Now that you've drilled down to your core values and purpose and have determined which goals you're going to pursue, you're now in the final stage of tactically determining how to go about setting and achieving your goals. If you started here and would like to backtrack a bit, read our post about becoming self-aware (here) and then move on to our post about ensuring your goals are in alignment with your values (here).
Quite simply, the way to achieve your goals is to first set a reasonably achievable and specific goal. Then, you break down your goal into smaller bits. As you chip away at the smaller bits, you move closer and closer to your goal!
If you have a goal but no plan, you’ll have no roadmap and it’ll be super difficult to achieve the goal. As the saying goes:
A goal without a plan is just a wish.
-Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Let’s get started.
ENSURE YOUR GOALS ARE SMART
First things first. You need to set a proper goal, or you may be setting yourself up for failure before you even begin! You may already know about S.M.A.R.T. goals. SMART goals place structure around your goal setting and ensure that you know whether or not you’re making progress toward your goals. No vague and unrealistic resolutions allowed! Put your goals through the SMART test:
S= Specific. Be specific. A goal such as “lose weight” is too broad. State your goal in specific terms, such as “Lose 5 pounds by May 31st.”
M= Measurable. The progress and outcome can be measured. Sales numbers and e-mail subscribers are measurable. Blood work numbers are measurable. Doing 25 burpees in a row is measurable. You’ll need to be able to measure the outcome, or how will you know when you’ve reached your goal?
A= Achievable. Is the goal achievable? If you’re currently a couch potato, a goal to run around the block without stopping after training for one month is achievable. On the other hand, a goal to compete in a triathlon after training for one month is not.
R= Realistic & Relevant. Is the goal both relevant and realistic? A goal to write a novel may be relevant to your end goal. However, a goal to begin writing your first novel, and have it become a NYT bestseller and made into a major motion picture probably isn’t realistic (given the fact that J.K. Rowling and Andy Weir were both rejected over 20 times on their first go around). On the other hand, a goal to write your first novel and self-publish it would be realistic.
T= Time-bound. Does your goal have a deadline? Your goal needs to have a deadline attached to it. Otherwise, there is simply no urgency to it.
SMART GOALS IN ACTION
Let’s examine one of my goals for this year: making exercise a top priority in my life. How can I maximize the chances of success with this goal? First, let’s put it through the SMART goal test. Here we go:
WHAT I WANT: To be a healthy and fit person.
How will I achieve this?
MY SPECIFIC GOAL: Make health and fitness a priority in my life by exercising 5x/week for a minimum of 30 minutes a day. Bring my A1C number (blood sugar reading) down and below 5.7. Will accomplish this by the time my 6-month check-in appointment with my doctor comes around in June of 2018.
S= Specific. My goal is pretty darn specific. Check.
M= Measurable. I’ve set a definite number of times per week to exercise for a specified amount of time per day. My A1C number can (and will) be measured by blood work ordered by my doctor. Check.
A= Achievable. The goal should be a bit of a stretch goal, yet still achievable. In theory, I should be able to find 30 minutes per day, 5x/week, to exercise. Check.
R= Relevant and Realistic. This goal is relevant to being a healthy and fit person. It’s also realistic because my doctor says the 5x/week is non-negotiable and is the minimum amount of exercise everyone should be getting. No exceptions, no excuses. Check.
T= Time-bound. There is a deadline attached to this goal: June 2018. Check.
A SIMPLE GOAL ACTION PLAN
So now that we know my goal is SMART, we can get tactical. Here’s a simple plan to drill down to the nitty-gritty of what you need to do to reach your goal(s). There are five questions/categories you’ll need to brainstorm as well as a reflection of each action step you identify.
Refer to your goal. Now, think: What is the next action? Here, you’ll need to identify the very first step to get to where you want to go. If it’s really hard to figure out, think about already having achieved your goal and work backward from there. In my (real life) example, I’d picture myself looking trim, fit, and feeling healthy. Then I’d write down each step, working backward with my specific end goal at the very top and going down from there:
Feeling healthy, looking fit and trim
Exercising as a habit 5 days a week
Track exercise on habit tracker
No thinking about exercising, just do it, it comes easily as brushing my teeth every day
Exercise 3x/week walking the dog for 30 minutes outdoors
Exercise 2x/week cardio + weights
Download motivating workout music for walking
Get all necessary equipment (weights, glow in the dark dog leash)
Planning/creating exercise schedule
Researching online video exercise options and decide which ones to use (YouTube, fitness subscription sites, etc)
Research and identify how I will track the exercise habit
Determine how often and what kind of exercises I want to do and will likely stick with
Be sure to break down complex tasks into the smallest bits as possible. As you can see, by working backward, the steps should be in descending chronological order and should make sense when you read them from the bottom up.
So, in this case, the very first action step I’d need to take would be to brainstorm and decide what kind of exercises I want to do and knowing myself—what type I’d be most likely to stick with. If my goal is to start my own eBay side business, the first step might be to begin looking around the house for items to sell. So, for step #1, determine what the next actions that you need to do to move toward your goal. Write the action steps down.
Next, determine: Who is responsible for completing this step? Do you need to complete it, or do you need to delegate it?
Then, determine a deadline to complete the action step: When should this step be completed? Going back to your SMART goals, your goal should have a deadline. Likewise, each action step should also have a deadline associated with it. This increases the likelihood of completing the action step, as there may be no urgency without a deadline.
The fourth question to ask yourself is: What resources do you need to complete this step? You’ll need to identify what resources you’ll need to complete this action item. Do you need to do research on meal or workout plans? Do you need to complete a personality test? Do you need to get authorization from someone? Do you need to complete prerequisite courses? Identifying the needed resources may create another separate action step to be tackled.
This is a really important question to ponder: Are there any challenges to completing this step? If so, how will you overcome the challenges? Really think about this one. Recognize that things may not go as smoothly as you hope. There will likely be obstacles that get in your way, things that can and will derail you (if you let it). Thinking about these roadblocks in advance can help you to power through them. Many times, we stop once we reach a roadblock, taking it as a sign to stop. It isn’t! If we stopped each time we hit a roadblock, we’ll never move closer to achieving our goals. Working through each challenge is much easier if you’ve created a plan of attack in advance. This should help you to achieve each action step, which will, in turn, bring you closer to achieving your goals!
As a side note, answering this challenge question is like using an “if-then” strategy. I’ve talked about if-then strategies in this post, in case you’re interested in learning more.
Finally, a reflection question: Did you complete this step? Were any new steps identified in the process? Sometimes, the completion of one step or the evaluation of our action steps will cause us to recognize another step that we missed or didn’t realize we had to do.
OUR GOAL SLAYING AND PLANNING WORKSHEET
We've created a beautiful worksheet (above) with fill-in-the-blank spaces for you. On our worksheet, be sure to write in your big dream or goal IN BOLD at the top to keep it visible and top of mind! Opt in above to get the free download printable. Or simply create your own worksheet and just start writing!
Answer all five questions for each action step that you’ve identified. If you’ve given your specific goals and each action step enough thought, it should be detailed enough for you move confidently in the direction of achieving your goals.
If you follow your action plan and complete each action step, you’ll know that you are making progress toward your goals! Checking off action steps and visually seeing how much progress you’re making toward your goals will keep you motivated to keep going!
HOW TO USE THE GOAL ACTION PLAN TO ACHIEVE YOUR GOALS
Now that you have your action steps clearly outlined, here are some final thoughts about putting your newly created action plan into action:
- Keep several copies of your action plan to refer to: at your desk, in your planner, and at your bedside. Set aside some time to think about your goals and your “why” (what is motivating you to achieve your dreams and goals) each day. I reflect on my goals each night before bed when I’m planning out the next day. Some people journal first thing in the morning. Others find a quiet spot to meditate during their lunch break. Find what works for you.
- Some of your action steps will require further tracking and monitoring and perhaps, it’s own action plan. For example, my action step of taking my dog walking 3x/week requires me to track this separately. I’ll use my own organizational system where I plan out my day the night before. In my planner, I’ll enter in the exercise that I’ll do the following morning and what time I plan to exercise. I’ll also plan to take out the supplies and clothes I’ll need in advance. This should eliminate any excuses I have to use to get out of exercising.
- Be sure to use some type of organizational system, habit tracking app, or goal tracking app to help keep you focused. If you’re interested, tune in and watch a short video about my hybrid organizational system here.
- Review your plan and make adjustments as you go along, if necessary.
- Create a reward as an incentive for reaching your goals. My reward for achieving my exercise goals (in June 2018) is to gift myself a day off with a relaxing massage! Just be sure that your reward doesn’t conflict with your overall goal. For example, if you’ve just reached your goal weight after 3 months of healthy eating and exercising, don’t reward yourself with a Supreme deep dish pizza and a brownie sundae!
Good luck to you! I hope there was something in this post that can help each and every one of you. If you found this post helpful, please share it with a friend or pin it to your Pinterest boards! Aloha!