/ / How to Achieve Big Goals – Planning to Build the Life You Want

How to Achieve Big Goals – Planning to Build the Life You Want

In this post: Learn how to achieve big goals in your life with this 5 part framework for success. 

What’s your someday list look like?

Someday, I’ll work for myself.
I’ll lose the weight someday.
Someday I’ll finish my degree.
I’ll make time for travel, someday.

Someday, I’ll {enter your own deferred dream here}.

Chances are, you have a few “someday” scenarios buried deep in your heart that are not a reality in your life. And the truth is, if you don’t start prioritizing those dreams by setting goals to achieve them, you’ll look back on your life and realize you accumulated a lot more regret than success.

But what if I told you there was a way to achieve the life you dream about? Would you believe me?  In reality, the biggest destroyer of dreams is not a lack of ability or talent, but a lack of perseverance. The death of a dream is more often due to complacency than circumstances of actual failure.

Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will

While it’s true that a certain level of realism is necessary when pursuing big goals, too much creates self-doubt. To be certain, we are all capable of much more than we give ourselves credit for.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.” – Marianne Williamson

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How to achieve big goals

The path to achieving your big life dreams might be easier than you think. While there’s a lot of work involved, and it could certainly take much time and effort, the actual steps to accomplishing big, crazy life goals isn’t all that different than achieving any other goal. The secret to success lies in a few, key steps!

1. Achieve big goals by thinking about your greatest desires

Think about your list of deferred somedays. What are the things you always wanted to do with your life?

Maybe you aren’t crystal clear yet on the specifics of what you want out of life, but you know it’s something more than what you have right now. Something different than the day to day you’ve got going.

Spend some time journaling and daydreaming about your big life goal. Write stream-of-consciousness style; don’t edit your thoughts or doubt their rationality. Just write whatever comes to mind. Give yourself the freedom to check out of reality and check into the world of anything’s possible.

Looking for more dreamer inspiration?

Chasing Your Dreams- A Dozen Reasons to Start Today!

Being a Dreamer in a Cookie Cutter World

Journey From Dreamer to Doer in 7 Practical Steps

Achieve big dreams by visualizing your life

Envision scenes from your future life: Where are you? What are you doing? Who is with you? What does your life feel like? What does your ultimate dream life look like? Be as specific as possible.

In her book, Present over Perfect, author Shauna Niequist writes, “A way to get at your desire or dream is to answer this question: if someone gave you a completely blank calendar and a bank account as full as you wanted, what would you do?”

That, my friend, is your big dream.

One of the biggest secrets of those who actually achieve goals- not just dream about them- is that they visualize their success. It’s not enough to write down words on a paper- instead, marry those words to a vision in your mind.

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Visualization & achieving big goals- how the brain works

Recent brain research has lead to discoveries in how the brain works in relation to remembering and imagining. “This work has revealed striking similarities between remembering the past and imagining or simulating the future, including the finding that a common brain network underlies both memory and imagination.”

When you visualize an act, it causes the brain to communicate an impulse to the neurons to “do” the movement. When this happens, a new pathway is created in the brain. This new pathway encourages your body to align its actions with the vision.

You can use this brain research to your advantage. If you want to achieve a particular outcome, you need to prime your mind to achieve it by visualizing it.

Write down your big goals

Research shows you become 42% more likely to accomplish your goals when you write them down and review them regularly.

2. Narrow down your focus

Now that you have some clear visions in your head of the big dream you want to achieve, and what you want your future to look and feel like, it’s time to start clarifying.

Pick one scene from the life you envisioned and begin listing what you will need to do to get yourself there.

  • How will your priorities shift?
  • What do you spend your time on now that might need to get cut in order to have time to progress toward your goal?
  • What do you have to say “no” to in order to say “yes” to your dream?

The trick to achieving big goals? Eliminate the unnecessary

In his book, Free to Focus, author Michael Hyatt discusses the importance of creating a not-to-do list, and it’s exactly as it sounds. A list of things you need to eliminate or stop doing because they don’t support your greater purposes or goals. 

If you really want to know how to achieve big goals, increase your focus on activities that matter. Eliminate the time-sucks in your schedule. Life is busy, no matter who you are. The difference between those that get out there and achieve big goals and those that don’t? It’s a matter of managing the minutes.

The danger of distraction when trying to achieve big goals

You might think 10 minutes here or there catching up on social media, surfing the web, or vegging out on Netflix isn’t hurting anything, and maybe it’s not. But if it turns into an hour or ruins your mood, it most certainly can be detrimental to achieving your big goals.

What if you took the minutes you squandered away online and applied it to your goal? On the surface, it might not seem like much, but over the course of a year, it can add up.  For instance, just ten minutes a day every day for one year can add up to 90 hours of concentrated effort toward your big goal. And that makes a much bigger impact on your quality of life than Facebook.

Need more inspiration to cut out distractions and focus on what matters most?

Why You Need a Digital Detox

Be Present in Your Life

3. Achieve big goals by creating SMART goals

Now that you have dissected your top life vision into a specific goal to focus on, and have identified those habits or activities that drain your time, it’s time to get more specific about what you want to accomplish. After all, very few people have successfully figured out how to achieve big goals and dreams without goal setting and planning.

You’ve likely heard of SMART goals, and with good reason. They’re a powerful tool to help you develop specific, actionable steps. If you’re not familiar with SMART goals, here’s a breakdown:

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Specific– Your goal should be specific in its result. A generic goal of “I want to be an entrepreneur” isn’t specific enough to outline a clear direction. “I want to be a full-time blogger and content creator” is more specific.

Measurable– How will you measure success? If you want to be a full-time blogger, what will define success for you- quitting your job? Making enough money to meet your family’s basic needs? Replacing your current salary?

Achievable– If your big dream seems too large to be attainable from where you sit, take heart. Once you go through the steps of breaking down your big goal into daily or weekly goals, you’ll begin to see your dream grow legs. For now, just focus on your next best step. What specific steps will you take to achieve your goal?

Relevant– Why does your big goal matter? Why is it significant to you? What benefit will you bring to the world when you accomplish it?

Timely– Giving yourself a deadline is one of the best ways to spur yourself on toward your goals. The pressure of a deadline will increase your level of commitment and focus.

4. Develop habits & schedule your tasks

If you want to achieve a big goal, you need to break that goal down into manageable tasks and then schedule time to complete those tasks through creating new habits.

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Developing new habits

In his book, Atomic Habits, James Clear discusses connecting new habits to current habits in an effort to increase the odds of completing the new behavior.  The reason this is effective lies in the understanding of implementation intention– a plan you make beforehand about when and where to act. Essentially, it’s how you intend to incorporate a new habit into your routine.

When you determine ahead of time when and where you are going to complete a new habit, and “hang” that new habit on a current habit you already complete, you exponentially increase your chances of success.  You can also think of this as a “when/then” strategy.  WHEN you do a current habit, THEN you do the new habit. 

For example, “When I finish the dishes every night, then I will spend 10 minutes working on drafting a new post.”  By hanging your new habit- drafting a blog post- onto a regular, daily habit- doing the dishes- you significantly increase your chances of completing the new habit.

Scheduling Mini Goals

So how do you move from a big, scary goal to creating new habits and actually taking action? The secret lies in breaking your goal into manageable tasks and then scheduling them. Also known as micro goals, these little beauties are the secret sauce of goal setting. When you take a larger goal and chunk it down into mini, actionable steps that serve as mini-milestones or daily tasks, you are creating micro goals.

Micro goals are the most important tasks you need to complete to accomplish your big goal.  They are the activities that will move the needle forward and turn your vision into reality.

Think about the specific tasks you’ll need to accomplish to tackle your big goal.  Work through all the possible steps and be as detailed as possible. Each of these small steps now represents a micro goal that can be scheduled onto your calendar.  Every time you complete a micro goal, you move a little bit closer to accomplishing your big goal.

Make time for your micro goals

Scheduling these micro goals into your calendar is the key to learning how to break down and achieve big goals. By carving out a specific time to work on these mini-goals, and consistently committing to yourself, you will begin tackling your big goal, bit-by-bit.  This is where the “when/then” habit strategy will come in handy!  Think of when you want to schedule work time for your micro goals, then establish a new routine through hooking this new habit on an established one.

If you find yourself struggling with what to do when you have time to work, that’s a sign your next steps aren’t broken down into small enough chunks. Break down your micro goals as specifically as you need to so that you are crystal clear on what your next best step is.

Continue this process of breaking down micro goals into smaller steps and scheduling them in conjunction with established habits until you have successfully scheduled and completed every small step necessary to achieve your big goal.

Why a to-do list will kill your big dreams

You might be tempted to just write a to-do list of items you’ll need to do in a week without scheduling them onto your calendar. Don’t do it! Post-it notes of to-do lists are where important-but not urgent- items go to die!

Scheduling each specific task is critical! It doesn’t matter if you’ve correctly identified every step between where you are and where you want to be if you don’t intentionally schedule the time to do the work!

When you schedule your tasks, you choose to be intentional with your big goals. If something is important, you write it down on your calendar. The specific tasks you need to complete to achieve your big goal should be center stage every day

Challenge yourself to schedule time every single day to pursue your big goals. Remember, even 10 minutes a day will add up over the course of your goal. Plus, by focusing on action steps every single day, you are constantly reaffirming the value of your goal and its importance in your life.

Commit to yourself and your dreams by scheduling daily, micro goals that support your big dream.

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5. Reflect, reflect, reflect!

“We do not learn from experience…we learn from reflecting on experience.” – John Dewey

The last step in learning how to achieve big goals is often the most overlooked- reflection! Like a dog chasing its tail, sometimes we get so busy pursuing the goal that we fail to look up and verify that what we’re doing is actually making an impact and moving the ball forward.

You should be ever aware of how your work is contributing to the bigger picture. If what you’re doing isn’t supporting the bigger picture, you need to assess the place it holds in your calendar. Perhaps it’s masquerading as something important when really it can be moved to the not-to-do list for this season.

Schedule time each week, even if it’s only 10-15 minutes, to reflect on the previous week and what was accomplished. Identify the specific ways your micro goals supported the big goal. If you can’t see a clear connection, review your micro goals to see where changes can be made.

How to Achieve Your Big Goals

Achieving big dreams, while a lot of work, is rarely a case of pure luck. Instead, it is the result of much preparation. Dreams don’t achieve themselves. If you want your life to align with the grand vision in your mind, you must do the work to achieve it.

As the old adage goes, “failing to prepare is preparing to fail.” If you fail to prepare for the life you envision through setting your intentions & goals and then working to achieve the small, measurable micro goals that support the tasks, you will surely fall short of the vision you have for your life.

Don’t look back on your life and wish you would have used your time more wisely. More intentionally. Don’t buy the lie of “someday.”

Someday when life slows down.
Someday when the kids are grown.
Someday when I have more money.

Waiting for the perfect opportunity to chase your dreams is a guarantee that you won’t. You’ll wake up one day to find your someday was yesterday, and it will happen quicker than you think.

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