THE BLOG
09/21/2015 10:44 am ET | Updated Sep 21, 2016

How to Achieve Any Goal in 7 Simple Steps

How to Achieve Your Goals

We all have goals in life. But we don't all do what it takes to achieve those goals. While we might start out with good intentions, we eventually get sidetracked, caught up, and engrossed in distractions or bad habits. And those goals that were once brightly illuminated in our minds, dim and fade away.

Yet, there are those select few out there who are able to set goals and achieve them. They do it consistently. So what sets that person apart from the others? How is it that one individual can continuously follow through, while countless more eventually end up throwing in that proverbial towel and giving up?

To answer that question, we need to look at the goal setting process itself. Many of us tend to set goals during one time of the year: New Year's. We all know how that pans out, right? At the outset, we're excited. We attack our goals with gusto. Gyms are full in January. Employees are staying late at night. And people are working hard in general towards achieving their goals.

Over time, however, the story doesn't quite go like that. In a study conducted by Quirkology that tracked 3,000 people, it was determined that just 12 percent achieve the goals that they set on New Year's. Yes, just 12 percent. That's about 1 in 10 people. This is also known as New Year's Syndrome.

What's more interesting about this study? At the start of the year, only 52 percent were confident that they would achieve their goals. Meaning, 48 percent set their goals in vain. They weren't even confident that they could achieve them in the first place. They were just going through the motions of goal setting. Does this sound familiar to you?

Many might ask, "There must be a simpler way to achieve your goals?" Well, no goal that's worthwhile is that simple. But there are seven simple steps that anyone can follow to help make their dreams into a reality. While it won't happen overnight, over time, if you stay committed, they will eventually come to pass.

Step 1 -- Set Specific Goals

Where most people fail in goal setting, is in not getting specific about their goals. Most of us keep the goals in our minds where they remain in the abstract. However, the act of writing out our goals and being highly specific about them makes them more real and concrete.

Grab a piece of paper and set specific goals. Don't wait for New Year's. Do it now. Write down wild details about the goal and the life you'll be leading. If it's a weight loss goal, write down the exact weight you'll be. Pick out the exact clothes you'll be wearing. Decide on what foods you'll be eating, what kinds of activities you'll be engaged in on a daily basis, and so on.

Get specific. The more specific, the more likely you'll be to achieve those goals.

Step 2 -- Set Measurable and Time-Based Goals

Decide, right now, on a metric to gauge your goals. If it's a weight-loss goal, decide on the exact amount of weight you'll lose. If it's a money-related goal, decide on the exact amount of money you'll earn or have. If it's a debt-related goal, decide on the exact amount of debt that will be cut.

The best way to succeed in goal setting is by setting a measurable goal that can then be gauged on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. The more you track and focus on that metric, the more likely you'll be to achieve it over time.

The goal should also be time-based. Write down a specific date that you'll achieve your goal by, down to the day. Don't just say next year. You need an exact day. There's a real transformation that occurs in the mind when we have a precise date for achieving our goals.

Step 3 -- Find Strong-Enough Meanings

When a goal means enough to you, you'll do whatever it takes to achieve it. We've all had meaningful goals in life that we've accomplished. Even when the odds are stacked against us, we'll go all out to achieve that goal when it means enough.

Come up with strong-enough meanings for your goals. They can't be superficial. We'll do far less for things like money and fame than we will for family and security. To find your deep-rooted meaning, keep asking yourself why you want something until the answer equals the question.

For example, why would someone want to earn a million dollars? If you answered for the prestige, you'll be less likely to follow through. But, if you want to earn a million dollars to have freedom, security, and more money to to contribute to others, then your chances of succeeding are far better.

Step 4 -- Create a Plan

You need a plan to achieve your goals. While this doesn't have to detail out every single step you'll take to get there, you do need a general sense of direction and course of action. What will you do to make your dreams become a reality?

Plans can always change. But without a plan at the outset, the goal still remains a bit obscured, even if it's been written down and highly specified. The plan adds fuel to the fire -- it's a set of actions that need to be taken to help you reach your goals.

Come up with a general plan. If your goals are one-year goals, detail out what you'll do over the course of the next 12 months to achieve your goals. Create milestones that you'll need to hit every month to help later gauge your success.

As long as you create measurable goals, creating a plan and developing milestones is easier. Break your long-term goals out into monthly goals then create a plan to help you get there. Review the plan every morning when you wake up and every night before you go to sleep.

Step 5 -- Develop Keystone Habits

When it comes to habit development, the creation of keystone habits will provide the most significant return on your investment of time. Keystone habits act as the soil for other good habits to grow from, and they also help to eliminate bad habits.

Sometimes, the biggest thing that holds most people back from accomplishing their goals, are their habits. In fact, according to one study, habits make up 45 percent of our behavior. So, if you can improve your habits, you can increase the likelihood of achieving your goals. And, by focusing on keystone habits, which take no more time to build than ordinary habits, you can further increase your chances of success.

The objective? Find keystone habits in the particular area of life you're looking to improve. For example, if you're looking to improve your finances, create the keystone habit of expense journaling. If you're looking to improve your health, create the keystone habits of 30 minutes of daily exercise.

Step 6 -- Leverage the Pareto Principle

The Pareto Principle, also known as the 80/20-Rule, states that 80 percent of the results comes from 20 percent of the efforts. When you can identify which 20 percent of your efforts are producing 80 percent of your results, you can amplify those efforts to scale out your results.

In theory, this sounds wonderful. If we could only focus on the 20 percent of efforts that are driving 80 percent of our results, we would all be superstars, wouldn't we? But, the reality of the matter is that we all tend to get distracted and waste time.

If you don't have an effective time management system in place, achieving the goals you're looking to achieve might be far harder for you. Find a good system for managing your time and avoiding distractions, then identify the 20 percent of your efforts that are producing the 80 percent of your results. And consistently focus on those efforts.

Step 7 -- Evaluate and Re-adjust

Without constant evaluation, it's next to impossible to achieve our goals. You need to find a system for tracking your efforts and your results, and you need to do it daily. Yes, daily. If you're serious about your goals, you need to get a detailed account of where you stand every single day.

You need to look at your goals like a business looks at its balance sheet. What efforts did you expend in that day. What outcomes did you gain? If you have money-related goals, this is a simple case of arithmetic. How much did you spend today, down to the very last cent? How much did you make today, down to the very last cent?

For weight-loss related goals, this also works. How much do you weigh every single day at the same time of the day? What food and drink did you put into your mouth? What energy did you expend (exercise, number of steps taken, etc.). When you highlight the truth, it becomes more difficult for the subconscious mind to shroud and mask your limiting behavior.

As you evaluate, you can track your progress towards your goals. Are you getting closer each day? Or are you falling further behind. If need be, make adjustments to your approach. If you see something isn't working, change it up. Try something different. Change the plan, but don't change the goal.

Image Credit: Wikipedia