have to make the decision to focus on what’s most important, then schedule time to take action on it.
2. What if I don’t possess enough talent to achieve a goal?
Believe it or not, ‘talent’, as we usually think of it, is a myth. Consider the stories of Mozart or Michael Jordan.
Mozart is the typical example of a ‘child prodigy’. But the truth most people don’t know is that Mozart’s father was a professional piano teacher and a highly skilled composer in his own right. He gave Mozart at least 10,000 hrs of professional training before he was 10.
And Michael Jordan, as you might know, was cut from his high school basketball team. He didn’t earn his NBA rings due to talent… It’s widely known that he had one of the most disciplined training regimes in all of pro sports.
‘Talent’ could be called the initial advantages that Michael Jordan had, such as his height, but keep in mind that there are many tall people who don’t have don’t six NBA championship titles.
It’s easy to dismiss achievements like his as accidents and freak events because you don’t see all the years of effort invested into disciplined practice, all focused on a single goal.
In the end, desire and work habits are more important than talent. Besides, you don’t really know how good you’ll be at something until you start doing it regularly.
Don’t focus on how talented others are. Only focus on controlling your own effort. Focus on stacking good habits and setting the right goals, and you’ll triumph over yourself and the competition.
3. I don’t like to set goals because I’m not a “goal driven person”. I enjoy being taken by the wind and seeing where I’ll end up.
Many people think that they can go through life without goals, but truth is that’s just not possible. Let me explain.
If you’ve made any accomplishment in life, you’ve probably already set some sort of goals. Even if they were very small goals.
Maybe you just set goals for each day. Or maybe your goals are ‘lifestyle’ goals ie. you aim to live in a certain way.
The bottom line is that human beings are built for problem-solving, and the most fulfilling activities we do fall under one major problem:
“How to become our ideal selves.”
We are happiest when we have an idea of who we want to be, and then work towards that ideal person.
That’s why money doesn’t make you happy. And that’s how people get bored of their new car, or cry at a wedding. ‘Happiness’ is fleeting because once we achieve something, we always want more.
True fulfillment comes from the ongoing pursuit of a worthy ideal.
And the best way to pursue a worthy ideal is to set big goals.
Now, if you set goals with the attitude that each one must be reached, that makes it scary to set goals.
After all, there’s a chance you’ll go after something and never achieve it.
But goal setting doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing effort. You don’t have to achieve your goals to get something out of them.
It’s more about passionately following something that gives you joy and brings you closer to your ideal self.
The pursuit of something meaningful makes life worth living.
So why not dream a little bigger? Don’t worry if you don’t achieve your goals… The thrill is in the pursuit.
Since goals are only there to excite you and motivate you, why not set those borderline-crazy goals that could turn out to be more fulfilling than anything you’ve ever done so far?
4. I’ve set goals before, but I’m constantly disappointed and demoralized. I let myself and others down.
If you keep track of everything you’ve failed at, that’s all you’ll focus on. There’s no better way to crush your own spirit than to focus on your failures. Instead of worrying about your failures:
- Chalk them up to learning experiences.
- Decide that you’d do something different next time if you were in the same situation.
- Then, set a new goal and make a plan to pursue it.
When you get defensive and start thinking about everything you want to aviod, that’s all you’ll think about. You won’t be thinking of ways to improve, and you’ll constantly live in a state of paralyzing fear.
5. I feel like life will be less exciting with goals. Isn’t life better with more spontaneity?
It might seem like planning your life takes away spontaneity, but the truth is you can still be ‘spontaneous’ with goals. You just won’t have any more ‘spontaneous’ anxiety, worries, and frustrations.
Your thoughts will be focused on something you’re building and working toward. You’ll find that you get more spontaneous ideas when you’re working toward a goal, because your thoughts are centred around one positive thing.
You’ll be in happier state of mind, and because of that, you’ll come up with better ways to spend your down time as well.
Your mind is a problem solving machine, and you can apply it to any problem you like.
You do that by setting goals. You can even set goals to be more spontaneous, if you like. Maybe you want to set aside time to come up with something completely new, or commit to doing something new every weekend.
Humans are natural problem solvers. We are goal-oriented. It’s just a matter of whether we choose our own goals, or if we allow life to choose goals for us.
Why not choose the most fulfilling goals possible?
6. What if I decide that I don’t want to work toward a goal I set anymore?
The beautiful thing about goals is that they can be changed at any time. They are just tools to change immediate behavior and make life more satisfying in the present moment.
They don’t have to be some kind of monumental investment of energy and emotion. When a goal is viewed like that, and there’s no pleasure in the pursuit, it becomes less effective, in fact.
You can change and adapt your goals at anytime, and most likely, you’ll need to. I don’t think I’ve ever set a goal that I didn’t modify at some point. Once you start working in a certain field, you always uncover new information, and you’ll have to adapt your goals accordingly.
This is an important point because it’s easy to waste weeks debating whether or not you want to pursue a goal… even though you don’t know much about it until you start making progress. Time spent debating what your goals should be can be better used by getting to work and learning from mistakes in the real world.
7. What if I feel too discouraged and I want to stop?
Discouragement happens to everybody. I consider myself to be pretty experienced at setting goals, and even I let it get to me sometimes.
Of course, the important thing is that you don’t let it affect the progress you make for the day. Discouragement is just a bad mood, and it will pass, like any other mood. Review your goals. Read an article or book about the stories of your heroes and become re-inspired. Focus on the progress you’ve made so far.
Whenever I’m feeling paralyzed by over-analysis and worry, I find this little process helpful:
- Set a timer for 5 minutes, and allow yourself to worry until the timer ends. Write everything down and organize your thoughts if you need to. How are you feeling about this goal today? Why are you feeling like that?
- Right when the timer ends, think of a tiny step that will allow you to make progress on your goal in some way, and do it. Then think of another tiny step, and do that one, too.
As a writer, my ‘tiny steps’ are eliminating distractions, one by one:
- I turn off all unnecessary apps.
- Put on headphones and turn on my ‘work music’, which is wordless piano music. It’s also the same playlist of songs I use every day. When I hear the music, it tells my brain that it’s time for work.
- Turn my phone to Mute.
- Start timer for 30 minutes and get into work.
Then, I read my outline notes and write 100 words. Doesn’t matter what the words are. There’s no standard of quality. Getting the ball rolling on my writing, even if what I write is total crap, motivates me to keep going.
8. Doesn’t the road to achievement and success make people miserable?
Well, it’s a matter of your motives for chasing a goal. If the journey toward a goal goes against your personal ethics, then you’re probably going to be miserable.
But if you choose a goal that has a journey worth taking, then the road to success can be more fulfilling than success itself.
Success, to me, is about creating a desire so deep-set that you feel joy in hard work. Have you ever been hard at work toward a purpose and felt a sense of detachment from the world, loss of time, and complete focus on the activity?
This is a state of ‘flow’, what athletes call being ‘in the zone’, and it’s one of the most fulfilling states of mind that a human being can hope to achieve.
I feel this way when I write (most of the time), and that’s why I love to do it.
What activity do you love to do?
If you can’t think of any activity that you love to do, then what way of life do you love? Where would you like to live? What would you like to do on a daily basis?
In my opinion, having a life that you enjoy on a daily basis is true success… Not setting some grand goal and suffering for decades in it’s pursuit.
Decide what you’d like to do on a day-to-day basis, and set your goals based on that.
What goal could you set that would have a journey similar to your favorite way to live?
For example, when it comes to setting your professional goals:
If you like to travel, what job could you pursue that would allow you to travel a lot?
If you like to sit on the beach and tan, what profession would allow you to live near the ocean?
If you love to play the guitar, what profession could support a lifestyle where you’d be playing guitar for most of the day?
If you’re still not sure what to choose, let me give you some inspiration to find your most fulfilling activity.
A decades-long ‘happiness study’ by Mihalyi Czikzenmihalyi, as told in his classic psychology book Flow (Highly recommended if you haven’t already read it), concluded that people who spent the most time doing ‘flow’ activities were the most happy people in the world.
There are 9 components to ‘flow’ activities:
- Challenge-skill balance (not too hard, but still challenging enough so that you’re constantly gaining skill throughout your lifetime)
- Merging of action and awareness
- Clarity of goals
- Immediate and unambiguous feedback (you know when you’re doing well, and when you did something incorrectly, right away)
- Concentration on the task at hand
- Paradox of control (letting go of control, surrendering to the activity)
- Transformation of time (sense of time is lost or warped)
- Loss of self-consciousness
- Autotelic experience (performing the activity for it’s own sake, and no other purpose eg. For monetary gain)
As it turns out, the happiest people were not the wealthiest people, but they were more likely to be craftsmen, tool makers, and tradespeople, who spent their work lives in a state of flow according to these nine components.
The Complete Goal Setting Checklist
Step 1: What Goals Should You Set?
Part I: Find the Activities that give you the most fulfillment in every day life.
- Use these questions from Step 1.
- Look at the principle behind the activities – what attributes make them so fulfilling to you?
- Write down a list of your Passion Activities.
Part II. Choose Activities That Are Naturally Fulfilling To The Human Spirit
- Use the 4 Areas of ‘Full Engagement’ to balance your goals.
- Write down 1 or 2 ‘Engagement Activities’ that will satisfy each area.
- Use the checklist of characteristics in the first section to make sure you’re choosing activities that are most likely to be fulfilling in the long-term.
- Write down the activities you’d like to do every day. Fit your Passion Activities into each of the 4 Areas of Engagement
- Write down Engagement Activities to balance out your life and provide fuel for your Passion Activities.
Step 2: SMART – The Best Method To Create Useful Goals
- Set Goals for each of your Activities in the SMART Format: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound
- Start with your Passion Activities, and set your Passion Goals. The rest of your life will revolve around these goals, because they’re the most important things to you. Set the biggest Ultimate Goals possible, and ignore the Attainable rule of SMART Goal Setting. Use this set of rules instead.
- Create 5 Year Goals for each of the Activities you’ve written down. This is the state you would like each activity to be in 5 Years from now.
- Write down your goals where you can easily access them every day. Here are some simple suggestions.
Step 3: Create Your Method / Action Plan
- Break down your 5 Year Goals Into Milestones. Write down your 1 Year Goals, one for each of the next 5 Years. (Using this process you will work backwards to figure out what you need to do today)
- Break down your next 1 Year goal into your 3 Month Goals
- Break down your next 3 Month Goal into your 1 Month Goal
- Break down your next 1 Month Goal into your 1 Week Goals.
- At the start of each week, break down your next 1 Week Goal into Daily Goals.
- Review your goals the night before and every morning to prepare for the day ahead. Write down 5 Essentials For The Day
Step 4: Scheduling & Habits
- Figure out which goals use a daily practice. For these goals, you can create habits.
- Figure out what the habits are for each goal. There could be more than one habit for every goal.
- Anchor new habits to existing habits using ‘Implementation Intentions’
- Use external support to maintain your habits.
- Expect and prepare for setbacks
Step 5: Motivation, Passion & Getting Down To Work
- Cultivate motivation by using visualization correctly
- Schedule a daily review and cultivate your passion
- Create a list of to-do’s that you’re excited to finish (this creates pressure to finish the first item on the list)
- Keep track of progress and try to beat your previous performance.
- Use physical movement to create mental movement
- Know how to overcome procrastination and uncertainty
- Use the All-In-One Getting to Work Motivational System to get to work right away.
Step 6: Accountability and Goal Tracking
Use as many of these types of accountability as possible each time you set goals:
- Mental accountability. Imagine the worst possible scenario.
- Put your progress out in the open for all to see
- Use calendar, phone and email reminders
- Use coaching and accountability apps
- Get an accountability partner
- Join a Mastermind Group
- Get Coaching
Bonus Step: Learn Necessary Skills
All of the Goal Elements you should have written down:
- Passion Activities
- Engagement Activities: 1-2 Activities for each of the 4 Areas of Engagement
- Passion Goals (Your BIG Goals)
- 5 Year Goals (including Engagement Goals)
- 1 Year Goals
- 3 Month Goals
- 1 Month Goals
- 1 Week Goals
- Daily Goals (set these each week)
What To Focus On, Day-To-Day:
As I said, you won’t need to remember all of these components. You just need to have them written down.
These are the only things you need to keep in mind on a day-to-day basis to use this system:
The 3 Goal Review Periods.
- 30 min, once per week (Sunday). Review and modify all of your goals. On the last Sunday of the month, make a plan for the next month.
- 10 min At night before bed. Review and modify your goals, and write down the 5 Essentials For The Day based on your 1 Week Goals. Visualize what you can do to have a productive, satisfying day.
- 10 min each morning. Review the 5 Essentials For The Day, and start by using the All-In-One Getting to Work System.
IMPORTANT: Lastly, focus on how great it will feel at the end of the day to get everything done that you want to get done, and developing your habits. Avoid trying to get motivation by reviewing how far you’ve progressed toward your goal, because that is de-motivating 99% of the time (after all, you haven’t gotten there yet)… Instead, just focus on the satisfaction of putting in effort and on developing your habits and motivation. If you use this perspective, making progress toward your goals will become easier and easier.
Now you have a powerful system for setting fulfilling goals, and a system to start making progress right away. Enjoy!
Also, I love to hear about progress and problems from people using this information. Leave a comment below! I read every comment, but I can’t guarantee I will respond.