Learn 10 proven strategies that can help you achieve your next big goal!
There's something really exciting about setting a new goal. When we're in the goal setting phase, we feel really pumped up and motivated. We picture ourselves achieving the goal and getting to experience all of the benefits that come along with it. It's fun to think about how our life could improve if we could just accomplish this thing that we set out to do.
But when we get into the day-to-day work of actually trying to achieve that goal? Our excitement tends to wane. It's hard to put in the effort day after day. And it often takes a while to see any fruit from our labor. Our discipline and motivation will carry us through for a while. But when that wears off, we tend to drop the ball, find other things to do with our time, and our goal falls by the wayside.
So what is the difference between those goals that get lost in the shuffle and those that we end up achieving? It's not just up to chance or having enough determination to see us through to the finish.
10 Big Goal Strategies that Actually Work
This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.
There are several strategies that we can put into place to improve the likelihood of following through and completing our goal. When we have an intentional plan that gives us accountability and helps to create positive habits, we'll be a lot more likely to turn those goals that we set into a reality.
Today I wanted to share 10 strategies that have been crucial for helping me achieve goals in the past. Most recently, I trained for and ran a half marathon, so I will use examples from that experience to illustrate the different strategies throughout this post. But the same principles can apply to goals in many, many different areas.
1. Choose one big goal to make your top focus, your #1 priority.
We are multi-dimensional people, so it makes sense that we would have a variety of interests and goals in many different areas. But when we have a big goal in mind, it helps to have a singular focus so we can concentrate on making that one big thing our top priority.
It's harder when our focus is split between two or three or four big things that we're trying to accomplish. All of them may get some of our attention. But it's really hard to give more than one thing laser focus and top billing on our list of priorities.
When I decided to train for a half marathon, I wasn't also trying to read three books per week or learn a new language or create a new product for my business. The half marathon was the number one priority I had during that time. And the decisions I made about how to structure my days, how to fuel my body, etc. were made with that goal in mind.
(This doesn't mean you can only focus on one thing forever and ever! Once fitness becomes a habit in your life that you do consistently, for example, it may be time to have another area be your top focus. When one area becomes ingrained into your routine and happens naturally, it's easier to give another area top billing for a while.)
2. Do some research on what has worked for others who have had success with your goal.
Jumping into a big goal can be intimidating, so it helps if we don't have to reinvent the wheel.
When I wanted to make my training plan for the half marathon, for example, I looked for plans online that had been created by experienced runners. I ended up adapting this plan from Hal Higdon to fit my schedule.
If I had tried to create a plan on my own, I may have ended up running too much or too little or not incorporating cross training correctly because I'm not an expert. I had never run 13.1 miles before. Relying on someone else's expertise gave me the confidence that I was training the right way and helped me to ultimately succeed at my goal.
Doing some research and seeing the results of others who have accomplished a similar goal to mine can also be incredibly motivating! It's a little glimpse into what is possible and can help give us that push we need to finally take action.
But while research is great, I have a few caveats that I wanted to make sure I shared on this point...
Test It Out
As helpful as research can be, I think we need to test the advice of others to make sure it works for us. For example, I had read and had a few people tell me that I would need some type of fuel like gel packs and water during my half marathon. So I went out and bought a running belt with a water bottle attached to it where I could store my fuel and water as I ran.
And I HATED it.
To keep the pack from bouncing up and down as I ran, I had to fasten it tightly around my middle and even push my belly out a little bit to keep it from moving around. It messed with my breathing and made me more tired. It just wasn't for me.
I tried a few other ways of carrying water and fuel before realizing that:
A. I hated them all. And...
B. I didn't even find myself needing fuel at all during my long runs each week. And if I could grab a few swigs of water at the middle point of my race, that was enough for me.
I ended up just leaving a water bottle on the hood of my car, which was parked near the mid-point of the race. And I grabbed a couple sips as I went by.
In this instance, those things that other half marathon runners had deemed necessary for their success felt like an impediment to mine. I was really glad that I tested out a few different options before race day to find the one that worked best for me, rather than just blindly relying on what others told me to do.
Don't Get Stuck!
I know there are some people out there who love, love, LOVE the research phase. (I am confident of this because I live with one of them. 😉 ) Some research can be helpful and motivating, as I mentioned above. But I caution you not to let yourself get stuck on this step!
Some people research and research and research, but never actually DO. And as great as acquiring knowledge about your topic is, you will never reach your goal if you let yourself get stuck in research mode forever.
You don't have to be perfect before you can start. You don't have to know everything before you can start. Gather your info, sure, but then GET MOVING on your goal!
3. Find a challenge or event to join.
One of the most motivating factors that helps me stick to a plan and achieve a goal is accountability. I try to build in accountability at several different levels. That way, even if one fails or is not as motivating, I have others to fill the void.
Finding a challenge or event to join that is related to my goal helps to give me "community accountability." There is a large group of people shooting for the same or similar goal as I am. Knowing that I'm not doing this alone brings a measure of confidence and focus. And once I've committed to the challenge or event, I want to see it through.
In the case of my half marathon, Elyse Ellis-- who I follow on Instagram-- told her followers, "I'm going to do a half marathon on May 1st, and I'm inviting you to do a 5k, 10k, or half marathon with me (virtually) on that day."
I had considered running a half marathon in the past, but had never buckled down and did the training and the race until she put out that challenge. Having a specific date to shoot for and knowing that others were also training to run that day gave me the push I needed to actually commit and do the thing.
4. Make a detailed plan.
Another layer of accountability that I try to add as I work to achieve my big goal is accountability to myself. The way I do this is by creating a specific, action-oriented plan.
It's a lot easier to take steps toward achieving my goal if I already know in advance what I am going to do each day. In the case of half marathon training, I took a blank calendar and wrote down the specific workout I was going to do each day for the 7-ish weeks I had to train for the race.
This way, I didn't have to think about or decide every day what I was going to do. The decision was already made for me. I just had to show up and complete whatever task was on my calendar that day.
If your goal is to get organized, you could write down the specific area of your house you want to work on each day.
If your goal is to eat healthy, you could plan out your meals in advance so you know exactly what you'll be consuming.
Or if your goal is to complete a big project for work, you can break down the project into smaller action steps and assign specific steps to each day.
Half the battle in achieving a big goal is figuring out what we need to do to get there. If we take the time to figure that out in advance and create a specific plan for what we're going to do, we make it a lot easier on ourselves when it's time to get in there and take action.
5. Tell people you're going to do it (and keep them updated).
So far I've talked about community accountability and accountability to ourselves. But one more layer of accountability we can add in is accountability to other people in our lives. There's something about saying our goals out loud to another person and having their support that gives us an extra level of motivation to keep going when we feel like giving up.
Shortly after we got married, Donnie decided to run a half marathon of his own. I considered doing it too, but never mentioned the possibility to him or anyone else. I went on a few runs, but they were hard and uncomfortable. And since I had never told anyone about my plan, it was easy to just give up on the idea of doing the run.
This time when I decided to train for the half marathon, I told Donnie right away what I was planning to do, and he checked in on me and encouraged me along the way.
I told my three best friends, who are also my running buddies, about my half marathon plan. And they not only asked about how my training was going, but they surprised me and showed up on race day to each run a bit of the 13.1 miles with me, which helped it go way faster.
I also shared my plan on Instagram, which was probably the scariest place to tell people about it. But I knew that if I put it out there to the masses that I was planning to run a half marathon, I would push myself to do it no matter what.
And anytime I was about to do a long training run and was nervous about whether or not I would complete it, I jumped on IG stories and said, "I'm about to do this long run! I've never done this distance before, so I'm pretty nervous about it."
Telling people I was about to do the run held me accountable for completing it. And I would also get responses and encouraging messages along the way as I was running, which helped push me to finish!
We tend to feel like we have to be completely self-sufficient people who accomplish things all on our own. But the truth is that having the support and encouragement of others can make a massive difference when it comes to actually following through on our goal.
6. Record your progress.
All of my record keeping might seem like overkill to some people, but it really did help to keep me in check and helped me keep going.
After I would complete my run or workout for the day, I would cross it off on the plan I had made on the calendar. But I also kept a running list in the Evernote app in my phone that said what my workout was and how many minutes it took.
I got into the habit of recording my workout right when I completed it. And it was really encouraging to be able to look back and see how my times improved and my distance increased over time.
Recording my progress in a list also helped me...
7. Focus on not breaking your streak.
I first heard this strategy called the "Jerry Seinfeld Method." The story goes that Jerry would work on writing jokes for his stand-up routine for a certain amount of time each day. When he had worked on them for his set amount of time, he would put an X on that day on the calendar.
As the Xs accumulated, it was motivating for him to be able to look at the calendar and see all of those days in a row that he had completed his joke writing goal. Eventually, he just didn't want to break his streak of Xs. And that motivated him to keep going with his daily writing habit.
Many apps have a built in streak counter. My Kindle app has one, as does the Bible reading app I use. They realize that it can be really motivating to get a long streak going and not want to break it.
Keeping my list of workouts has done a similar thing for me. As of the date of this writing, I am on day 289 in a row of working out, some of which was my half marathon training (days 222 - 271, to be exact 😉 ).
Now that my streak has gotten so long, I REALLY don't want to break it by not working out. So no matter how busy I am in a day, I always find a way to fit in my workout so I don't break the streak.
(On Mother's Day, I did a half an hour of yoga while watching a Mighty Ducks marathon with my boys. This allowed me to spend time with them and not break my streak at the same time! 🙂 )
And speaking of fitting in that work we need to do to reach our goal...
8. Always have a plan for when you're going to fit it into your day (the earlier, the better).
I always try to decide the day before exactly when I will complete the daily action steps that will help me to get closer to achieving my goal. This is particularly important if your goal is dependent on the weather or some other force or situation outside of your control.
As I was training for the half marathon, I would always be checking the weather for the week to make sure I would be able to get my miles in. If it was possible, I liked to run first thing in the morning so I could get it out of the way. (I don't know about you, but my motivation tends to wane as the day goes on!)
Sometimes I had to watch for a break in the rain or wait for it to warm up enough to be able to run outside. Other times, I had to adjust my schedule for the week to make sure running days fell on days that were supposed to be dry. (Gotta love spring in western Pennsylvania-- always unpredictable!)
But no matter what, I was always sure to arrange the rest of my day so that I could fit in my training and take another step toward accomplishing my goal.
(This is another reason why having one primary focus is so important. For a little while, everything else takes a backseat so that you can accomplish your goal. It's hard to do this with two or more big goals at once!)
9. If you fail, start back up ASAP.
Let's be honest-- we are all human, which means that at some point as we work to achieve our goal, we will probably fail.
Our energy will be down and we won't be able to complete a workout.
Something will take longer than we planned, and we won't finish our task for the day.
We will be tempted by something really delicious and stray from our healthy eating plan.
We'll get really into the book we're reading, stay up late to finish it, and not get the 8 hours of sleep we promised ourselves we'd get.
These small missteps are not the end of the world. In fact, sometimes we get tired and need a break, and throwing the plan out the window can be the best thing for us for that day.
But what matters is getting right back on track and not using our slip up as an excuse to give up for good. I love James Clear's advice on this point. He says when we're trying to build a new habit and we miss a day, that's okay. But we should make it our goal to never miss two days in a row. When we miss two in a row, that starts us toward building a different habit, usually one we don't want!
It's definitely important to give ourselves grace-- we don't have to be perfect! But if we're determined to reach our big goal, we also want to make sure we bounce back and get right back to it!
10. Make your next plan before you reach your big goal.
In his phenomenal book Atomic Habits, James Clear makes the argument that our big goals are usually a reflection of a more permanent habit or change we want to adopt in order to become a certain type of person.
My big goal was to run a half marathon, but after I achieved it, I didn't want to be done with running forever. I wanted to continue with the habit of exercise in order to be a fit, healthy person.
If we organize our entire house, would wouldn't say "Yay! It's organized! Now I can put stuff wherever I want and not worry about cleaning up anymore!" We would want to maintain the habit of organization so that we have an orderly home and life.
If we meet our goal of getting 8 hours of sleep for 30 nights in a row, we wouldn't want to go back to staying up late and only getting 4 hours of sleep. We would want to continue the habit of getting enough rest so we feel refreshed and energetic throughout our days indefinitely.
After we complete a big goal, there is this sense of being "done" that can often deter us from maintaining all of the progress we've made. In reality, what we want is a lifelong habit that will help us be people who are fit or organized or well rested, etc.
So before I reach my big goal, I always try to make a plan for what will come next after the goal has been met.
Before I ran the half marathon, I had mapped out my workout plan for the next month after the half marathon was completed. It included days for stretching and recuperation so that I wasn't pushing my body too hard. But it gave me a roadmap to continue my habit of fitness so that I didn't just quit after my big goal was done.
The Power of a Big Goal
Achieving a big goal has the power to positively impact the rest of our life. While working toward these big goals, we tend to develop healthy habits that can stick with us long after the actual goal has been achieved.
Training for a race can turn someone who considers themselves "not very athletic" into someone who considers themselves a "runner" for the rest of their lives.
Working toward the goal of getting their house organized can help turn a self-proclaimed "scatterbrained" person into a "generally tidy" person instead.
Completing the goal of consistently getting a good night's sleep can help someone who always feels "anxious and stressed" to feel "calm and refreshed" instead.
These big goals can spur us on to improve our habits, which can in turn improve our lives. And that is a pretty powerful thing.
That doesn't mean that achieving our biggest goals will suddenly become easy. But implementing the strategies I shared above can give us a much better chance of getting there than if we were just to dive in without a plan.
What big goal are you hoping to achieve soon? Tell me about it in the comments below so I can cheer you on! I can't wait to see what you accomplish!
Working on a big goal soon? Be sure to pin this image so you can come back to this post easily!
Thank you so much for following along! Have a wonderful day!
This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.