When it really comes down to reaching goals, or doing anything else in this world, I think you need to know what steps to take. There is so much information out there about how to set and achieve your goals and dreams. But I believe we need to focus on exactly what to do, and less on how or why to do something.
So with that in mind, these are what I have found to be the 7 most important actual steps that you need to take when trying to accomplish any goal, reach any dream, or make any change in your life. We’re talking the nuts and bolts of exactly what to do to get things done. Whether it is a dream as huge as climbing a mountain, a goal as big as writing a book, a weekend project like painting the deck, or a task as small as getting milk at the grocery store.
- 1) Choose one goal
- 2) Write it down
- 3) Visualize it
- 4) Create a habit
- 5) Talk about it
- 6) Imagine ideas
- 7) Create a log
- Extra Tip: Enjoy it
“Dream big dreams. Believe all things are possible.” – Unknown
I have read some important books on reaching goals including Think and Grow Rich, The Alchemist, The Magic of Thinking Big, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Atlas Shrugged, and Getting Things Done. I have gathered a lot of information from all of the books and countless articles I have read on the subject. I’ve been pretty obsessed with this stuff and enjoy reading and learning about how to reach your goals, achieve your dreams, get things done, and improve your life.
I have been able to accomplish some pretty big goals over the years that I didn’t think I could previously achieve. To reach these dreams, I have tried many different methods, advice, tips, and tricks. I have used trial and error from many amazing writers to find out what really works.
The result is that I have found these steps to be the most essential actions to take when trying to reach a goal, complete a task, or make any change in your life and in the lives of others. These are the 7 key steps which have allowed me to set and achieve my goals and dreams. I believe and hope they will work for you as well.
1) Choose one goal
In order to reach a goal you need to decide on exactly what you really want. To do this, you can come up with some ideas of goals you would like to achieve by making a list. But after you brainstorm a number of goals, it is very important that you choose just one goal you really want to achieve. If you do not prioritize and focus on what is truly important to achieve in your life, you will be distracted by less important trivialities that life throws at you.
“If you chase two rabbits, you will lose them both.” – Native American Saying
So I suggest you choose a single goal or dream that is most important to you now. Decide that you will focus on this one goal above all else because it is the most important thing in your life right now to you. With that said, you can continually evaluate and tweak this goal. You might not know exactly what you want when you start out. That is ok. The important thing is to choose something to start working on.
If you set your goal too high to begin with or you decide the original goal you set is not exactly what you want, do not be afraid to change your goal slightly. If you get going and realize this isn’t really the goal you want to work on now, you can even completely change and work on a different one that you can truly commit to and put your heart into. But find and decide on the one goal that is important to you and commit to focus on it with all of your energy.
Decide on one specific goal that is important to you.
2) Write it down
When setting a goal, you should first decide on exactly what you want to achieve. After you have decided on your goal, write it down on paper. Make your goal very specific. Sure, keep a list of goals that you want to achieve on your computer. But for your most important goal write it down. Write it down on a piece of paper that you keep in your pocket.
You can also write it down other places and post reminders about it everywhere. Your home, your office, a post-it note hanging off your computer monitor, on your bedroom alarm clock, taped on your bathroom mirror, written on a piece of paper used as a bookmark in the book you are reading, posted above the stove.
“‘Begin with the end in mind’ is based on the principle that all things are created twice. There’s a mental or first creation, and a physical or second creation to all things.” – Stephen R. Covey (The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People)
You can even rewrite it over and over each day in a notebook. And you can rewrite it once a week or whenever you need to. Change any words, details, or ideas you have added on your piece of paper. Tweak your goal as you continue to work towards it and decide what you want to achieve. Include words that inspire and motivate you.
But at least write it down somewhere. Write it in a single specific and descriptive sentence that you can memorize. But also write more details about it if possible about what your life will be like. Include details. How will your life be different? How will you feel? What exactly will you have?
- Example: I will write a first draft of a short story and give it to 2 people by September 30th.
I personally like to also make a list of about the 7 most important reasons why I want to achieve the goal. A list of how my life or the lives of others will be different and better when I achieve the goal. But at the very least, write down your specific goal in a single sentence on a piece of paper that you keep in your pocket.
Write your goal down in a single sentence on paper.
3) Visualize it
In order to visualize a goal you should first write a specific goal down in a single sentence on a piece of paper. Then simply grab that paper and read that sentence. Now, every day read that goal over and over again at least twice a day. Once when you get up in the morning, and once before you go to bed at night.
You can also read any of the details you wrote down about your goal and the reasons why you want to achieve the goal. And you can also read it more often during the day, maybe after eating lunch and dinner too. But at least read the one sentence goal twice a day, and preferably out loud.
“Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe it can achieve…Man may become the master of himself, and of his environment, because he has the power to influence his own subconscious mind” – Napoleon Hill (Think and Grow Rich)
As you read your goal over and over again, think about it and visualize it coming true. No matter how big your goal is, believe with everything in your heart and soul that you will succeed and reach that goal.
Don’t just think about it, but put your emotions into it. See what you will look like and feel like. Imagine as clearly as you can how your life will be better. Have faith that you will do this. Come up with ideas in your mind to reach your goal. Think about how your heroes would accomplish this goal. Think about what you will do today and tomorrow to reach this goal. Create a desire not just that you will do this, but that you must do this.
- Example: I will read and visualize my goal every day when I wake up at 6:30am, and every evening before I go to bed at 10:30pm.
Humans can turn thoughts into action, and action into things. It’s as simple as that. The point of reading and visualizing your goal as often as possible is to get you thinking about your goal constantly. To keep your goal in your mind and your thoughts. If you read and visualize your written goal every day you can achieve anything that you believe you can achieve.
So if you haven’t actually tried it before, you really need to follow this advice and do it every day. Do it right now. Read and visualize your goal at least twice a day, every day, at the same time.
Read and visualize your written goal today and every day.
4) Create a habit
You need to find the time, any way you can, to make a daily habit to work towards your goal. I don’t care what else is going on in your life. This can be as little as 10 minutes a day, but you need to do it every day. If you can work your way up to setting aside 1-2 hours every day to work towards your goal, all the better. One tip though. It is best to start extremely small with this habit, like 5 minutes a day. You will grow and develop the habit later through repetition.
“A habit is any action you do every day at the same time and place. You will ultimately achieve your goals not just by thinking about them, but by taking daily action.” – Life Thinkist
Most importantly, if you work on something every day for even a small amount of time, you will make gradual progress one day at a time. In my opinion, creating a single daily habit to work towards your goal is likely the most important step of all in achieving any significant goal. This is the step that often gets left out in self-help books, and it hasn’t been written about enough in books or articles.
Why taking daily action works to achieve your goals or anything else you want, and how to create and keep a habit could be a whole article in itself. But here are a couple important things to remember. First of all, make a habit that you can do at the same time and place every day. And second, the habit should be the most important repeatable action you can take towards your goal. If you are writing a book, then actually writing should be your habit, not organizing your desk.
- Example: I will spend 30 minutes writing at my desk at 7:30am every day after breakfast.
Basically devote 30 minutes to 2 hours a day to your goal by creating a daily habit to take action every day. It is also worth noting that just as with your goal you will want to adapt and change your habit as you go along. Now, get out that piece of paper that you wrote your goal down on. Write down your daily habit along with that goal. You need to create a daily habit to take action towards your goal every day, and writing it down will help you follow through with this step.
Take action towards your goal today and every day.
5) Talk about it
You need to create what is called a mastermind group, and tell at least one other person about your goal. Preferably this will be someone who might have an interest in the goal and be able to contribute ideas.
Get professional help if you need it, and talk with a coach at least once a week about your goal. Not only can you get help from other people, but maybe more importantly you can get ideas from them. So make sure to listen intently to what others say while you are talking about your goal with them. This is all about thinking about your goal constantly and getting ideas from anywhere you can.
“The ‘Master Mind’ may be defined as: ‘Coordination of knowledge and effort, in a spirit of harmony, between two or more people, for the attainment of a definite purpose.” – Napoleon Hill (Think and Grow Rich)
Preferably, just like all of the other steps, you will talk about your goal every day. However, because this step depends on other people, this may not be possible, especially to start. So, if you don’t think you can talk about your goal every day, decide to at least talk about it with one person at least once a week. And schedule that talk.
- Example: I will phone Jim to talk with him about my goal every Sunday at 10:00am after exercising.
While talking about your goal is most important, you may also want to write about your goal, which is basically just recorded talking on paper. Writing about your goal is a very powerful tool, and can be used in place of talking if you can’t find someone to talk to. So if you can’t find someone to talk to even once a week, you should journal or write about your goal instead to start.
You can write publicly if you really want. But keeping a dated journal with your thoughts is probably even better because it allows you to write freely, more like talking. You could also write emails or letters about it once in a while by telling those friends or people in your mastermind group about your thoughts, feelings, ideas, and progress about your goal.
- Example: I will write thoughts and ideas about my goal for 5 minutes every day at 6:30pm after dinner.
The more you talk about your goal and write about your goal, the more you are thinking about your goal. The more you think about your goal, the more ideas you will get to help you reach it. Your goal will literally come to shape in real life if you talk about it with other people, write about it, and think about it constantly. Realize just how important this step is.
If you can find the time to write freely about your goal, definitely do so. But even more importantly, try to talk with people about your goal as much as possible, especially people who might have an interest in that goal or give you ideas to help you reach that goal. And at the very least, make sure to at least schedule a weekly appointment with someone who you can talk to about your goal.
Talk about your goal with someone every day or once a week.
6) Imagine ideas
If you follow the advice above you will be deciding on a goal, writing it down possibly daily, visualizing and reading it aloud daily, creating a daily action habit to work on it every day, and talking or writing about your goal every day. While you are doing any of these steps you will be thinking about your goal every day and ideas, plans, or tasks to do to reach your goal will come to you. I find a huge number of my ideas and plans come while I am performing my daily habit for the goal.
“Here is a basic truth: To do anything, we must first believe it can be done. Believing something can be done sets the mind in motion to find a way to do it.” – David J. Schwartz (Magic of Thinking Big)
Here’s the next step. When ideas for how to reach your goal come to you during any of the other steps here, write them down. And you may also want to commit to another 5 or 10 minute brainstorming session each day to think about and prioritize ideas or steps to take to reach your goal. You need to take time to ponder and think about your goal in solitude. You need to come up with ideas of what you should do next to help you achieve your goal.
I have found that a good place to write down these ideas or tasks is on the back side of the piece of paper you wrote down your goal and habit. You’ll get chicken scratch on there which is fine. It will make you keep your idea list small enough to fit on a single piece of paper. You will rewrite them often to prioritize a task or a mini goal that you are currently working on.
It will force you to start on a new piece of paper once in a while, maybe even once a week. When you do that you can not only rewrite the ideas you want to keep on there, but rewrite your goal and habit too, which is great. If you prefer to keep a separate piece of paper for these ideas, or even keep them as a list on a computer, that would work too.
- Example: I will think about ideas to help me reach my goal for 5 minutes every day at 12:30pm after lunch. I will write down any good ideas whenever they come to me.
If you want to take this a step further, you may also want to write down your most important task or tasks for today. The tasks or mini goal that you will work on today as part of your daily action habit. Doing this is not necessary, but it is an extra step you could do, depending on the type of goal you are working on. Maybe you decide while thinking about your goal that you will lift 50 pounds on one exercise machine today instead of 40 pounds. Or that you will finish your book’s second chapter, of which you are 80 percent done so far.
- Example: I will write down my most important task or mini goal for today at 6:40am after visualizing my goal.
So don’t worry about coming up with the perfect plan of all 20 tasks and the correct order to do them to achieve your goal. Focus much more on what you are doing today, thinking about your goal every day, and actually taking action with your daily habit. Your plans will change hundreds or thousands of times, sometimes all within a single day while you are working towards your goal. You don’t even have to write it all down because you will constantly be thinking about what to do next while doing your daily visualizing, daily action habit, and daily talking.
But do spend some time thinking about what to do next; what to do today and tomorrow for your action habit. Maybe even write down your most important task you will do today for your daily habit. And when good ideas or thoughts come to you about your goal, write them down somewhere to help you remember them. But most importantly, take time to think about your goal and imagine ideas that will help you reach your goal.
Think about ideas to reach your goal and write them down.
7) Create a log
The most important step in this list is creating a daily habit where you take action towards your goal. Now you need to log your daily habit by putting a single check mark on a paper calendar on the day you complete this habit. The calendar should probably be hanging on the wall by your bed, on the wall by your computer, or even in a pocket calendar or hand drawn paper calendar in your pocket if possible. Similarly to your written goal, your calendar needs to be somewhere that you look at it every day at multiple times during the day.
“It is important to keep track of what you have accomplished, and feel good about it. A check mark on a calendar is the simplest way to remember and log your habits and achievements.” – Life Thinkist
The objective with your daily habit is to create a habit which will become easy and enjoyable for you to do most days. And the goal with this calendar log of your daily habit is to feel good about what you have done and help you remember to build your habit.
It is better to make a super easy habit. Decide on just 5 minutes of sitting at your desk to write to start. It is better to be lenient on yourself. If you don’t even write, but still sit at your desk thinking, still put a check mark. It is better to build on the habit and repeat it as often as you can. Place 3 check marks if you do it for 15 minutes one day. Or place 2 check marks if you not only do it at 7:30am in the morning but also do it again later in the day at 5:30pm. Heck, place 2 check marks on a day you made extra progress, or even a day in which you found it was really difficult to get in the 5 minutes but you still did it.
- Example: I will place a check mark on my paper calendar right after completing my habit each day.
Make it a game to get as many check marks on that calendar as you can, and make sure you feel good about it every time you do it. Repetition will also help build your habit. Two short periods of time can be even better than one large period of time when building a habit. So, it can’t get much easier than this. You don’t need to keep a long journal or do a weekly review. Just create that habit by spending the time to take action towards your goal today. Then, right after you do your habit or take that action towards your goal, place a check mark on a paper calendar to log what you have done.
Log your daily habit by placing positive check marks on a calendar.
Extra Tip: Enjoy it
I believe from all the reading and research I have done that people are not born geniuses. And they are certainly not born with a list of accomplishments already done.
People achieve great things, and even simple things, because they enjoy them and truly desire to achieve them. Michael Jordan most likely loved getting better at basketball and winning basketball games. Mick Jagger created and performed great music because he had fun doing it. Abraham Lincoln took pride in influencing people to make the world a better place. Bill Gates loved technology and used his intelligence to make a lot of money, but also to improve the lives of many people across the world.
I believe that people I look up to found a merger between goals and happiness. They are driven not just because they found a goal that they really wanted with all their heart and believed they could achieve. But even more importantly, they found habits that they enjoyed doing and which made them happy. They used that joy as their motivation to achieve great accomplishments in this world.
“Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it.” – Greg Anderson
So enjoy the daily activities that you complete as you work towards your goal. Get excited. Have fun. Take pride in what you are doing. Make sure you choose a habit that you can actually feel good about while you are doing it, and after you have done it. You can also reward yourself once in a while in other ways when you complete a tough habit or want to pat yourself on the back. But there is nothing like the intrinsic motivation you get when you feel good while doing something.
If you think you just need better will power, or motivation, or determination, you might find that you only end up winning a few battles, but lose the war. If you do not get satisfaction out of what you are doing, you may find you ultimately give up when trying to reach your goals. You need to enjoy the journey. Be present. Take pride in what you have done, even the tiny steps like working on something for 5 minutes. If you hate what you are doing, why do it anyway? Pick something else. Pick a habit that you can enjoy, and a goal that you can feel good about and really want to see come true.
Make sure you enjoy the daily habit and the journey.
If you are thinking of following any of this advice realize that it will be very tough at times and may take quite a bit of hard work and time. Life is not easy and the goals we are talking about are not easy. You will temporarily fail many times, fall, be beaten up, feel like quitting, cry, and stumble through hurdles you did not expect in trying to reach your goals and dreams.
That is why it is important to find some daily satisfaction in what you are doing, or you won’t have the determination and desire to continue on your journey. Just start with step one, take it one step at a time, and enjoy the journey. I’d also say practice and use this set of steps with smaller goals and tasks like getting groceries or planning a weekend in order to build your confidence and prove to yourself that this works. These aren’t just steps to achieve big goals. I have found that these steps are proven to work to get anything done in this world.
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” – Lao Tzu
Turning your thoughts into action works if you want to change anything about yourself or the world, big or small. If you really want something with all of your heart it’s what you think and believe that matter. You then take action every day to turn what you see in your mind’s thoughts into something in real life. The steps above allow you to do just that and achieve whatever you desire. You are in control of your life, your goals, your dreams, and your destiny. And you can do this.