What Are the Ways to Achieve My Goals?

How well do you think you can follow your goal achieving plans by simply setting them out on paper? How much do you rely on human willpower in your journey to achieve goals?

Still finding it hard to achieve your goals even though you have set your goals systematically?

Often, we rely a lot on human willpower to realize our plans and achieve our goals. However, you may also have experienced how weak human willpower can be. When we want to work on something, something else which does not usually look interesting can suddenly become very tempting. Then, we are distracted.

There is no magic in achieving goals. Willpower certainly plays a big role. However, here’s the good news.

You can build goal achieving systems to strengthen your willpower so that you can have a greater chance to consistently achieve your goals.

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1. Create an effective self-reward system

Be honest to yourself, rewards are all we are looking for when we work hard for study or work. The same applies to achieving goals.

Rewards serve as a recognition of your work and give you additional motivation to carry on. Therefore, you should have set your rewards before starting any goal achieving work.

While rewards can literally be anything you can think of, you must set them carefully so that they incentivize you and do not hinder your way to achieve your goals.

An effective reward system should bear the “PHAI” features:

i. Proportional

ii. Harmless

iii. Attractive

iv. Instant

i. Proportional

The reward should be proportional to your efforts made in your action steps in progressing towards your goal. It should not be too big or too small.

The more efforts you are making, the bigger the reward you should set.

If your reward is disproportionately bigger than your efforts, this means you can do more and increase productivity. For example, your reward may be too big if you treat yourself with a Michelin-star meal for only reading 2 book chapters.

Likewise, if your reward may be too small if you treat yourself cookies after finishing a long and difficult essay.

Questions to help you through the thought process:

  • What does the task entail?
  • Do I deserve the reward?

ii. Harmless

Your rewards should be harmless to you, even though they may not positively facilitate the goal achieving process. Any reward that potentially harms you or counter-productive must be avoided.

If your goal is to save a certain amount of money, it may not be a good idea for a luxurious vacation to be your reward. Similarly, if your goal is to stay healthy (say, keeping your weight at a certain level), you will want to avoid rewarding yourself with some fatty and sugary food.

Questions to help you through the thought process:

  • Does the reward cancel your efforts?
  • (If your reward has a counter-productive feature) How often am I getting this reward? How far does it go to cancel your efforts? Is it sensible to be counter-productive for once in a long while?

iii. Attractive

Be sure your reward is attractive enough.

An effective reward will need to be something you are genuinely looking forward.

Any ideas for rewards you get online or from your friends are just for reference. Watching an episode on Netflix may attract and motivate you (but not your friend) for another study session. Your friend may be attracted by some tasty pastries instead.

Questions to help you through the thought process:

  • What do I want to have/do?
  • How much I want to have/do that?

iv. Instant

Our brain prefers instant rewards over delayed rewards. It must be something certain and concrete, as opposed to something depending on future conditions.

In other words, your rewards should afford instant gratification upon completing each action step and reaching your goal.

An example of immediate reward would be to reward yourself with an episode on Netflix after a working session, while a delayed reward would be to apply for annual leave (which can be rejected by your boss) for a beach vacation after a month of attaining your goal.

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2. Prioritize your goals

If you have too many goals at a time, there will be a “goal competition“. That means, your goals will be competing for your finite resources, such as time.

Therefore, you will need to control the number of goals you are working on. You have to accept that this would mean some aspect of your life will receive less attention (not unattended!).

On how to control the number of goals, it is a matter of goal priority. Although we recommend there should not be more than 3 goals at a time, there is no rule of thumb on this number. But you must avoid multitasking. Multitasking reduces productivity.

We see a lot of “advice” asking you to rank your goals. However, we seldom see guides on how to rank them.

Goal prioritization system

Here, we provide you a system on how to prioritize your goals well.

1. Write your goals on a piece of paper.

2. Ask yourself these questions for each goal.  On a scale from 1 to 10 (highest scores), write down your answers to each question for each goal:

    • How much:
      • do I want to achieve the goal now?
      • can it excite me if I can attain it now?
      • can it make me proud if I can attain it now?
      • am I willing to sacrifice for it?
      • does it match the desired self?
    • How urgently do I need to start working on it?
    • How important is it in 2 years’ time?
    • How important is it in 5 years’ time?

(These questions are for reference. You may also have your own parameters for prioritizing your goals.)

3.  Add the scores for each question up for each goal.

4. Prioritise your goals according to the total scores.

5. Keep the top 3 goals, focus on them and eliminate the rest for the time being.

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3. Create a goal achieving environment

Our behavior is easily affected by the environment.

We may do something out of peer pressure. When your group of friends is going to a party, even if it is not something you want to do the most, you will likely go with them. Similarly, if your friends are meeting at a bar, even if you do not want to get any alcohol that day, you will likely order a beer.

Therefore, if you want to effectively achieve your goal, you surround yourself with positive influences.

i. Find supporters

Finding people of similar interests helps to create a positive goal achieving environment. You may join Facebook groups and follow hashtags that are similar to your pursuit.

Also, making your goals known to your close friends and family can be critical. They can give you the supportive environment you need. When they know what you are going after, they may get you some helpful information or, simply, refrain from asking you to do something that can be counter-productive.

They can also form a visible and invisible supervising mechanism.

  • Visible: They can remind you when they see your behavior is counter-productive in achieving your goals.
  • Invisible: You are creating yourself some stress to attain your goals since you have made your goals known and you know people are watching you.

ii. Physical environment (e.g. venue)

We are also easily affected by the physical environment of where we are. It is important for you to stay away from distractions and anything that can be counterproductive.

For example, if your goal is to focus on working for some time, put away your cell phone and close the irrelevant tabs in your browser. If your goal is to develop a healthy diet, put away snacks that do not align with your diet.

You may also try to put up some relevant quotes and your goals on the walls of your bedrooms or use them as the wallpaper of your cell phone so that you can be constantly reminded of your goals.

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4. Maintain a growth mindset

In doing self-evaluation, you should maintain a growth mindset.

The process is more important than the outcome. Instead of viewing simply with the dichotomy of success and failure, you should evaluate how much you have tried and learned in the process.

With this mindset, you will less likely be clouded by your “success” or frustrated by “failure” to achieve your goal. You will be able to learn from both mistakes and what you have done well.

Learn from about growth mindset here.

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