Goal Keeping: Keys to Keeping Focused on One’s Goals

If you have not done so already, it is not too late to take a moment to paint a picture of how you would like the new year to look. What do you want to do? What would you like to achieve? Where would you like to go? At the end of the year, what kind of person would you like to describe yourself as? The answer to these and other goal-related questions can be thought-provoking and exciting, but unless we take action to ensure that we reach our goals, they can quickly become forgotten, abandoned, or even a source of disappointment or frustration.

Here are 5 important keys to help you keep your eye on your goals and enjoy a richer, more satisfying, and enjoyable year.

  1. Take Baby Steps: Remember that we live in a world full of immediate gratification; goals often run counter to this (though this is not always the case). Big dreams, professional degrees or educational achievements, and many other dreams take a lot of time, energy, and planning. According to Napoleon Hill in Think and Grow Rich, Henry Ford demanded that his engineers develop an eight-cylinder engine for over a year. They repeatedly told him it was not possible, but his perseverance was unflappable. Remember that it took Thomas Edison over 10,000 tries create the light bulb. When asked about it by a reporter if he felt like a failure, Edison stated, “Young man, why would I feel like a failure? And why would I ever give up? I now know definitively over 9,000 ways that an electric light bulb will not work. Success is almost in my grasp.” Shortly thereafter,  he found the bamboo filament that allowed the light bulb to stay lit for hours.
  2. Frequency: Consistent, small steps are an important key in reaching our goals. The simplicity of taking small steps often belie its significance. Long-term weight loss does not work if we only change our diet one out of twelve months. Likewise, “cramming” our goals does not lead to the long-term results that we seek. The famous cellist Yo-Yo Ma was taught to play one measure at a time. For non-musicians, this would be similar to having a slice of cake and consuming one bite per day. We would learn to eat and thoroughly enjoy the one bite, right?! Take slow and steady steps to reach your goals. Enjoy the process and remain open to learning along the way.
  3. “Keep your eye on the prize”: Research has found that our mindset and perspective have huge implications on how we run our lives. When used in a certain way, we can use our mindset to help us reach our goals faster, more easier, and our goals actually appear closer! In research on exercise, significant differences were found between two groups of subjects. The only difference – one group was told to focus on the finish line whereas the other group was encouraged to look around their environment as they normally would. Those that focused on the finish line moved 23% faster, found the task 17% easier, and perceived the finish line to be 30 % closer! Our daily lives can become very busy and hectic, but if we are able to keep sight of our goals, we will get there (almost 25% faster)!
  4. Get a cheerleader: Mother Teresa stated, “I can do things you cannot, you can do things I cannot; together we can do great things.” We each have our unique talents and abilities, but we can all become distracted, disappointed, and frustrated when our dreams become thwarted. When we are held accountable, provided support and encouragement, and reminded to stay true to our dreams and goals, we reach them. Coaches and mentors fulfill these roles. They help us get back up after we stumble and fall. They help us get our of safe, comfort that limit our success and reach our goals.
  5. Lastly, expect challenges: As your mother probably told you, “Life is not fair.” Despite our good intentions and best efforts, life can happen and it may not be pretty. Seemingly easy tasks are bound to take longer expected and technical challenges are bound to occur at the most inopportune moment. Instead of throwing up our hands (and towel), remember that this is part of the process. Challenges can be great learning opportunities and flexibility is important to help keep our frustration levels in check. We cannot always control the outcome, but we can control how we respond. In these situations, it is often helpful to give ourselves credit for our effort and remember that the definition of fail is “First Attempt In Learning.”

Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.
– Albert Einstein