I have always been a fairly ambitious person. I think this comes from my Mum, who, despite everything she had working against her, still managed to go after her goals and achieve them. She encouraged me to dream and to go after my goals, and I never felt restricted in the things I could accomplish. I also knew a lot of very unambitious people, and from an early age, I knew that this was not the life for me.
Growing up, I participated in a lot of musicals. My elementary school put on big productions with beautiful sets and fancy costumes. We had rehearsals every spare minute of the day for an entire year leading up to the play. It was intense. But it taught me a lot about how to present myself, how to manage my time, and most importantly, how to set goals.
As a young girl, all I wanted in life was to be a lead role and to sing my own song on stage. It’s the first real goal I can remember making; I was about 7 years old. It took about 7 years for me to achieve that goal, but I did it. I got to sing my song on stage, and it was one of my proudest moments ever.
Fast-forward to now, I realize that part of the reason it was one of my proudest moments, is because it was one of the first real, lofty, goals that I had made for myself and actually accomplished. If you’ve ever set a big goal for yourself and actually accomplished it, you know that it feels SO GOOD!
So I’ve always loved setting goals for myself. They can be small, daily “To-do” lists, or lofty “Kathleen-you’re-such-a-dreamer” goals. Either way, I write them down. I learned that tip from the book “The Secret”, which I read in university. It’s the type of book that you either love, or you think is pure hogwash. Me? I love it. Sure, I question the validity of some of the claims in the book, but I have to believe that there is some truth behind all the research and anecdotes sprinkled throughout.
So I write my goals down. Every day. And another tip from the book is to write your goals down as if they have already been accomplished. For example, instead of stating “I want to buy a house”, you could write “I am the homeowner of a beautiful 4-bedroom house”. Or, instead of stating “I wan’t to pay off my debt”, you could say “I am living debt-free!” I know, I know, it sounds a bit hokey, but just stay with me. It all has to do with the energy you are putting out into the universe. By stating your goals as if they have already been accomplished, you are putting a positive energy into the universe, which will attract other positive energy, which will help to align the universe into making your goals and dreams come true. If you find that hard to get behind, then think of it this way – when you write your goals down every day as if they’ve already happened, it becomes like your inner narrative – you naturally start to believe them more and more, which causes you to focus more of your thoughts and energy on achieving them, which in turn, helps you to achieve them!
So throughout my life I have continued setting goals for myself, and what I’ve found with some experience and research, is that is actually a simple formula to setting and achieving goals. It involves only five steps:
1. Define your goal
2. Determine your reward for achieving your goal
3. Create an action plan – Break your goal into smaller chunks, with deadlines!
4. Write your goal down every day – as if it has already happened
5. Take the first step
Let’s break each of these down a little further:
1.Define your goals
You can’t work towards a goal if you don’t know what that goal is. So the first step is to define it. Think about what you want. What your dreams are. What does your goal look like. Visualize it. Be as clear and specific as you can. Follow the SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-bound) guidelines to ensure it is a good goal. Be specific – don’t just say “I want to lose weight”. Instead, make it measurable. How much weight do you want to lose? Is that attainable and realistic? When do you want to lose the weight by? Once you have sorted all that out, your new goal becomes: “I want to lose 10 pounds in two months. I will do this by doing 10,000 steps every day, gym 3 times per week, and eating a smoothie for breakfast and a salad for lunch everyday with limited carbs in between.” Now you have a clear idea of what your goal is, when you want to accomplish it by, and how you’re going to accomplish it.
2. Determine your reward
Positive reinforcement works wonders. There have been loads of studies that show this. This is one of my favourite studies here. It’s about how people in Stockholm, Sweden addressed speeding on their streets. They set up radars to photograph cars. If you were caught speeding, you were sent a fine (negative reinforcement), and if you were at or under the speed limit, you were entered into a draw to WIN all the fine money! Talk about motivation to not speed! So the question is, what will you do for yourself, buy for yourself, or how will you treat yourself if you accomplish your goal. Keep that running through the back of your mind as you work toward your goal, and you will be extra motivated to achieve it.
3. Create an action plan
You’ve already defined a very specific goal. Now it’s time to break it down even further into manageable chunks and clear deadlines. Let’s go back to our weight loss example: if your goal is to lose 10 pounds in 2 months, you could break it down into one or two week chunks, where every week or two the goal is to lose 2-3 pounds. You could set up a tracking system on your phone or in a journal to track your food and water intake and exercise. I like to write a daily to-do list that incorporates elements of my goals. So if part of my goal for losing weight is to drink a smoothie every morning, eat a salad every day for lunch, get 10,000 steps and drink 8 cups of water, then each of those things should be on my daily to-do list! I love the feeling of crossing things off my list, so I will be more motivated to do them if I write them down.
4. Write your big goals down every day
There have been lots of studies done that conclude that writing your goals down daily will help you achieve them. The reason? The more you think about your goals, the more you will take the necessary steps to achieve them. If you have a goal but put it on the back burner while you go about your life, then the chances of you actually achieving it are pretty slim. But if you have daily reminders about your goals, then you are far more likely to make your dreams a reality. I have some daily gratitude and goals templates that I use for writing my own goals down. You’re welcome to use them too!
Get this templates here!
Get this template here!
5. Take the first step
Whatever your first step is, just do it. It could be to make a smoothie, or sign up for a 5k race, or weekly workout classes or dance classes, or whatever interests you to give you some accountability. Maybe your first step is just putting your running shoes on and taking a walk around the block. Whatever it is, once you do it, it will motivate you do keep going and do it again and again and again.
Last year, I listened to Mel Robbin’s audiobook The Five Second Rule and loved every minute of it and can’t recommend it enough. The main premise of the book is that we are all procrastinators and experts at making excuses for everything we do, from getting out of bed in the morning (hello snooze button) to asking that cute guy/girl out, to going after our dream job. So she came up with a simple concept: the Five Second Rule. Basically, when you think of something you want to do or should do, you count down from five and then just do it. It sounds too simple to work, but it seriously motivates me, so you might find it useful too! Here is a link to her TED Talk where she briefly explains it and talks about how to get what you want.
I hope you take the first steps TODAY to achieving your goals! Can you think of any other tips and tricks to help others achieve your goals? If so, please share them in the comments below 🙂
With love and gratitude,