The internet is full of great (or sometimes not so great) free advice on how to achieve almost anything.
Want to lose weight? Try the Keto Diet. HIIT workouts. Intermittent Fasting.
Want to grow your Medium Audience? Follow people. Write great stuff. Support other writers. Write good headlines.
Want to be successful? Be brave. Kind. Hard-working.
Some of these tactics are highly effective, but they all have one major problem:
They make you think achieving your goal is about finding the ONE winning tactic. The missing piece.
But if you study the people that are actually successful in their field you will find one thing they have in common:
They all have built systems. Their own blueprints for success. And they stick to them every single day.
Because the science of achieving goals is not about identifying the ONE winning tactic — it is about setting the right goals in the first place, identifying a powerful combination of principles, hacks and habits, making sure you plan, prepare and track your efforts and most importantly, have the right mindset!
Building a goal-getting system is almost like automating the goal achievement process — once it is set-up, it runs like a well-oiled machine with all its parts neatly working together.
So finally, here it is — your missing piece for achieving your goals: It’s building your own complete system.
Here is how to do it:
The Elements of the Goal-Getting System
Obvious, but often under-prioritised. HOW & WHY you set your goals can make or break your success in achieving them.
Don’t just think about your action strategy and tactics to achieve your goals. Think about the meta-level of these tactics. Which of them can be classified as habits, what are principles and what are hacks you have come up with? Depending on which category your tactic falls into, you will need different planning & tracking systems. (You will find more detailed information about every category in the step-by-step guide.)
Your essential foundations are the part of your blueprint that you can’t skip if you want to achieve your goals, but they are also not directly contributing to your how-to strategy. How you are tracking, planning and evaluating your goals is part of your foundations, as is getting yourself into the right mindset.
A Step-by-Step Walkthrough
1. Goal Setting
When setting your goals, think about the following two aspects: HOW to choose them and HOW to set them.
How to choose goals:
There is really only one question you should ask yourself when it comes to choosing goals: IS THIS WHAT I REALLY REALLY WANT?
Be honest with yourself or you will set yourself up for failure right from the start.
But sometimes this question is really hard to answer. If that’s the case, ask yourself the following questions instead to get to the bottom of the matter:
- Is this goal aligned with my priorities? Example: Setting a financial saving goal while your actual priorities are travelling the world, going out with friends and investing in your career might not be feasible.
- How would it make me feel when I achieve that goal? Is there other ways to achieve that feeling? Example: You want to loose weight because you think it will get you into a romantic relationship. You are however, not really overweight and the actual issue is your self worth.
How to set goals:
Choosing the right goals is only one half of the equation, setting them theright way is the other half. There is countless goal-setting strategies, however there is basically 2 fundamentally different ways to approach goal setting:
This would be goals like “run a marathon in 3 months” or “loose 10kgs by March 2018”. If you pick this type of goal setting, it makes sense to set your goals with the S.M.A.R.T. technique (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely). I don’t want to get into it here, but ReigningIt 👑wrote a great post about it here:
Sometimes it does not make sense to pick a specific outcome as your goal. Instead, it makes more sense to visualise and describe your ideal state for this area of your life, the person you want to be or how you want to feel.
Here is an example: “I am the type of person that works out 3 times a week even when I am travelling, I feel naturally energised every day without any stimulants, follow a paleo lifestyle and feel happy and fulfilled without needing alcohol.”
You can find very specific goals in this vision like not drinking alcohol and working out 3 times a week, but you can’t find a specific outcome like loosing weight or running a marathon.
2. How-To Strategy
Once you have set your goal, brainstorm all the actions you could take to achieve your goal by asking yourself “What could I do to achieve this goal?”. When you think you have enough actions, ask yourself “What else could I do to achieve this goal?”. Extending your brainstorming will force you to get creative and this is where the magic happens and you’ll come up with the best strategies.
Once you have brainstormed all possible actions, filter and prioritise them. Think of 2 criteria according to which you will evaluate your strategies. Your criteria might be for example: ease of execution, cost, time needed,
Then, categorise your actions into 3 categories:
Habits are actions you can schedule in your calendar and do every day or every week. Over time, your brain will get so used to the habit that you will start doing it automatically or even “crave” doing it.
Some Habit Examples: run 3 times a week, meditate daily, journal every night, plan your week on Sundays,
How to implement your habits: For each habit, define the specifics (what, when, where) — it’s best to do your habits at the same time every day or the same day every week to make it easier for your brain to make an actual habit out of it. Then, make a list of all your weekly habits and create a habit checklist. Now every time you plan your week, get your habit checklist and plan all your habits into your calendar. To make it easier, you can set them as a repeating event. If you need additional support managing your habits, check out the tools below for habit tracking.
Principles are rules that are guiding your decisions. Over time, you will get used to them and automatically make better decisions.
Some Examples for Principles: I only drink once a week. I don’t eat after 10pm. I don’t consume processed foods. I only check my email at 2pm and 6pm. I think before I speak.
How to implement your principles: Write them down somewhere and stick it on your fridge or put it in your journal. Look at it every morning to memorise your principles. Know your trigger situations for your principles and always stop before you act. Remember your principle and then decide. For example: If your principle is “I don’t eat after 10pm”, your trigger situation is being hungry at 10:30pm. Before getting something to eat, breathe in and breathe out, remember your principle and let it guide your decision.
Hacks are additional strategies that can accelerate your goal achievement process by basically tricking yourself into doing something. This is a very personal one, as not every hack works for everyone. Basically think of all the creative ways that make it easier to achieve your goal.
Some Examples for Hacks:
- Decide on 1 type of healthy breakfast with only 3 ingredients that you can easily make even if you are stressed or travelling — this eliminates the decision process and makes it easier to default to a healthy breakfast.
- Hire a personal trainer that kicks your ass and holds you accountable. Or join a community where you need to pay when you miss a workout. Or make a pact with yourself that every time you don’t work out, you need to donate 10$ to a cause that you really really don’t want to support (e.g. the Donald Trump campaign fund).
- Identify your cornerstone habits and stick to them. For example: do you find it easier to eat healthy and work out once you had a healthy breakfast? Make sure you get that ONE habit right every day and it will make it easier to stick to your other ones.
How to implement your hacks: There is no unified implementation strategy, as it really depends on the specific hack. But usually it is about taking a conscious decision and making the arrangements to set your hack into place. The rest will usually take care of itself.
3. Essential Foundations
Even if you get everything else right, you are doomed to fail if you lack the foundations and supporting systems for achieving your goals. So make sure you’ve set them in place when you are starting your goal achievement journey.
a) Planning & Tracking Systems:
No blueprint is complete without your own system for planning, tracking and evaluating your goal achievement progress. For each aspect, choose an existing app or set up your own system (e.g. a Google Sheet).
Not only should you make a plan for how to achieve your goals when you set them, but its best to make a plan EVERY WEEK. Take your habit checklist and your goal list and look at your calendar. Then, plan in your goal achievement habits before you plan anything else. Also, say no to incoming requests that don’t fit your principles (e.g. Pizza lunch). The idea is to proactively design your week in a way that is aligned with your priorities and goals instead of getting your week filled up by other people that don’t have your goals in mind.
How are you gonna track your goal achievement progress? Can you define a single progress metric (e.g. weight-loss in kgs) for each goal that you will track every week and note down in a Google Sheet? Additionally, think about using an app that lets you track your habit streak, aka how often in a row you did your habit.
Set aside time to regularly evaluate your goal achievement blueprint. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Which strategies (habits, principles, hacks) worked well this week?
- Which strategies (habits, principles, hacks) did not work this week and why? What do I need to change?
Evaluate both the aspect of effectiveness (how well is your strategy working to achieve your goal) as well as the sticking-to-it aspect (how well are you able to stick to it and what do you need to change to improve).
Without the right mindset, you won’t get anywhere with your goals. To create the optimal mindset to achieve your goals, ask yourself the following questions:
- What kind of beliefs do I need to achieve this goal?
- What do people that have already achieved this goal believe?
- What is subconsciously holding me back from achieving this goal?
- What are my fears surrounding this goal?
Once you have identified the mindset that is holding you back and created new empowering beliefs that will help you achieve your goals, make sure you program them into your brain through regular affirmations.
However, it is often very difficult to work on your mindset all by yourself and it might help to work with a coach to transform your limiting beliefs and fears.
Liz Huber is a Mindset & Productivity Coach and Founder of refinedlife.io. With her books, courses, and 1-on-1 work, she helps entrepreneurs overcome overwhelm, lack of focus, fear, and self-doubt. As a result, her clients are able to confidently achieve their goals by prioritizing what is truly important and streamlining everything else.