We all want to grow. Whether that means being more successful, having more control over our lives, being more financially secure or being happier and more content. One thing we know for sure, day dreaming will not get us there.
We need to have goals and we need to work towards achieving them. But so often the things we want to achieve seem so far off and so difficult that we either give up before we’ve begun or we fall at the first hurdle. Achieving our goals, however, doesn’t have to be like this. Here are a few suggestions for tackling goals without a lot of stress.
Be a visionary
What will your life look like when you have achieved your goal? First, you must want to achieve your goal and positively intend to make it happen. If you don’t have this conviction, then you don’t really have a goal, just a dream. There’s nothing wrong with dreaming, but if you don’t take it to the next step, you cannot achieve anything.
A visionary is not someone who simply has grand ideas, important though these ideas are. True visionaries have every intention of turning these dreams into reality. Ask a hundred people what, specifically, they want to achieve in the next ten years, and most will not be able to answer. Part of my job is interviewing people, and this is a question I almost always ask, and I have almost never come across a person who gave me a good answer. Most people, it seems, don’t get past first base.
Take inspiration from those who have gone before
You think it’s too hard to quit smoking? Millions of others have done it before. I have done it. Winston Churchill said that ‘success is going from failure to failure without a lack of enthusiasm.’ It might take you years to achieve something and, in those years, you might fail a thousand times. But you need to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and keep going. If you don’t keep on trying, you’ll fail for sure.
Inspiration in available in spades. Look though this blog, for example. Read about the lives of famous successful people – you’ll find that in almost every case, that person suffered many failures along the road to final victory. So don’t lose heart – keep on going and, when you feel like throwing in the towel, take onboard another scoop of inspiration.
Prepare well: have a plan
If you want to get from New York to LA, you need a plan. You need to decide whether to fly, drive, or take a train, when to set out, what to take for the journey, what to do when you get there, how long to stay, and so on. You might not plan every last detail, but you’ll have a good idea. You cannot achieve your goal without a plan. You don’t need to construct a military campaign and spend hours every week poring over your goals, but you do need to give some thought to the process.
Break your goal down into small steps
Many goals seem very difficult to achieve. Climbing a mountain, building a successful business, becoming wealthy – all are grand enterprises. But the mountain can only be climbed one step at a time and wealth is usually accumulated one dollar at a time.
You will need to break down your goal into lots of smaller ‘mini-goals.’ Think of a habit as an example. Let’s say you want to give up sugar. You could go cold turkey, and this may work for you, but usually, habits can be slowly reduced until they disappear. Start by having one sugar free day a week, then two, then three and so on, until you are only eating sugar now and again or even not at all.
Set monthly or quarterly goals. I have a set of overall goals (which I believe I can achieve) and then I set quarterly and yearly goals going out for the next five years. Working on these small goals will soon add up. A dripping tap soon fills the bucket.
We’re often led to believe that hard work is a necessary component of success. I don’t believe it. If work is a chore that you have to endure to achieve your goals, then I think work is a bad idea. It is a kind of struggle, and struggling gets you nowhere; like the fly caught in a web, the struggle only enmeshes you further. As far as I’m concerned, the puritan work ethic is a disaster – it makes us unhappy and gets us nowhere: it turns us into mice running in a wheel.
Twenty five hundred years ago, Lao Tzu, the semi-mythical author of the Taoist masterpiece, the Tao Te Ching, wrote ‘Great good is said to be like water, sustaining life with no conscious striving,’ and ‘When effort is uncontrived, nothing is left undone; the way of nature rules by allowing things to take their course.’
Anything can be achieved given vision, proper planning and persistence. Nowhere is great effort required. What is needed, however, is patience, time and a sense of conviction.