Need Help Setting Goals and Sticking to Them?

It’s said that about 80 percent of New Year’s resolutions are abandoned by the second week of February.1 This means if you made one for 2018, there’s a good chance it may already have failed. There’s also a sizable number of people who set no goals at all, New Year’s resolutions or otherwise, in part because they may not realize the importance of goal setting and in part because they may not know how to do it.2

There are other reasons why you may avoid goal setting as well, like a fear of failure, rejection or even success, yet setting goals — and sticking to them — is very much a learned behavior. Similar to how you can choose to be happy, you can choose to stick to your goals and be successful. Life coach and author Tony Robbins believes success is “80 percent psychological and 20 percent strategic,”3 which is empowering because it means you can harness the power of your mind to make your goals a reality.

The sad fact is that many people are not exposed to goal setting during their formative years and simply continue on without goals throughout their adulthood. Motivational speaker and author Brian Tracy explains, “One of the greatest tragedies of our educational system is that you can receive 15 to 18 years of education in our schools and never once receive a single hour of instruction on how to set goals.” He adds:4

“Yet we find that in certain schools where goal-setting programs have been introduced since first grade, young people become excited about goal-setting — even if the goal is only to increase the scores by 5 or 10 percent over the course of the semester, or to be on time every day in the course of a month.

Children become so excited about achieving goals that by the third or fourth grade, they love to go to school. They get the best grades. They are seldom absent. They are excited about themselves and about their lives.”

The First Step to Achieving Your Goals? Write Them Down

It sounds incredibly simplistic, but the straightforward act of writing down your goals is perhaps the most important on your goal-setting journey. Case in point, do you know what your goals are? You may have a general idea or a vague desire, but until those ideas are down on paper, they’re more abstract than anything. And your goals should be written on paper (not on a computer) for best results. Robbins explains in a blog post on how to get what you want:5

“There’s something that happens when we write something down. You become a creator when you write down your goals. And you are acknowledging both to your conscious and subconscious minds that where you are right now is not where you want to be. Your brain then makes this distinction and becomes dissatisfied.

One of the strongest motivators is a sense of dissatisfaction. When you’re totally comfortable and relaxed, you’re not going to be motivated to do whatever it takes to make things happen. Dissatisfaction is a power that you want. There is real drive when you find some things that you want to move away from. Tension and pressure can serve as powerful drivers of our actions. Use this as a tool to influence yourself so you can start to take actionable steps toward your success.”

Simply grab a journal, notebook or even a piece of scratch paper and get serious about spelling out your goals. In a study conducted by Gail Matthews, a Dominican University of California psychology professor, it was revealed that people who wrote down their goals on a regular basis were 42 percent more likely to achieve them than those who did not.6 Those who sent weekly updates to a friend, which provides accountability, also had a higher success rate than those who kept their goals to themselves.7

On a side note, the latter point about sharing your goals should be done with caution and discretion. Fear of rejection is a major hurdle that many must overcome to achieving their goals, and if you share your goals with someone who is unsupportive, it may backfire. “Many people hold back from setting worthwhile goals because they have found that every time they do set a goal, somebody steps up and tells them that they can’t achieve it, or that they will lose their money or waste their time,” Tracy says.8

Because of this, Tracy actually recommends keeping your goals confidential and not sharing them with anyone, except for this important caveat: “Share your goals only with others who are committed to achieving goals of their own and who really want you to be successful and achieve your goals as well. Other than that, don’t tell anybody about your goals, so no one is in a position to criticize you, or to discourage you from setting your goals.”

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