How to reach any goal

It’s hard to believe, but half of the year is already gone. As the firework ash settles on the ground and your mother-in-law’s macaroni salad settles in your intestines, it’s time to look back at where you wanted to be and what you can still do to get there.

Are you a long way off from where you thought you’d be? Like, so far off you’d rather just write off 2013 altogether and start planning for 2014? Fight that urge!

2013 is completely salvageable. You’ve got plenty of time to meet your goals and even set a few new ones. The key is determining what you genuinely need and want – the connected benefits of your goals – and finding the right balance of plan and action.

It’s literally too easy to not do. Let’s get to it!

What were my goals, anyway?

If you set New Year’s resolutions six months ago and don’t remember what they were, then chances are they were never yours to begin with. By that I mean there’s a good chance you made those goals simply for the sake of making goals.

It’s incredibly difficult to stay focused on goals that don’t connect directly to what your heart truly believes is important for you. If you pledged to lose 20 pounds this year because you think that’s the kind of the goal you should have, but not because you genuinely believe being 20 pounds lighter will make you healthier and happier, then chances are good the needle on your scale hasn’t moved much since January.

So, that’s your first step. Look at what you wanted to accomplish this year and if you haven’t made much progress ask yourself why you picked that goal and what it really means to you.

If the benefits of your goals are arbitrary or disconnected in some way from what your heart wants, let them go. Pick new goals – ones that really mean something to you.

Connect to feelings, not results

The biggest mistake most of us make in goal-setting is focusing on the result and disconnecting from the feelings attached to the result.

Bringing your credit score up 75 points is a great goal. So is losing 20 pounds (presuming you have an unnecessary 20 pounds to spare).

The danger of focusing your attention on the numbers is that numbers can quickly become an abstraction. They start to lose meaning. What’s the difference between a credit score of 590 and 605? If you lose sight of the true benefits and positive feelings associated with those numbers, they lose their power to motivate you.

That’s also true of goals that aren’t easily measurable. So the solution is to put the feelings first and the quantifiable results second. This makes me feel more secure. This makes me feel healthier. This just makes me happy.

Plus, focusing on feelings prevents you from becoming discouraged and backsliding in the event that you don’t quite hit your goal. Because losing 15 pounds is great, too!

Plan Less, Act More

The fastest path to your goals is, strangely enough, taken in baby steps. Small, steady steps are much more likely to get you where you’re going than big, sporadic broad jumps.

That means you need to think small and act immediately. Big picture thinking is great, but it’s too easy to get caught up in the enormity of what you’re trying to do.

So here’s your new mantra: Plan Less, Act More.

And when I said “act immediately” I was being serious. What do you want to accomplish this year? How is that goal going to make you feel? Think about that feeling. Think about how badly you want that feeling. Now do something. One thing. Take the first step. Not a leap. Not a plunge. Just a step. It can be as little as you want it to be. But just take it. Today. Not tomorrow. Not next week.

Take that first little step today and let yourself feel good for doing it. Then take the next step and feel good about that, too. Rinse and repeat and I guarantee you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how far you’ll be when 2014 rolls around.

Because 2013’s going to be a good year for you. I can feel it.

Jesse Campbell is the Content Manager at MMI, focused on creating and delivering valuable educational materials that help families through everyday and extraordinary financial challenges.

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