Despite what you might think, there are very real reasons why you are not achieving your goals. While there might be a lot of confusion surrounding the subject, the underlying art/science of goal-setting might not be all that tricky after all.
In fact, I think a lot of this is pretty obvious, as you’ll see from the following real-life conversation I’ve had with people. It has taken place more than once, both in person and in online discussions:
“Charlie, I’m just not achieving my goals or getting anything done,” the person says. “I’m just not achieving what I set out to do.”
“Well, what goals are you trying to accomplish?”
“I don’t know.”
Go figure, right? Definitely hard to get somewhere if you don’t know where that somewhere is.
Goals are focus. Without the goal, you don’t get the focus either.
Let’s take care of that, eh? Here are some ideas on how you do it…
Keeping your eye on the prize requires a prize
As George Carlin (RIP) so brilliantly said, “If you haven’t gotten where you’re going, you’re not there yet.”
You can only make steps in the right direction if you know the direction you’re headed. Otherwise you’re just making steps, which might be going around in circles or leading you into oncoming traffic.
This is without a doubt the most common reason people don’t achieve their goals. They just don’t have any.
This is a very common thing for artists and writers. They say, “I’m going to paint/write.” Then they proceed to stare at the blank canvas until they realize they forgot to dust underneath the refrigerator.
Pro-Tip: If there is nothing on your to-do list, you don’t yet have a to-do list. Brilliant, right?
You’re Not Being Specific Enough
Validating as it may be, “I have to get off my ass and do something productive today,” isn’t very actionable. What are you going to do once you get off your ass? Stand in your living room all day?
“I need to lose weight,” is likewise not really actionable because when do you get to celebrate success? After you’ve lost an ounce? Or 7,000 lbs? It’s too open-ended, so doesn’t lead to knowing success.
By the way, if you currently weigh 7,000 lbs, congratulations on being able to read this while suffering massive organ failure.
Pro-Tip: If you can’t cross something off your list because you’re unsure whether you actually did it or not, you’re lacking specificity. Be more specific.
Yeah, baby, work it backwards. Like I like.
Now, what do I mean by work it backwards? I mean envision the future goal first, then trace it backwards to right now and figure out what needs to happen in between.
Here’s a simple stupid example of how this works for someone who has the goal of getting a new job:
- Goal: Get a new job.
- Get interviewed by the new company. Don’t vomit on interviewer (optional).
- Set up interview.
- Send in resume.
- Shit, I need a resume! Write resume, lying only where necessary.
- Shit, I need references for the resume! Get references from past bosses and/or friends willing to act like past bosses on the phone.
- Find specific places to send resume.
- Look online and in paper for jobs.
- Decide what I want to do and what skills I have.
While this all seems really obvious, we’ve all beefed up this process. Have you ever filled out a job form, but realized you had no resume to upload? So then you had to make a resume and come back and fill out the online form all over again?
Have you ever written a resume and realized you had no references, then had to go back and get some?
Have you ever accepted a job you didn’t even want in the first place? (Of course not, nobody’s ever done that.)
Don’t Make a Mess of time.
Imagine you’re building a house. One day, all of the wood shows up and gets dumped on the future lawn. Then the masons come and dump all their brick on the lawn too. Then the roofers bring their stuff and dump that. Then the electricians, plumbers and glazing guys all show up at the same time. The result will be no house being built.
Much of planning has to do with proper sequence. Some things have to happen before other things happen.
You know this because you once tried to cook bacon before removing it from the packaging. And while you did enjoy your new Bacon avec Plastic Glaze, it wasn’t really worth the ambulance ride and subsequent stomach pumping was it?
Pro-Tip: Once you’ve made your list, to look it over in regards to sequence. Don’t be shy about moving things around into a logical sequence. Remember, a to-do list is for use, not for being pretty.
When You Can’t Move Forward Any Further
If you get stuck at any particular point in your progression from Here to There, the problem is most likely an omitted step or two.
For example, “1. Get wood, 2. Build a house,” is going to leave you scratching your head somewhere between steps 1 and 2. It’s not going to work.
Again, you need to look at the goal and then mentally work backwards, filling the holes as you go…
- Build a house.
- I’ll need wood to build. Probably nails too.
- I need to know how much wood.
- That requires blueprints, etc.
Summing it up
Probably a lot of this was obvious, which is why it’s awesome. People forget about the obvious shit.
So when in doubt, set goals. If you actually have a goal, the time sequence and sub-steps often begin to suggest themselves.
Try it out. And let us know how it goes!