You are a dreamer. And you are driven. An amazing combination. Many of history’s most respected figures share those same two traits. So, it was only a matter of time until you landed here. On this post. Looking for answers about how to achieve goals that are crazy ambitious and seemingly impossible to attain.
And answers you shall receive.
But, they are not the ones you are likely expecting to hear. You are probably anticipating generic advice. Something like aim for the stars so if you fail you will at least land on the moon.
Something motivational but not actually helpful. Inspirational but worthless.
You are not going to get that here.
Tips for achieving goals – Don’t do this
Back when I was fresh out of college and was reading books like Think and Grow Rich (which I highly recommend, by the way), I set an ambitious goal. I didn’t care how I was going to get there. I didn’t plan out what I would do to accomplish it.
Simply, I just set the goal: I would have a total net worth of $100+ million by the age of 25.
An improbable goal seeing how, at the time, I was 22 and was making less than $30,000 a year. Things would have to change considerably, but hey – I didn’t care. I was aiming high. I wrote down the goal in my notebook and… waited.
Waited for “the universe” to bring it to fruition.
I had written it down after all. My part in the matter was complete. I did what I needed to do. I wrote it down and now just needed to be patient. After all, $100 million was a lot of money. It wouldn’t just materialize in one sitting.
Of course not.
I needed to wait. To hope. To think about what I would do with the money, how I would spend it, who I would share it with, and how much I would give away. I needed to “visualize” the end result. Not necessarily take any real action. Just envision it.
My fortune would be made real through hope and positive thinking.
Ah, how I miss that office
What did I expect would happen? Ya… that’s a good question. I was working for an exciting tech startup at the time. I had my own office, we had an on-site gym, the whole deal. It felt like I was sitting on a rocketship, just waiting to take off.
Like it would only be a matter of months, maybe even weeks before we set sail through the financial atmosphere. And so to make sure I was on the right track, I jotted down some milestones:
- By 23 – Have a salary of $55k
- By 24 – Have a salary of between $100k-$150k
- And by 25 – Have a net worth of over $100 million
You’ll notice a pretty big jump from 24 to 25.
I decided that it would be right around then that the company, still pre-launch at the time mind you, would likely go public. And, having gone public, I would collect my earnings, walk out to my new sports car, and race off to some tropical destination.
I’m a tool, basically.
Why set goals anyway? What’s the point?
As I’m sure you guessed, I didn’t reach my “goal.” I didn’t even come close. In fact, I never even hit the first milestone. Instead, by 23 the company had folded and I was unemployed.
I went from my fancy desk in my fancy office, to my old, worn-out college desk at my parents’ house. I went from envisioning my future earnings, to spending each day applying to job after job after job after job.
Now, I could say that I learned something from the experience. That my shortcoming taught me an invaluable lesson about goal setting.
But… it didn’t.
Instead, it actually made me feel pretty disillusioned by the whole concept of dreaming big. I wouldn’t learn the real lesson from my experience until years later.
Actions to achieve results
I read a book earlier this year that held an insightful passage. I’m paraphrasing, but it basically said: You become what you teach.
So, for example, if you teach fitness, your focus on that subject will likely result in you becoming more fit. If you teach storytelling, you will become a better storyteller in the process.
In my case, I teach about time. To be more specific, goal setting and other such related topics. And through those teachings, something awesome has happened – I have become that much better at the subject matter.
Which makes sense, right?
If I’m spending my time reading books, contemplating new ideas, writing, and helping others in the ways of being deliberate, it’s obvious, then, that my understanding and know-how would increase. Which is exactly what has happened.
And it’s through that growth that I finally learned the following lesson of how to achieve goals.
How to achieve goals – You need control
I realized that my wealth-seeking ambitions were out of my control. Now, I could also say that I recognized how little money really matters once you have the necessities covered, or how money is just a tool that allows you to attain fulfillment, or how there are more important ways to spend your time than focusing on net worth.
And yes, those are lessons that I did also learn.
However, this isn’t a post on how to properly value money. It’s about how to achieve a goal successfully – particularly an ambitious one. So let’s get back to it.
Where were we? Right. Control.
This doesn’t get talked about very much; maybe people just haven’t taken the time to consider it. Whatever the reason, if you want to achieve an impossible goal or if you want to know how to achieve your goals in general, you need to have control. If you don’t have control then you’re just making a wish (like what I did with my millions).
When you have control over your goal, success is possible. Further, the ability to succeed or fail is solely on you. Not outside forces that you have no say over.
Things you aspire to
Let’s say you set a goal to weigh four pounds more this month than you did last month, as you want to put on muscle. You start going to the gym, lifting weights, and doing whatever people in that situation do.
At the end of the month, as you step on the scale and look down with confidence, you are taken aback.
Not only did you not gain any weight, you actually lost a pound. You’re heading in the wrong direction! What’s the deal though? You set your goal… and you worked hard towards it… but the result isn’t showing you what you want.
Simply, you set a goal that is not within your control.
You may think you have control over how your body processes things, but you don’t.
Same thing goes for making more money or running faster than someone else or buying a house this year. These are things you may aspire to reach, but they are not the goals you should be setting. Why? Because they are outside your control.
The choice is mine to make
Right now, I have a goal to do 50 kettlebell swings a day, four days a week. It takes me less than ten minutes to do and over the course of several months, I’ve noticed an increase in muscle tone and strength because of it (*Note: You can see my other current goals here.).
It’s pretty weird considering I’ve stayed away from weight-lifting for the last half-decade; opting for running instead.
But the reason that goal works, and the reason I’ve stuck with it and have been seeing progress from it, is because it is within my control. I either do the kettlebell swings or I don’t. If I do them, I am succeeding. If I don’t, I am failing.
The choice is mine to make. And with that control, I thrive.
In the case of our example from before, you can’t control what the scale says. What you can control though is how many push-ups you do each day. Or how many reps you do of a certain exercise. Or what your caloric intake will be.
How to set goals and achieve them
Instead of setting a goal to gain four pounds in a month, you should instead set a goal to do 30 push-ups a day, five days a week. And by doing those push-ups, with time you will get stronger and inevitably put on the muscle that you desire.
One best way to achieve goals then, especially daunting ones, is to set ones within your control.
Before you embark on any goal setting endeavor, ask yourself: Is this goal within my control? If it is, good job. If it’s not, change it. Here are a few examples:
How to achieve goals – Money
- Bad goal: Make $1,000 more this quarter than last quarter.
- Good goal: Make 50 sales calls a day, Monday through Friday.
How to achieve goals – Running
- Bad goal: Finish the July second marathon in first place.
- Good goal: Set a new personal speed record when I complete the July second marathon.
How to achieve goals – House
- Bad goal: Buy a house by October ninth.
- Good goal: Save up $40,000 for the down payment on a home by October ninth.
The degrees of control
A quick note on the aspect of control. Without getting too philosophical (does anyone really have control over anything?), I should point out that control lives on a spectrum.
For instance, you can’t control what home prices will be in October, so to set a goal to buy a house by October ninth is setting yourself up for failure. Whereas setting a goal to save up $40,000 for the down payment on a home by October ninth is within your control.
Whether or not you have the money saved up in October is on you.
However, you could make the argument that money isn’t always within your control.
- What if your car breaks down?
- Or you need to help out a family member?
- Or you need a nice steak dinner otherwise you will literally die?
When setting goals for yourself, you want to get as close to absolute control as you can. Because the more control you have over it, the more you can influence it. And the more you can influence it, the more likely you are to succeed.
So when setting goals for yourself, get as close to total control as you can.
Sitting on a train
I am a slow reader. My wife is not. It’s frustrating.
We were sitting on a train once. It was a long journey – something like three or four hours. And we were both reading. Both books were fiction. I would read one page in about… I have no idea… two minutes? My wife whereas would read a page in about 20 seconds.
And we’re both sitting next to each other. On the train. For four hours. And all I hear is the fpt, fpt, fpt of her turning pages. One after another. She’s flying through this book.
And here I am. Crawling. Slogging through whatever story I was trying to read. Growing more annoyed by the second from my own reading inadequacies (and also from being on a train for four hours, obviously). When I finally stopped being a grump about it though, I realized just how impressive her reading abilities are. It’s like a superpower. She has full recall too.
Now, tangent aside, this story helps prove my point.
If I set a goal to read more books than my wife, something totally outside of my control, I would give up immediately. I would have lost before I even began. Instead, a better goal would be to read twenty pages a day. Something totally within my control and independent of anyone else.
- With the former, I give up reading in minutes.
- With the latter, I become an avid reader.
Set goals that you can control.
How to achieve goals – Have a plan
While we’re on the subject of reading, I set a very ambitious reading goal for myself earlier this year. I set out to read at least two books a month. Now, to some people that doesn’t seem like a big deal. And maybe it’s not to the average person, but to me it’s a challenge.
An absolute stretch.
In the past, I had come close to reading two books a month. By year’s end, I had gotten to 21 or 22, but never to 24 and certainly not beyond that point. This year would be different though. I was going to make it happen this time.
How? Well, you can actually read about my full experiment here.
That said, the goal is as close to achieving the impossible as anything else I’ve done. Especially because I had tried in the past and had come up short. But again, this time would be different. Because in the past, I set the goal and that was that. I just needed to start reading.
But not this go around.
One of the key steps to reach goals
This time I created a plan.
A strategy for the various things that I could do that would allow me to read more books than ever before. Things like incorporating audiobooks, streamlining my note-taking process, playing to my inner lazy person, and even speed reading were all ideas I would test out.
I set a goal that was within my control, but even further, I then had a plan for how I was going to make it happen.
With that in mind, here’s one of the key steps to achieve goals – you need to make a plan for it. You need to know:
- What you’re going to do to achieve it
- When you’re going to work on it
- How often and in what manner “working on it” will look like
You need to know the strategies that you will implement and you need to make time for it in your schedule. So really, there are two forms of planning at work here.
How to get results – The two forms of planning
When planning, there are two forms that are necessary for achieving goals:
- Tactics planning
- Schedule planning
You can’t just do one, you need to do both. Here’s a breakdown of each.
How to achieve goals – Tactics planning
Tactics planning refers to the how of your goal. For example, how are you going to achieve your goal? What strategies are you going to utilize? What are you going to do to actually make your goal a reality?
Let’s look at my reading goal for the year – Read two books a month. Again, note that the goal is within my control. I either read the books or I don’t. It’s all on me. The next question is: what am I going to do to make that happen – especially since I’ve come up short with it in the past?
That’s where my tactics come in.
So for instance, some of the tactics that I’m implementing are:
- Using audiobooks in addition to physical books
- Making note-taking as close to frictionless as possible
- Practicing speed reading
- And keeping books by where I relax so that they’re nearby during generally wasted time
I’ve planned out my tactics so that as I go into each new month, I know exactly what I need to do to achieve my goal.
How to achieve goals – Schedule planning
From there, you need to make a plan for when you will work on your goal. Meaning you need to actually look at your calendar or notebook or whatever you do for planning. And, while there, you need to block out time for your goal.
For example, when I initially set my reading goal, I planned to:
- Listen to audiobooks while eating breakfast and lunch, and also while doing chores (laundry, dishes, etc.)
- Read physical books after finishing lunch and, if needed, in the evening during my downtime.
Every Sunday, I sit down and plan out my week. I look at all my goals, check my calendar for any meetings, and get my various notes organized. From there, I create a detailed schedule. And within that schedule, I am sure to note what goals I am working on and when.
So for instance, if tomorrow is Tuesday, my schedule may look something like this:
- Wake up 6
- Get dressed 610-630
- QuickBooost 630-930
- Breakfast 930-945
- QuickBooost 945-1230
- Lunch 1230-130
- Physical book
- And so on and so forth
That’s just a sample schedule, but you get the gist. In order to start achieving goals in life, you need to create a plan for when you will work on them.
Let’s close the loop on my reading goal. If you recall, reading two books a month is a total stretch for me. In the past, I’ve gotten close to achieving it. Even getting to 21 or 22 books by the end of the year – just two books shy of averaging the full two a month.
But again, this year was going to be different. After all, I implemented new tactics and was deliberate about my planning. So… the result?
As of June, I’ve already completed 24 books and am averaging four books a month. Four books a month! I thought getting through two books a month would be impossible and here I am doubling it.
If I can do it, so can you. Set goals that are within your control, plan out the tactics, and make time for it in your schedule.
How to achieve goals – Change it
Here’s a scenario that I hear often: I have my goal. And I know what I need to do and all that. But when the time finally rolls around for me to take action, I just don’t.
Has that happened to you?
You have a goal to launch an email campaign by the end of the month and have planned out when to work on it. You’ve decided to start chipping away at it at 9:30 AM, but 9:30 AM comes and goes and you’re still scrolling through Instagram. What then?
Well, the first thing you need to ask yourself is… do you actually want to achieve that goal?
Because it sounds like you took all the necessary steps.
You set a goal within your control. You planned the tactics and you made time in your schedule for it. And yet, you didn’t take action. So ask yourself – why do I actually want to create those emails?
In many cases, your lack of having a strong why is what’s causing you to remain inactive.
The only way?
One of my recent coaching clients really wanted to get into running. And he followed the structure that I described above. Yet, he found himself consistently not running. When I asked him why he wanted to start running, he said it was because he wanted to:
- Get outside more
- Get in better shape
- And also spend time with his significant other
In return, I asked… Well, is running the only way to make that happen?
And in response, he realized that no – there were many, many other options that he could do that met his criteria. Things like long-distance bike riding, hiking, swimming, mountain climbing.
His running goal was limiting himself unnecessarily.
After talking through it, he realized that he needed to make a change. He didn’t need to run five days a week to reach his why. He just needed to do any form of outdoor cardio, five days a week. So he adjusted his goal accordingly and has since made progress in the right direction.
Ways to achieve goals – Ask yourself this question
When you set a goal for yourself but just can’t seem to take any action on it, consider if you actually want to achieve it.
More often than not, if you’re following the steps above and still aren’t putting in the work, the goal probably just isn’t one that resonates with you enough. Here’s an easy question to ask yourself:
- Am I excited by what achieving this goal could mean for my future?
For instance, let’s say you want to complete one online course by next month that teaches the programming language, Python. Looking at the question above, you have two options:
- Yes – Learning Python will open doors to learning other programming languages which will eventually help me gain my engineering dream job. I’m very excited about this!
- No – My roommate told me I should take a course in Python so I am going to look into it.
See the difference? The yes answer has weight. It’s exciting. It’s motivating. You are building a better future for yourself. The no answer is weak. It’s a chore. At best you are feigning interest and at worst you are indifferent.
When you ask yourself that question, your answer should be yes. If you say no, then you need to reevaluate your goal and either trash it or change it to something that better excites you about the future.
When the motivation burns off
Now, you may be thinking – Well, I was excited the first couple weeks but now I’m not feeling as motivated so I just don’t know…
Ya, that’s going to happen. Many people drop off after the first couple weeks when the fun and shininess fades. So if after two weeks, you ask yourself that question again and your answer has changed from a yes to a no, you need to make an adjustment.
If you want to know how to achieve goals in life, this is crucial – the answer should always be a yes. Even when things get hard. Look at QuickBooost for instance (what you’re reading right now). I love working on my site, but there are often periods when I am very stuck.
Things aren’t going the way I want, people aren’t responding the way I had hoped, whatever.
But when I ask myself the question above with my QuickBooost goals in mind, the answer is always yes. Even when times are tough. So if you find yourself leaning towards no, change your goal.
Achieve results by being flexible
One major aspect of goal setting is flexibility. There is no rule that states that your goal must be locked in for the decade, or the year, or even the month. The more flexible you are with your goals, the better.
I see the act of goal setting kind of like drying cement.
You have some time to make changes before it gets solidified. So see each goal like an experiment. If after two weeks it doesn’t feel like a good fit, adjust it. You’re not giving up, you’re just correcting course. And with each tweak, you get closer to finding the perfect goal for you.
One that challenges you and helps you work towards a better future.
How to achieve goals – Look down
You have your goal, you answered yes to the question above, but you are still not taking action on it. Be honest. Are you feeling overwhelmed? Because that’s common.
If you’re not used to setting goals, or working towards things long-term, you may be feeling the pressure of having too much to do.
Here’s an example.
Let’s say you want to write a book by December 31st. This will be your first book and you’re not really sure where to start. So, you do what you always do – procrastinate. But the problem is, the more you procrastinate, the more writing piles up. And each day the piles get bigger, leading to more overwhelm and, in turn, more procrastination.
That’s a problem.
So if you tend to become overwhelmed by your goals, try this simple trick: look down.
For goals that require a lot of effort and a long time-horizon, it’s easy to look up at the mountain you still have to climb and feel panicked. You have so much longer to go. Maybe you should just turn around.
But that’s not necessary.
Instead, if looking up is stressing you out, just look down. Right at your shoes. And then, take one step forward. And then another, and then another. Forget the journey you still have left. Instead, focus on what’s directly in front of you.
What does that actually look like? Deciding that you will:
- Write 1000 words a day
- Or write one page a day
- Or that you will write two pages a day, three days a week
It means not panicking about the finished product and in its place focusing on something small that you can do today. And then, after taking one small step at a time, you can glance up. The mountain will still be daunting, but when you look back you’ll see just how far you’ve already gone.
And then, you’ll gaze back down and take another step forward.
How to achieve goals – Remove friction
One of my favorite ways for how to achieve a goal successfully is to remove friction. What does that mean? Simply, you need to get rid of anything that stands between you and the goal that you want to accomplish – especially if the goal is challenging.
Looking again at my reading goal, for example, one problem that I run into is comfort.
When I’m laying on the couch, I’m comfortable. I’m relaxed. But, I’m not normally doing anything of value. And I’m normally also bored looking for something to do. But the thought of getting off the couch, going upstairs, and grabbing my book is terrible. I’m way too comfortable and there’s no way I’m getting up.
Even though I know this is a perfect opportunity to read.
So what I’ve started doing is keeping a book right next to the couch. Now when I’m back in that situation, I can easily reach out my arm, grab the book, and start reading.
I’ve reduced the friction between reading and not reading and thus have read much more than I was reading before.
Comfort is the problem
I have a friend that was looking for some advice on her goals. She wanted to start an online business, but whenever she would open her laptop she would drift over to YouTube. YouTube to her is what the couch is to me. Comfort.
Because of that, she had a difficult time changing windows to actually start writing content. I told her about the idea of removing friction and made a suggestion. Set her browser’s home screen to her website.
That way, whenever she opened a new window, her online business would be the thing that popped up. She still might drift over to YouTube every once in a while, but by reducing the number of steps required to get her to her site, she would be more likely to work on it.
Looking at your own life then, what friction lies between you and the goals that you want to accomplish?
By the way, this strategy doesn’t just apply to goal setting. You can remove friction for anything that you want to do in your life. But if you’re wanting tips to achieve goals faster, this is a must.
How to achieve goals – Exercise
Do you struggle to exercise? If you want to know how to achieve results, try this. When you get dressed for the day, put on workout clothes and then keep your running shoes by wherever you’ll be when it’s time to exercise.
How to achieve goals – Knitting
Do you want to knit a blanket but still haven’t gotten around to it? Keep your knitting tools next to the place that you often relax.
How to achieve goals – Relationships
Want to call one friend a day but keep putting it off? Make it easier on yourself by instead sending a thoughtful text. Remove the friction that is the act of calling.
How to achieve goals moving forward
If you want to know how to set goals and achieve them, apply the lessons that I described above. Set ones that are within your control. Plan out the tactics that you will use. Make time for them in your schedule.
Additionally, adjust your goal to fit your interests. Take it one step at a time. And while you’re taking those steps, remove the friction that is preventing you from making progress.
Setting a goal is easy. It’s fun.
Achieving your goals is hard and you will run into obstacles. When you do, recognize that it is merely part of the process and keep on going. Experiment with new strategies. Be flexible and don’t be afraid to make a change if you need to.
Goal success is possible.
Don’t get discouraged if things aren’t going the way you planned. Try out the above steps to achieve your goals and then be patient, continue to try new things, and keep putting one foot in front of the other.
You will make your impossible goal possible.