If you’re reading this, it means you belong to the tiny percentage of people who actually take their dreams seriously.
In this post we’ll have a look at the psychology behind setting goals as well as nine practical tips to maximize your chances of success and succeed faster.
Ready? Let’s dive in!
If you set goals, you’ve already won
Most people don’t really set goals. They may have a rough idea of what they’d like to achieve and experience, but that’s it.
In theory, all of us have dreams — whether it’s the perfect relationship, buying a house, financial independence… or perhaps just the weekend.
Seriously though, we all have dreams. The issue is, it’s incredibly hard to turn them into actual results as long as they remain just a dream.
Goals are like official declarations. When you set goals, you turn pro and start taking what you want in life very seriously.
This has two main advantages — not only does it increase your chances of success, it makes you happier as well.
Our brain likes challenges. We have evolved by solving problems, and the process of having goals, reaching them, and getting dopamine hits is ingrained in all of us.
Growth in general seems to be one of the secrets to happiness. As long as you’re growing (regardless of where you are) you’ll get that extra dose of happiness and motivation.
Stop growing and the opposite happens. This is why we hear stories of people who “finally made it” and then had the worst depression.
The truth is, we must continuously change. We can’t escape change — everything in the universe must continuously transform itself. It’s like a law.
The habit of setting goals (small and big) ensures you follow that law and in return feel alive and be the best you can be.
Why most people don’t set goals
The following probably doesn’t apply to you but it’s still a good idea to keep this in mind in case you ever fall into these traps in future…
- They think it’s awkward. Or cringy, or weird. No one likes to be the odd one. Even worse, what if you tell everyone about your goals and then fail? Here’s the simple solution — just keep your goals to yourself and only share them with like-minded people.
- They think it’s unnecessary. And technically it is. There’s no need to live life to the fullest. Being comfortable is enough. The issue, as we’ve seen, has to do with change being a constant in life. If you don’t work toward your potential, it’s like you go against the law of change and stagnation is the punishment.
- Lack of inspiration. Travel, meet new people, take risks, try new things especially if they excite and/or scare you. It’s hard to desire what you have never seen. Go out there, see that the world is big and that reality has many “layers”, then pick the one you fall in love with.
- Poor health and vitality. Low energy, brain fog, insufficient sleep, toxic habits. At best, they’ll kill your motivation; at worst, they’ll actually prevent you from doing anything outside your comfort zone. Mental and physical wellbeing is key to having goals — more on this in a minute.
Common goal setting mistakes
- Setting goals that arise from negative emotions (doing something out of fear rather than working toward cool things)
- Overthinking and/or focusing on the planning part for too long and losing momentum
- Setting goals that actually belong to other people; dreaming about being someone else rather than being the best you
- Not having physical lists where you write down your goals, or reminders in general
- Not breaking down goals into small achievable steps; not having deadlines and/or tracking progress
I have written an entire article on this — you can check out the full list of 22 goal setting mistakes here.
How to set goals… and crush them
1. Intention, not desire
This is a cool little trick I have learned from Reality Transurfing (a set of techniques to control reality rather than letting reality control you).
Essentially, to increase the chances of achieving your goals, reduce any type of desire or importance associated with it. Which is counterintuitive.
The book offers an in-depth explanation but in a nutshell the reason is, desire creates a lot of tension and anxiety and also makes the goal seem unattainable.
2. Being process oriented
The average person is happy when they reach a goal. Naturally, that happiness is short-lived. Be the exception — find happiness in the process.
By switching to a process-oriented mindset, you learn to find joy in the goal as a whole — the whole process from beginning to end regardless of results.
This in turn supercharges your motivation and productivity. When it’s the process itself that makes you happy, you naturally want to work toward your goals.
Why is it hard to, say, own a successful business, or perform at your best, or have optimal mental health?
Sure, in some cases competition and luck play a role. However, if you think about it you will realize that the main reason it’s hard to have these things is that they are perceived as abnormal.
Brushing your teeth, driving, using smartphones, etc. These are actually very complicated tasks, but because we normalized them, we excel at them. So why not normalize your goals, too?
4. Turning it into a game
Video games and most games in general can be incredibly addictive. So here’s a little secret to achieve goals faster — turn the process into a game.
With actual level, milestones, and most importantly rewards. When you achieve a sub-goal, no matter how insignificant it may be, reward yourself.
Celebrate each small win because it trains your mind to love what you’re doing. It gives you purpose, direction, motivation.
5. Marathons, not sprints
Statistically, going for sprints is a bad idea. You are much more likely to be consistent (and not crash) if instead you work less but more often.
An analogy is the South Pole expedition in which the team that marched 20 miles every single day, regardless of weather conditions, succeeded; and the team that instead went for sprints died.
To crush your goals, stick to them and never overestimate your ability to invest ridiculous amounts of energy and focus in short periods.
6. Gut health/digestion
This is huge. Get it right and productivity will be through the roof. Get it wrong and it’ll affect not just performance, but mental health.
Digestion requires energy. It’s technically impossible to perform at your best after a heavy meal. Doesn’t mean you should eat less, but do make sure you time it right.
So for example, if you usually work on your goals in the morning, either eat light or fast so that digestion doesn’t take up any of your focus/energy.
7. Zero distractions
Develop the habit of setting aside some time in which you remove anything that distracts you from uninterrupted work.
Examples: phone notifications and the phone itself if possible, social media and the news, loud noises, etc.
Your mind can only focus on one thing at a time and if multitasking is bad enough, let alone a constant stream of external distractions.
8. Lists and reminders
This is another big one. You may have all these goals in your head but that’s not enough. Never trust your memory, always remind yourself of what you are working toward.
Keep lists and visual reminders. Write down your goals frequently. Most importantly, actually define and set goals in the first place!
Besides keeping yourself accountable, this is good for “normalization” as mentioned earlier. Remind yourself of what you want to achieve each day until it becomes normal.
We all love to hear stories of overnight success. Stories of people who sacrificed a whole lot, burned bridges, left everything behind to succeed… not so much.
Here’s the thing — you can’t have everything in life. This means you always have to sacrifice something. Always. Whether you realize it or not.
And once you get crystal clear on what you truly want, you’ll be okay with sacrificing other things because they won’t be as important.
Set goals and crush them!
So there you have it. I hope this post inspired you to take action (and most importantly made it easier for you to do so).
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