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Foolproof strategies for achieving goals

by Bijal Maroo
Why do we procrastinate so much that we miss the bus which takes us to a better life? It is because we hate courting disappointment. Here is a step-by-step guide to achieving all your goals – right from zeroing in on your purpose to taking inspired action.

We all aspire for success, more money, and our dream jobs. Yet, many of us find ourselves in the same rut year after year, never finding the courage to make it to the other side our entire lives. Do you know the reason 90% of us fail to succeed in life? Is it because we are not good enough or because we lack the resources or opportunities?

No! It is because most often we never even take the first step on the road to success. We and nobody else are our worst enemies.

Why do we put ourselves, our growth, our goals, and our passions on the back burner? Why do we procrastinate so much that we miss the bus which takes us to a better life?

American self-help author Sean Stephenson of the Get Off YOUR ‘But’ book fame explains that we hate courting disappointment so much that we prefer embracing failure (through lack of trying).

Let’s try and understand the process of achieving our goals.

1. Zero in on your purpose

“To succeed in your mission, you must have single-minded devotion to your goal,” said former Indian President APJ Abdul Kalam.

Sylvester Stallone wrote the script of his blockbuster movie ‘Rocky’ like a man possessed and finished it in mere three days. Viktor E. Frankl was consumed by his passion to pen his message of hope for the world. He wrote his famous book, Man’s Search for Meaning in nine days flat.

Success boils down to how passionate we are about achieving our dreams and goals. If it’s not something to die for, it will not become our uncompromising priority. A lack of passion for what we are pursuing leads to boredom. This is the main reason we squander our time on mundane tasks while sidelining life-altering goals. Thus, we short-change ourselves out of true success in life.

2. Define goals

Before we prioritize our goals, we need to define them. Our goals need to be SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound). Example: I want to lose 10 pounds by 5 pm, 31st October 2023.

We also need to write down our goals on paper. Dr. Gail Mathews, a psychology professor at Dominican University, California conducted a goal-setting study with over 250 participants. She concluded that we are 42% more likely to achieve our goals just by writing them down. It is important to write out our long-term goals (yearly or 5-year goals) and goals for shorter timelines ranging from semi-annual, and monthly, to weekly and daily goals. Only if we know our destination can we figure out the route clearly.

3. Obstacles to achieving our goals

Sean Stephenson calls it the BUT triple threat.

A. BUT Fears

Our default habit is that we all live to keep up with the Joneses. Hence, we fear not only what our loved ones will think, whether they will disapprove of us or our choices, but also what society will say.  For example, we know in our hearts that we need to axe a relationship with an incompatible partner. Yet we fear being labeled the bad guy.

Remember what the Buddha said, “Fear does not prevent Death. It prevents Life.”

B. BUT Insecurities         

Groucho Marx said, “I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member.”

He was an American comedian and said this in jest, but sadly most of us squander our entire life believing in our lack of deservingness. We do not interview for our dream job or apply to our dream college. We let go of the person we love when we fail to confess our feelings for them. Hence, most love stories don’t need a villain at all. They are easily snuffed out by our fragile self-esteem.

C. BUT Excuses

Our fears and our insecurities create our excuses. “I don’t have the education, the money, the brains or I am too young or too old.” Excuses ensure that we can hide behind them and are saved from taking that vital first step. There is the fear of being laughed at for trying and then failing. Sometimes, not having the best ideas for achieving our goals can also become our excuse. 

BUT Fears, BUT Insecurities, and BUT Excuses is the triple threat identified by Sean Stephenson in his book. But, there are ways to overcome the forces of negativity and self-sabotage,

4. Long-term happiness versus short-term pleasure.

It’s easy to put aside working on our thesis and succumb to watching reruns of an old sitcom on TV. So, how do we focus on our long-term goals rather than pursue short-term pleasures? Tony Robbins, perhaps the best-known motivational speaker, in his book, ‘Awaken the Giant Within’ suggests associating massive pain with any actions that detract from goal achievement. In olden times in India, students would tie a tuft of their hair while studying in the evenings to a rope attached to the ceiling. Each time they dozed off and the head tilted, they will get a painful tug on the head.

The pain way provides the psychological leverage necessary for change. Such leverage can be both external and internal. However, internal leverage proves to be the game-changer for long-lasting change.

Let’s assume that you are unable to hand out marching orders to an errant employee. The list below could be the external leverage that proves a motivator:

  • What if other employees turn into rotten apples under the influence of this spoiled one?
  • What if customers are at the receiving end and stop patronizing your business?
  • What about the damage to the business brand and your professional image?  
  • What about the loss in revenue and profit numbers?

All these could mean permanent and irreversible losses for your business.

Internal leverage is when the employee works against the personal values, standards, and ethics that you uphold such as providing a delightful experience to your customers.

On considering these, the pain of inaction becomes unbearably high. You can no longer postpone the dirty work of handing out the pink slip to the concerned employee.

Another example of internal leverage is when seeking a divorce. If providing a happy environment for our children defines our value system, it might be more painful to continue in the marriage. If more peace and harmony can be achieved by legal separation, it will make our choice easy.

5. Unlearn harmful behaviors and replace them with more useful ones

This too is a strategy suggested by Tony Robbins.

Let’s say our goal is to wake up early to buy an hour of productive time daily. However, we all struggle to leave the cozy comfort of our bed every morning. We can start by keeping the alarm as far away from the bed as possible. This forces us to get out of bed in a hurry so as not to wake the whole house. The alarm just does not allow us to continue sleeping due to the jarring sound.

Next, we can add empowering behaviors as replacements for sleeping in late.  We can use the extra time to do things that give us pleasure for the first 15 minutes. We can indulge our love for reading, or write our diary. We can relish a leisurely cup of tea, plan our day, play with our pet, or take a walk in nature.

We can use the remaining 45 minutes to increase our productivity.

6. Guard against the conscious mind

Writing down our goals sends a message to the Universe signaling what we want. Soon the universe sends ideas our way as to how we can go about achieving them. Spiritual teacher and author Dr. Joe Vitale calls this our subconscious mind’s call for inspired action. In his book Money Loves Speed! Dr. Vitale says that if you have an inspired idea, don’t dilly-dally too long. If you do, somebody else will act on it and the opportunity will pass you by. Indecision and doubt are the creation of the conscious mind and can sabotage our success journey.

As management consultant Peter Drucker aptly says, “The single-minded ones, the monomaniacs, are the only true achievers.”

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Dr. Bijal Maroo July 7, 2023 - 8:34 am

Thank you Shekhar for your kind words

Shekhar Prasad July 6, 2023 - 3:44 pm

You are so right… seems all the struggle and wins should be made against the “Self” and not the outside world….there are so many things….psychological in nature mainly….which are hampering our march. Thanks for so candidly and simply putting things as reminders to all!!!