How to achieve any goal
To successfully achieve a goal, you need a few key ingredients. Beyond the idea of the outcome, you need a plan, actions and of course, my personal favourite, accountability.
Before we get to that, you may want to take a detour to read, The decision that has irrevocably changed the direction of my life, so that the examples I give below make a lot more sense. It’s not essential, but you’ll have a few blanks filled in if you do.
The idea of the outcome
The outcome is an idea. Nothing more. Nothing less. The idea you have of the outcome won’t be what you end up achieving, it never is. Still, you need to start somewhere. Paint a clear picture of what the outcome you desire is.
I want you to be specific about the facts that you do know about your goal. Answer the questions, who, what (including your key measurables), where, when, and why to the best of your knowledge.
Don’t ask or answer how. Keep it simple and top-level for now. The detail is what stops progress.
Me, Sanni and our three-year-old son.
Move overseas and build a location independent, online business. I’ll discuss key measurables below.
Valencia, Spain. But really, the location isn’t fixed. It might suck there. In which case, we can pick somewhere else.
When we’ve achieved the key measurables. We have eight months left of our current lease and if we need to I’m sure we can extend month-to-month. I don’t want to spend another winter in Melbourne so I’m giving myself until June 2020 to push hard. If it takes longer to achieve the measurables then so be it. The decision to leave has been made, when we actually go isn’t as important as the certainty that it will happen.
Well, if you’ve read, The decision that has irrevocably changed the direction of my life, then it’s been made pretty clear, yeah?!
We need these irreducible minimums before we leave:
- We have $25k in debt. That needs to have a clear repayment plan in place that’s easy to stick to while living overseas. Ideally, it’s fully repaid.
- Proof of income: 4 months of consistent passive income of minimum AU$5k/month from my online services.
- I’ve guesstimated that we’ll need $20k in savings for the first few months of relocation and living costs, however, it is part of my plan to do an Actual Budget once I see income increasing and debt decreasing.
The plan for achieving your goal takes your desired outcome to the next level.
This is where you need to drill down into all the components of your idea to highlight not only what you know you need to do but what you know you don’t know how to do. This plan is alive and will be used continually to track your progress.
Using the free project management tool, Trello, I have added to my business’ board with new cards for each of the different components that go into planning for the move. I’ve also expanded my business plan to take into consideration the primary focus on the online services of webinars, courses, and group and individual coaching.
Side note, I have a system called the Results Architecture that I use to help me work on my business while I’m in my business. If you’d like to learn how this time-managed, structured, detailed approach to managing your entire business works, send me an email. It’ll change the way you operate your business forever!
Plans need to be realistic
This is an error in judgement most people make when setting the intention for the outcome they desire. When people write SMART goals, that is those that are specific, measurable, action-based, realistic and time-bound, often not enough time has been granted to ask a few fundamental questions.
Is it really, and I mean really truly, possible for you – specifically you with your current intellect, emotional intelligence, life and qualified skills, etc – to achieve this goal in this lifetime?
I am not setting you up to fail before you begin. I’m asking you to be realistic.
If you’ve woken up with a burning desire to become an astronaut, but you have absolutely no real and tangible foundation upon which to build that goal, you’re not being realistic. Of course, never say never, it is technically possible but you would have to pull out every single stop imaginable to turn that around if you’re a 40-year-old woman living in the middle of nowhere with no masters degree in a related field and only a C-grade pass in year 12 maths and science and/or no savings to pay Branson or Musk for a seat on one of their rockets.
Ask yourself, do I have all the skills/ capabilities to realise the goal in a time frame that is appropriate for my age and body’s physical limitations?
What is it going to take for me to learn these skills?
Am I willing to play the long game and work my ass off to do everything it takes to achieve this goal?
If the answer is yes, then, my friend, add those things to your plan. If the answer is ‘no, not really’, then take another look at the goal. What can you outsource to someone who does have the skills/ capabilities you don’t have? Can you build the team that will help you get there? If so, add this to your plan.
You see where I’m going with this, right?
You’ve got to be honest about what you’re trying to do. As the great Audrey Hepburn said, “Nothing is impossible, the word itself says ‘I’m possible’!” I’m possible, sure, if you have the right pieces of the jigsaw puzzle in place to support you.
Just as it is with raising a family, some goals require a village. A great example of this is a Melbourne-New Zealander man who achieved the extraordinary by breaking the Guinness World Record for free diving (that’s no breathing apparatus) 70.3m deep under Arctic Ice. Ant Williams didn’t start with that goal in mind. He just wanted to hold his breath underwater for longer to improve his health and stamina but he ended up there because he had a village of support with him on the journey.
And that’s why I’m telling the story of my goal to move to Spain. Not only because I hope to inspire others to not wait, to live their life as they deeply desire now, but also because I know I’m going to need a village filled with supportive people to help me along the way.
So here are a few of my realistic questions.
Is my move to Valencia, Spain possible?
Yes. There will be visas and immigration hurdles to overcome but there is evidence of other people doing this and I’ve lived abroad before so I have lived experience with the possibility.
Am I really capable of building a location independent, online business to support the lifestyle I want to live, not just for me but for my husband and son too?
So there are two parts to this question. Am I capable of building an online business? Will that business generate enough income to support my husband, me and our son?
To answer the first question, yes I have all the necessary skills, intellect and qualifications to build an online business but that question also asks, am I capable? That is, do I have enough support and belief that I can do it? I certainly have enough support.
As for belief, well, I believe, as Simon Sinek explained in a recent interview with Lewis Howes, that self-belief is the basis of confidence. As Simon explains the root etymology of the word confidence is com- meaning ‘with, together’ and fidere meaning ‘to trust’, so self-belief or confidence literally means ‘with trust’, that is, we have the trust of others.
I am incredibly blessed to have so many people believe in me. That belief in my abilities gives me the confidence I need to achieve anything I set my mind to. And yes, I totally word-nerded on the linguistics research!
That doesn’t mean I don’t have questionable headfuck moments, but it only takes one conversational slap from one of these people to sort me out.
Are my key measurables realistic in the time I’ve set?
While I do not want to spend another winter in Melbourne, I haven’t set a deadline for when we’ll make the actual move.
To be honest, there are too many variables right now that need to be ironed out to be able to set a specific date. I know this goes against every goal-setting convention but some goals need smaller, incremental dates. And this is one of them.
My key measurables suggest that not only do I need a consistent income of a minimum of $5k for four months but that I also have to earn enough to pay down $25k in debt and save $20k to move. Is earning $45K in 8 months realistic? No. It’s not. And not because it’s not achievable if I have a solid plan for marketing and a good sales pipeline.
It’s because until January next year, I am only able to work part-time, 24-30 hours a week. Our finances being what they currently are means I am unable to put my son into five days of childcare. If I’m being really honest with myself, I don’t actually want to. I love my two days a week with him at this age. He’s nearly four. He sees the joy in everything. I’ll never get this time with him again. I want to embrace as much of that joy as I possibly can so I’m sustained for the long, cold silences of his teenage angst.
With a solid plan, I’ll be able to achieve a significant amount with the time I have allocated but potentially not enough to see me achieve the key measurables in full by June next year. I’m okay with that target. At least I’m aiming in the right direction.
Take a look at your goal again, are you being realistic?
Get to work. That’s as difficult as it gets. Tiny, incremental steps towards what you desire. If you do one thing every single day towards what you want to achieve, you will eventually get there.
Please, please, I beg you, do not allow yourself to get overwhelmed by all the things you’ve listed on your plan. The plan is there to show you what needs to be done, not to show you how much you haven’t done.
Do not be in a hurry to get everything done by yesterday. This is when goals die. Keep the oxygen in your goal by not focusing on how much is left to do but instead, celebrate how much you get done! Mini-wins on a regular basis.
Every Friday, or whatever day your end-of-week lands on, set yourself up for the week ahead by reviewing – and high fiving – what you’ve done and planning your next week of action.
Watch out for shiny object-itis
Shiny object-itis is a condition everyone in life experiences. Shiny objects are things that distract us from our goals. Shiny object-itis occurs when you are working on something and along comes this incredible, new, fandangle thing that is set to revolutionise whatever it is you’re doing. You sign up, you buy into it, you get fully enmeshed and before you know it you’re down the rabbit warren wondering where the fuck Alice went.
No one can avoid shiny object-itis, that’s why we need accountability (much, much, more on this soon). You need someone to question you. Is this new thing directly in line with the vision for your goal?
And it might not be a thing. It could be a new person for the team that looks on paper to be bloody brilliant but who turns out to milk you like a cash cow. It could be a new business incentive that is more cost than value. A new partner who isn’t value-aligned. It could be a new animal for your already fully stocked farm (yes, Misty, that one’s for you, m’luv).
To check if it is a shiny object, you need to evaluate it – with other people’s input – if it is of value to your goal. Sometimes the only way to know is to try it out, just make sure you’re always asking, how does this directly and tangibly support my vision? Watch out for how many times you try to justify your decision with ‘yeah, but … it has x, y, z features.’
If it doesn’t directly support your goal it’s a shiny object that needs to be shelved for now or indefinitely.
The power of accountability
I encourage my clients to seek accountability in order to accomplish their goals. Unless we have someone gently but persistently nudging us along, we falter, stumble and achieve two parts of fuck all.
We need accountability like we need oxygen. I’m serious, we do. It’s the life and death of any goal worth achieving. Without it, you’re going to fall back on old habits, patterns and your conditioned ways of thinking, but with it, oh baby, you’re going to be pushed beyond the edges of every single one of the paradigms that will potentially derail you.
Who you choose to hold you accountable is very important.
The person ought to be paid to do it (like I am for my clients). Or, a volunteer, a friend or family member. They have to want to help you because they believe you can achieve the goal. They need a deep intrinsic motivation to want to see you succeed.
Or, they need to be something that is able to force you into a no-return situation, like social media has the power to do.
Ideally, you have a mix of all three.
Whoever holds you accountable needs to have a method to their madness. You need a system that you can both use to track your progress (it doesn’t have to be fancy, I use Trello). They need to have full access to your vision, your plan and the actions that you take.
Lastly, they need to have the brass boobs to call you out and to not put up with your excuses and fabricated truths (aka carefully worded bullshit).
Why paying someone leads to the achievement of your goal faster
When you pay someone to do this, you’re more conscientious than if they’re a mate who’s volunteered. It boils down to simply not wanting to waste the coach’s time and waste your money but also, you really don’t want the ass-whooping you have given that coach permission to give you.
A good coach, a really, really good coach knows how to do this in a way that motivates and encourages you but also lets you know they’re disappointed because they know you can do better.
Why a volunteer is the next best option
We have a tendency to easily let down the people we love. This is because, more often than not, their love is unconditional and therefore comes with forgiveness. While you’ll disappoint them at times and they’ll be trying to kick you up the backside, the reality is, you won’t have the motivation that spending money demands.
This is not to say that a volunteer to hold you accountable won’t do a good job, but you are unlikely to do as well as you could because your relationship will get in the way. It’s next to impossible to compartmentalise friendship from business/goal achievement, trust me, I’ve learned the hard way.
The best way a friend or family member can hold you accountable is if they have a specific role that forms part of the whole goal so they’re not responsible for you achieving the full objective.
The pros and cons of a public declaration
The third and least successful form of accountability is a public declaration. As an example, the declaration I gave when I signed up to run my first 10k in the race for the Melbourne Marathon 2019. It made the goal real for me, actual, and something I need to keep my word to.
Public declarations are effective in that they push you to be open, transparent and to publish your progress for the world to see.
The challenge though is no one is motivated to pay attention to your progress. No one is engaged (paid or otherwise) to push you when you don’t want to keep going.
On social media, the direction of content is outward. The onus is on you to tell the truth and let’s be real this rarely happens on social media.
A TED talk by Joseph Gordon-Lovitt on ‘How craving attention makes you less creative‘ highlights the mistake we make with social media. He spoke about how the business of social media platforms is all geared towards you craving the attention. From likes, comments, followers, and various other reactions. It’s set up to make us want more attention, but it doesn’t hold us accountable.
Instead, Joseph recommends that you pay attention. Pay attention to the craft you’re creating. Pay attention to the progress, not the outcome, as the famous saying goes.
Use social media to hold you accountable for tracking your progress and talking about your results-thus-far but don’t go looking for validation. Validation is not accountability.
This is not to say people don’t care, people care, but social media platforms do not care. They’re not structured for caring, or collaboration, or real communication. They’re programs that use our hopes and dreams to make their owners filthy rich.
Your followers will not ask how you’re going if they don’t see you post for a few days. They won’t chase you up or question your progress or challenge you in the way you need. This is because they won’t be thinking about you unless they see something you post. And that attention will be very short-lived. It’s not anyone’s fault, it’s the way the programs are designed.
You’ve got less than 3 seconds of their attention so do not put the focus of achieving your goal with their reaction.
For achieving your goals, master social media as a visual story-telling board that helps you see your progress. The reactions are a bonus.
Here’s how I’m being held accountable.
I am very blessed by an incredible list of people who are all very invested in my success with this goal. I’m pretty sure they just want an excuse – not that one is needed – to go to Spain.
I already have a coach who’s helping me with my on-camera style and, because I have very strong systems in place, I haven’t invested in the services of a coach to help me achieve this particular goal. I honestly don’t think I need one, not for a goal like this.
I am acutely aware though of the headfuck that a goal of this magnitude can produce so I have requested different volunteers for three main areas: my mental wellbeing – taking on too much pressure; my health – I have a tendency to over-work when I get mega-passionate about something – case-in-point, I’m currently writing this at 3 am while away on working mummy holiday; and, my reality testing – am I being realistic throughout the planning and action-taking?
These people are willing to watch for the signs and to call me out. And since a gift of being my friend is the permission to say whatever you like to me if you think it’s in my best interest, then they’ll let me know very quickly if I’m veering down a mistaken path.
The sheer magnitude of this goal makes talking about it on social media a challenge. Social media is built for bite-sized chunks of information. It’s not necessarily structured to support a journey like this.
I’ve decided to create a smaller but by no means easier challenge of learning to read, write and speak Spanish.
I’ll use social media to track the progress and to hold me accountable to the greater vision of living in Spain. I’ll reserve the story of my accomplishments to my blog under the category of ‘Location Independent’ and newsletter for the people who have signed up because they are interested in learning from me and therefore choosing to join the journey.
You can support this goal by actively holding me accountable. You can comment below, reply to my newsletters, tell me what you learned about yourself, share with me your story, your goals and your journey, and ask me questions.
Let’s use this medium called the Internet to care, collaborate and communicate on a deeper level to achieve our goals!
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