How to Set and Achieve Goals
For most of my life, I had a specific 10 step method to succeed with goals. It worked brilliantly for me and enabled me to go from homeless single mother to multiple international award-winning CEO.
Over the years, I have tweaked it and learned different methods to help me achieve my goals faster and create an abundant life.
I have a tendency to set big goals and work hard to achieve them. Prior to having my third and fourth children (now aged 1 and 2), I had more time to dedicate to my goals.
My older kids were at school and capable of doing a lot with me. Toddlers are mini hurricanes, requiring more time and energy than my older kids.
Because of this, I had to adapt which was a struggle at first. I often looked at my life now and compared it to before.
“Comparison is the thief of joy!” ~ Theodore Roosevelt
Comparing my life as a mother of 4, including toddlers to my life as a single mother of two older kids was not helping me achieve the life I wanted. Accepting my life, my body, my business, everything had changed and that I need to adapt, did help.
Acknowledging and accepting this new stage in life was the first step. Next, working out how to make changes to my processes to enable me to achieve what I wanted while still being a present mum took a little longer.
It can be hard to find balance, or even know what goals to set, so here is everything I do now, from the idea right through to completion.
1. Know Yourself and Create Your Identity
Take the time to work out your values and know what you want in life. What is the identity and legacy you want to leave behind?
Setting goals because they sound good or others are doing them isn’t the way to go about creating the life you love.
In fact, doing that is a surefire way to set yourself up for failure and feeling unfulfilled.
You need to know yourself, what you want and what your values are to be able to set and achieve meaningful goals. Find your passions and focus on the life you want when setting goals.
When you know yourself, it is easier to create habits to achieve your goals. In Atomic Habits, James Clear discusses creating your identity to achieve your goals.
If you haven’t read it, get a copy now. It’s one of the best books I’ve read for creating habits and achieving goals.
Once you know yourself and what you want to achieve, you can talk to yourself in a way that will enable you to achieve your goals.
For example, instead of me telling myself I want to work out every day, I now say “I am someone who does 100 kettlebell swings a day.” Rephrasing it has made it part of my identity and enabled me to stick to it.
This identity matches my values of family and health because I want to be healthy to be active in my kids lives and live a long time.
It goes in reverse too, if you keep telling yourself you are a failure, that is what you will feel and you will do things that match those feelings. Instead, find something you are a success at or want to be successful at and show up every day to confirm your new identity.
2. Brain Dump
I get a few pieces of paper or use apps and ‘brain dump’ by writing down all my ideas, aims, desires, goals and anything I think I want to do. There are notebooks around my house and various notes on my phone/Google Docs for this too.
For me, especially at night, a brain dump helps me focus and sift through what I actually want, what is important and what I want to follow through with. If I leave all these thoughts in my head, they swirl around distracting me.
To do this, I split them into categories e.g. health, finance, career, community, relationships, travel/life experiences, home and so on.
Any ideas I get, goals I want to achieve, quotes I love or pieces of information I want to keep that match my life areas, I can easily save or write down in these places.
Once I have it all out of my head, I can review it and ask myself if it is something I truly want or if it is something others want for me.
It took some practice and understanding myself better to be able to do this faster and easier. Our upbringings, peers and societal expectations can weigh heavy on us and shape our decisions.
Stepping away from that, processing my past (e.g. religion I no longer belong to, breaking away from the ‘government job’ ideal in my family, or stay-at-home mum ideal and similar I was raised with) helped me love my life and do things that fulfil me.
Which goals are most important or most urgent? Why and how? Making decisions is not always easy but asking myself those things about my goals helps me prioritise which ones to go for first and how to do it.
When it comes to setting goals, I write down each goal separately, the timeframe I want to achieve it in and the pros and cons of the goal to help establish goals to achieve first.
I can’t do everything I want to at once and since there are only so many hours in a day, plus I have 4 kids, prioritising my goals is essential.
With my goals determined, I can get started on the ones that really matter, knowing the others are listed there for later, if I choose to do them.
4. Create a Plan of Action
When I set goals I make sure they are SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-Bound. I write down exactly what I want to achieve, how I will do it and the steps I need to take to achieve that goal.
Sometimes this means creating mini goals, other times it is a simple 3-step process. This is crucial. A goal not written down and without a plan is just a wish.
By writing the goal down and exactly how I will achieve it, I know what I need to do each day to ensure I am getting closer to my goals. My goals are broken up by timeframes and systems with specific steps.
For example, I know at this point in time I want to improve my health, this includes healing my core (I got diastasis recti with my last two pregnancies), and increasing strength and flexibility. To achieve this, I had to break it down into phases as it is a large goal and each phase has steps.
Phase 1 was about healing my core to enable me to do more and I wanted it completed within 6 months. Without that, I wouldn’t be able to continue with activities I enjoy or progress in my health journey. I achieved it.
Committing to doing specific exercises with a physiotherapist who specialises in it and doing what I needed to at home enabled me to complete this phase easily. Instead of the loose goal of “I want to heal my core” I did the following.
- Changed my identity and told myself “I am someone who works out every day and has a strong core.”
- I did the daily exercises needed. To help me stick to it, I added exercises to things I was already doing in my morning and evening routines. (Also known as habit stacking in Atomic Habits).
- Tracked my progress on a tracking sheet and app to ensure I kept it up.
- Discussed it with my family to help keep me accountable.
Phase 2 is about increasing my strength, stamina and flexibility so I entered a competition and have a specific plan, along with an end date I need to be ready for. As I had already developed a habit of working out, this has been easy to continue but also pushed me harder physically.
With other goals, such as investing, I committed to automatically transferring a specific amount each time money came to me. Once it hit my goal amount, it is then invested. By making the amounts clear and automating what I could, this was an easy habit and goal to achieve.
5. Take Action
All the plans in the world mean nothing if you don’t take action. Action is the only way you will achieve what you have set out to achieve.
Each day, I review my goals and check I am making progress with them. Here are some of the things I do to help with taking action.
Say my goals. I look in the mirror and repeat my goals, with conviction, as if I have already achieved them. Repeating them this way helps solidify them as part of my identity as mentioned earlier.
Write them daily. My preference is to write them in my journal as part of my morning routine. In the evening, I write about them again and the actions I took today to get closer to my goals.
Do them first. Making my goals a priority and doing what I can first thing helps me stay motivated. With my health goals, by working out in the morning, I am more focused for the rest of the day as that action step for my goal is done for the day.
Self-care. Make sure you look after yourself, sleep well, exercise and eat properly. Going hard after a goal while neglecting everything else is a recipe for disaster. Read 6 tips for self-care to help with this.
Leave the phone alone. Some of my work is done on my phone. I aim to leave this until later in the day and avoid looking at my phone too early.
If you struggle to take action, The 5 Second Rule is a good read to help you get motivated.
6. Use Reminders
Reminders help me stay on top of my goals and change my habits. Being someone who is easily distracted, despite how organised I might seem, reminders are essential.
My reminders include scheduling things into my ideal calendar, alarms, creating a vision board, journalling about my goals and progress, changing passwords to match my goals and setting other visuals such as changing the screensavers and wallpapers to match my goals.
If I am saving for something specific, having a graph for that helps. Habit trackers on my wall are great reminders for checking I am sticking to my habits to achieve my goals.
The vision board is amazing for me as it is part of an overall motivation wall. With images of what I want to achieve/the lifestyle I am aiming for, my calendar, motivational quotes or affirmations, saving graphs and anything I am working on, I find it useful and motivating.
It’s on my bedroom wall so it’s the first thing I see every morning and the last thing I see at night. I also write my goals in permanent markers on my mirrors so I see them regularly.
Whether you choose to be accountable publicly or use something private such as a habit tracker to keep yourself accountable is up to you.
Some people prefer to move in silence, only being accountable to themselves. Others find groups and being public motivates them and keeps them on track. I do a mixture of both, depending on the goal.
Having an accountability partner or support group for goals I am working on enabled me to get advice, help and problem-solve when it came to things with my health or finances.
At times though, when I have been too public about my goals, it has been demotivating as I felt so much pressure and had people in my life who weren’t supporting me.
One benefit of that was it became easy to see who I can share my goals, success and life with and who isn’t supposed to be in my life. Anyone trying to hold me back or not happy for my success and happiness isn’t someone I want around.
How you choose to be accountable and the tools you use to do that is up to you.
What motivates one person is different to what motivates another. One big thing that will help everyone is having a strong reason why.
My motivation has always been about the life I want for my kids and I. The example I want to set for them, the experiences and opportunities I want them to have and the adults I want to help them become.
Whenever I am faced with a choice or a goal gets too hard I think about my kids, the life I want for us and go spend some time with them. If they aren’t around, I use tools such as motivational books, podcasts, webinars, courses, friends, anything that motivates me to get back on track.
Motivation is sometimes lacking though and if we rely on motivation only, chances are, we will fail. This is why systems are so important, as mentioned in step 4 with an action plan.
9. Reassess and Adjust as Needed
Life changes and sometimes the plan of action you had for your goal is not the best course of action to help you achieve it. Other times, certain goals might not align with where we want to be in life and that’s ok.
Try not to quit everything but be open and accepting of the fact that sometimes, things don’t work out as planned.
As an example, we planned to travel the world full time and have more children later. Then the world shut down and my fertility dropped massively as well.
I was advised, if I wanted more children, it was better to do it sooner rather than later. Since we couldn’t travel in 2020 anyway, I changed my plans and decided to have the children now and travel with them when we could.
Both goals of having children and travelling were maintained, how they were achieved changed. Amazingly, I fell pregnant immediately then after he was born, I fell pregnant again a few months later.
My health was compromised with both pregnancies, so now, while we still have travel as a goal and do it often, my healing had to take priority.
Review your goals often. Look at what is working and what isn’t, how you can make changes to achieve your goals and what can make them easier.
As you achieve your goals, be sure to stop and celebrate them. Revel in your success.
You don’t have to jump straight into the next one, although as humans, we like growth. Sometimes completing the goal is reward enough, but sometimes it is nice to go out to dinner/buy some new clothes/have a party/go on a holiday as a reward for achieving your goal.
Recognize and celebrate your achievements your way. This is something I had to learn to do because I would complete my goal, not acknowledge it and rush straight into everything else.
I realised my kids were watching this example and I didn’t want them to repeat what I do. I wanted them to celebrate and be proud of what they have done, so I forced myself to start celebrating properly.