Setting goals is one of the easiest tasks out there, however, keeping them is a whole new story.
Can you remember the last time you made a New Year’s resolution and actually kept it?
What about a resolution to get fit and lose weight?
I think most people will have failed that resolution multiple times.
The problem is, goals are inherently difficult to keep.
Sometimes they are far too optimistic and you were kidding yourself from the moment you made it.
Other times, people don’t think about how they will achieve their goals and don’t make any progress because of this.
In reality, the solution isn’t to make goals at all.
Instead, you need to move away from goals to action plans.
If you can take advantage of them, using action plans can be a more effective way of achieving what you set out to do.
The Trend of Goal Setting
Most people have grown up with the idea of setting goals.
After all, goals sound like a very good way of getting tasks done, but in practice, they don’t work as well as it would seem.
When you look at your own goal setting, one of the first things to consider is why you haven’t succeeded at your goals.
It’s easy to say that you simply didn’t try hard enough.
Honestly though, this is simply a way out of the question.
If you want to achieve the things you set out to do, the first step is to figure out exactly what obstacles were in your way.
One obstacle that people run into is setting a goal that is far too high.
For example, if you want to lose weight, planning to cut out all high-calorie foods, eat only organic food and run for two hours a day probably isn’t realistic.
Even if you could meet this goal initially, you would find that after a little while it became more and more difficult.
When it gets to this point, people tend to slip up on their goals, and before long they are back to their old patterns of behavior and have lost out on their goal entirely.
For many people, this happens every year, and it can be really discouraging.
Little Steps at a Time
Effectively meeting your goals involves being consistent and working on little steps at a time.
Being consistent is important because it is something that you can control.
After all, you don’t know when you are going to have a bad day and struggle to find motivation.
The idea is to choose ways of being consistent that are relatively easy to do.
For example, you might pick a specific type of food to cut out of your diet entirely, or decide to drink a certain amount of water every day.
Consistently meeting a small goal is much easier than trying to meet a larger and much more challenging goal.
Over time, you can start to increase the challenge of the steps that you are taking or add in additional changes.
This is an effective way of making a large goal in a way that will actually last.
This works because you start forming small habits that become natural to you.
Avoid Vague Steps
There is nothing worse than being vague when you are trying to move from goals to action plans.
It’s pretty much impossible to act on a plan if you don’t know specifically what you are supposed to do.
One goal that people often pick is to say that they will exercise every day.
Well, this sounds nice on paper, but it doesn’t work very well in practice.
After all, what does exercising every day really mean?
Does it mean going for a run for 30 minutes every day, or working out to an exercise video?
The vaguer the goal is, the easier it is to wriggle out of.
Think about it for a moment.
When you first start out, you would end up doing vigorous exercise every single day, but over time, you would probably end up doing forms of exercise that are much easier and considerably less beneficial.
When it comes to making goals, most people make them internally.
The problem with this is that there is no accountability.
After all, if you fail your New Year’s resolution, no one will even notice.
Even if you tell someone that you made a resolution, they probably wouldn’t take you seriously, because after all, who keeps their New Year’s resolution.
The trick is to find a way of holding yourself accountable to your resolution, if you can’t, it becomes meaningless.
One way of doing this is to have a specific goal that you can’t change.
For example, if you were working weight loss by gradually changing your diet you might want to fit an outfit of a certain size or wear a bikini by the summer.
However, if you try this approach, you need to make sure the objective is actually manageable.
Another way is to make a promise to someone else or to make use of the internet.
I know many people who track their weight loss progress through Facebook, posting their weight loss every week.
The idea is that having an audience holds you accountable, particularly if you have friends who will notice if you suddenly stop posting.
One of the challenges with goals is that it often feels like you are making no progress.
This is particularly true when your overall goal is very large, and seems almost impossible to reach.
It is much easier to give up on a goal when you don’t think you are getting anywhere, which makes it important to pay attention to progress.
Regardless of what your goal is, this involves finding ways of measuring your progress and rewarding yourself for it.
For the weight loss example, many people find that weighing themselves once a week and tracking the change in weight over time.
Sometimes a good approach is to pick small milestones and celebrate them. This is a good way to reinforce the progress you are making and remind yourself that any sacrifices are worthwhile.
However, if you are going to do this, it is important that you choose a type of reward that doesn’t conflict with your goal.
For example, if you are trying to lose weight, rewarding yourself with a big bowl of ice-cream is really counterproductive.
An alternative approach is to go to the movies (with healthy snacks) or go out for a trip somewhere.
Everyone is Different
Goals and action plans are tricky things, because what works well is different for every person.
Some people find that being very strict with their goals is absolutely essential. After all, it is fairly easy for a single slip or compromise to turn into a long-term movement away from the goal.
Others find that it is important to compromise every so often.
If you are going to compromise, make sure the compromises that you choose to make are small and that you are careful with them.
For example, you might choose to solve a temptation for chocolate by trying to overcome the temptation for a while, and if it persists having a square or two of chocolate, rather than a whole chocolate bar.
The action plan that you make has to be one that fits your own lifestyle and personality and takes into account the challenges that you face.
There are many different ways of doing this, but the important thing is to take into account the need to follow little steps at a time, to use specific steps and to remain accountable to your goals.
A Final Word on Moving from Goals to Action Plans
Another way to think of action plans is as a system that is designed to help you meet your goals and is realistic.
It is an approach that forces you to consider some of the challenges associated with setting goals and actually following through on them, and can help to make goals more effective overall.
I’ve used weight loss as an example throughout this discussion, but using action plans applies to many different types of goals and challenges, even ones that you don’t think of setting goals for.
For example, if you are starting to develop your own online business or are going back to school, action plans can help to ensure that you keep on track and are able to do everything you set out to do.
If you’re looking for encouragement or simply aren’t sure of where to go next, the community at Wealthy Affiliate is a great place to start. This community is filled with people from many different backgrounds who help to support and encourage one another in making money online.