How to reach your goals much faster, with less effort!

I know, you’ve heard it all before – reaching your goals is all about positive thinking and affirmations, right? Well, not quite. Believing in yourself is obviously important in reaching your goals, but positive affirmations (e.g. “I am successful”, “I am good at my job”) by themselves aren’t going to get you very far. If you’re stuck in a rut, a big part of that is negative thought patterns blocking you from achieving. There is no quick fix, but there are a bunch of small actions that you can take that will add up to change the way you deal with problems and allow you to advance.

Challenge your assumptions

Assumptions are usually made unconsciously and can often end up with negative consequences, such as small failures leading to thoughts like “I can’t do that,” or “I’m not good enough.” No one means to create these assumptions about themselves. That is why they are so difficult to get over. But you can!

If you venture into something assuming that you will fail, you simply cannot give it your all. You attempts will be tentative, faltering and fearful. You need to start thinking differently about failure. Everyone who you think is successful has “failed” at something, probably a lot. That’s okay. Failure is not as negative as we have come to believe. “Failing” at something does not make you a “failure”, it just means you have to try again. Nor does it mean that you are naturally disinclined to be good at that thing!

One of the keys to changing these assumptions is changing the questions we ask about our lives. Change negative questions about your life e.g. “why am I always getting things wrong?”, “why do I keep getting passed up for promotion?” to positive questions: “why am I good at lots of things?”, “why do good things always happen to me?” Give yourself real answers to these questions, and you’ll discover there are a lot of reasons to believe in yourself. As I said before, positive reinforcement is good, but won’t really lead to significant changes. They don’t have anywhere near as much power to change your beliefs as really interrogating your inner life does.

Take responsibility for your life

You have to stop thinking about things that happen to you as the result of unknown forces or things you have no control over. Sure, there are some things which you cannot control (and trying to control everything will lead you down a whole other path of problems) but there are a lot of things in your reality that you do control or at least have influence over, if only you change your way of looking at them.

For example, if you feel stuck and creatively unchallenged in your team, it can feel like you’re in deep, sinking mud, and opportunities are forever moving further away as you sink into the middle of it. But would it really be that difficult to have a conversation with your manager to change that situation? This might comprise small changes, like moving to a different project, or it might instigate larger changes. That conversation can feel hideously out of reach at times, but stop and think: what is really stopping you? Changing the way you engage with choices and circumstances can make all your goals that much easier to reach.

Stop the blame

Stop blaming others. Holding on to blame and resentment creates emotional blocks which many people use (not necessarily consciously!) as excuses for not moving forward. People make mistakes, but carrying the effects of other people’s mistakes only blocks your own progress.

You also must stop blaming yourself! Holding on to self-blame creates a sense of guilt and inadequacy. Put yourself outside your own head for a minute. Imagine a friend talking you through a problem in their life, and how you would respond. Would you tell them they were stupid or not good enough, if they had made a mistake? No? Well, why do that to yourself? Beating yourself up over things that have passed is no way to move forward and improve yourself. Thinking about what you can do differently is valuable and improving yourself is important, but simply holding on to guilt and negativity is not going to do anything to improve your internal feelings or your material reality.

Work out what it is that you really want

By just looking at this in terms of what is immediately possible or financially feasible in the next year or so, you might not get anywhere, and can start wallowing in how impossible everything seems and how you can’t see any way to get out of your current situation. Start thinking, if time and money were no object, where would you be? That’s one of the first steps to getting you there. You can’t move if you don’t know what direction you’re going in. Your specific goals have to be “realistic”. Who says your dreams need to be?

Speaking of which…

Target actions, the outcomes will follow

If you’re feeling really stuck in a rut and unable to progress on your goals, consider keeping an action journal every day. Write down a small list of controllable things that you will do that day. E.g. in recruitment, that might be something like “make 20 calls”. There’s no point writing “make 1 placement,” because that is not fully within your control. The key is to make sure they are things that you can specifically achieve in that day, that add up to the bigger goals. Another example: the goal “do 20 press ups” would be great in your daily action journal. “Lose 3 pounds” is no help. See what I mean?

Your major goals won’t occur by themselves. Breaking down the larger targets into specific, achievable actions allows you to make definite steps towards the big things, and allows you to actually feel the progress being made! Focus on what you most want to achieve (remember, keep things specific) by a set deadline. Having a time limit sets out boundaries and gives you motivation. This timeframe should be realistic though, because if you’re overambitious, you can stress yourself out more.

Taking focused action is key – many of us are familiar with worrying about all the things in life that you’re not happy with and feeling that vague sense of dread about what is going to happen in the future, what you want, and feeling overwhelmed by all the things you need to do. There is no fix-all approach that solves this. You have to change small bits at a time, and concentrate on the things that you CAN change and can manage. There are always small changes you can make. That’s not to say that your life should only change by increments – sometimes big changes are required. But it’s in changing your way of thinking about problems and dealing with change that will enable you to make the adjustments that you need to make you happier and to get you where you’re going.

Accept limitations, but…

How much time do you waste worrying about things, or thinking about how terrible or worthless you are? How you will never be as good or productive as other people? Instead of wasting even more time fighting with these negative thoughts, try to accept them and add a “but” at the end. E.g. “I didn’t make any sales today … but I made more calls than I was targeted on… but I tried out some different ways of selling the product…” These are not “but I was having a bad day” excuses that let you off the hook, but acknowledgements that you did good things and made progress, even if you didn’t quite reach the goal you wanted. There’s a big difference.

Acknowledge and reward achievements

Take note when you do achieve your goals! This can be anything from ticking off each item on your daily action journal, to treating yourself and loved ones to a meal or day out to acknowledge work well done and a goal achieved. If you don’t notice and feel thankful for the things you have managed to do, you will remain in that cycle of feeling inadequate and not reaching your targets. Appreciate what you have and what you have achieved!

Conclusion

It’s not necessarily an easy process, as it involves changing the whole way you approach problems and aspirations in your life, but it really can make a difference. Question how you think about your worth; take responsibility for the things you can control; stop blaming yourself and others for past problems; and start thinking in small steps, whilst keeping an eye on the big leaps, even if they seem impossible right now. Celebrate yourself and your accomplishments, whilst looking at what could be made better, and you’ve got the recipe for much more success in your life, both professional and personal.

We’ve talked a lot about asking yourself useful questions. Well, here’s a good one to start with – Why not start putting these elements into practice today?

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