If you could achieve just one thing this year, what would it be?
Whether you’re picturing yourself crossing the finish line of the London marathon, shaking hands with your boss after earning a huge promotion, or buying a one-way ticket to Australia, all of us dream of becoming a better, happier, healthier version of ourselves. Yet so often the goals we set seem so hopelessly impossible to achieve that we give up before we’ve even begun.
It doesn’t have to be that way. We all have the power to change our lives for the better. Our goals defeat us not because we aren’t good enough, but because the methods we use to achieve them aren’t good enough.
Try following these 5 simple steps, and this could be the year you finally become whoever you want to be.
Step One: Pick one goal.
Imagine that your fairy godmother rocked up this very moment and offered to grant you every wish you could think of. Chances are you’d reel off a v-e-r-y long list, because most of us have multiple ambitions and goals. Consequently, whenever we think about resolution-making, the temptation is to determine to tick everything at once.
Unfortunately, in a world devoid of fairy-godmother magic, goals can only be achieved by working hard for them. Pile too much of that hard work on at once and you’ll become overwhelmed and quit.
Remember that one success is better than multiple failures! Don’t fracture your focus: pick just one goal and devote all your energy to completing it.
Step Two: Make success measurable.
Thought of your goal? Good. Does it sound anything like one of the following: “be healthier”, “be richer”, “be more organised”? If the answer is yes, then rip it up and head back to the drawing board. These are examples of bad goals. Bad goals are generic, subjective, and consequently almost impossible to achieve. Exactly how organised is organised enough?
A good goal has an obvious, measurable end point. Think “I want to lose 3 stone” or “I want to save £5,000”. Not only is it clear what you’re aiming for, it’s also easy to track your progress.
The single best motivator to push us over a finish line is to be able to see how far we’ve already come. If you’ve diligently racked up £4,990 you’re very likely to skip those last two pints and add the tenner to your savings account. If you’re entirely unsure how much more celery you need to munch down on before you become adequately “healthier” you’re much more likely to jack it all in at the first sight of a Twix.
Step Three: Break the goal into the smallest steps possible.
Most people’s goals are big, challenging and lifechanging. That’s what makes them exciting – you wouldn’t feel the same sense of achievement completing something you could knock off in half an hour tomorrow morning. But the problem is that when you measure the distance between your end goal and where you are today, the huge gap is incredibly disheartening.
Luckily there is a simple solution; break your goal down into easily-completed chunks, and focus on completing just one chunk at a time. Every slob knows he can’t just roll out of bed one morning and run a marathon, so he considers it foolish to try. But if his immediate focus was to complete just half a mile, the fact that it appears achievable encourages him to go for it. By building up slowly, he becomes the champion runner he could never have imagined being when he began.
Every time you find yourself struggling, make your goal steps smaller. Even moving a millimetre each day gets you further than if you never moved at all.
Step Four: Plan how you will achieve each step.
If you’ve followed Step Three and made you goal steps nice and easy the amount of planning involved should be minimal – but that doesn’t mean it can be neglected entirely!
Most resolutions require tools to move forward: a gym membership, a foreign language dictionary, a savings account etc. Make sure you’ve got everything you need set up and ready to go so that when you have a burst of motivation you won’t be hampered by any annoying necessities blocking your way.
Step Five: Get going!
By this point, you should know exactly what you’re going to do and exactly how you’re going to do it. All that’s left is to get out and get going!
Prepare yourself for experiencing some inevitable slipups. They happen to everyone; the trick is to see them for the temporary setback they are and not get disheartened. It’s always okay to revert back a step if you need to. All you have to do is to keep moving, keep trying, and you can achieve anything you set your mind on.