A Harvard Psychologist Reveals the Biggest Reason People Don’t Achieve Goals

Shooting for the moon is a worthwhile goal if you’re NASA.

But as Harvard psychologist Amy Cuddy explains in a recent Big Think video, the average person will probably find more success (and happiness) if they shoot for just down the block — at least at first.

The biggest mistake a lot of people make in setting goals for themselves, Cuddy says, is that they focus only on the outcome, not the process.

Cuddy is an expert on human behavior and the author of “Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges.” She’s conducted loads of research into tiny triggers that cause us to either take pride in our accomplishments or look back on our failings with regret and disappointment.

She’s found that people often get down on themselves because of unrealistic or poorly planned goals.

“They’re so big. They’re so distant,” Cuddy says of moonshots such as losing 40 pounds or getting a dream job. “They require a million little steps in between, and each of those little steps is an opportunity to fail.”

The smarter approach is to learn to embrace the process.

On its face, that may seem counter-productive, like you’re taking your eyes off the prize. But Cuddy emphasizes the power of using long-term thinking for short-term planning. You won’t lose all the weight overnight, so your best option is to focus on making each day the best it can be. Chop up the big goal into a string of daily or weekly goals that are easier to accomplish.

“A lot of research is showing us that we do much better when we focus on incremental change, on little bits of improvement,” Cuddy says.

That’s how you go from a couch potato to a marathoner. You temporarily ignore the fact you need to run 26.2 miles several months from now, and focus only on running one mile today. And since that goal is much easier to achieve, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment once it’s complete.

In turn, that creates the extra motivation you need to move onto a second and third run, and, ultimately, the race itself.

“Eventually, in aggregate, you get there,” Cuddy says. “You may not even realize it, until one day you turn around say ‘Wow, this thing is much easier for me now than it was a year ago.”

 

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This article was written by Chris Weller

Becoming a Disciplined Person

Self-discipline is a pattern of behavior where you choose to do what you know you should do, rather than what you want to do. It’s the inner power that pushes you to get out of bed to exercise rather than sleeping in. It is the assertion of willpower over more basic desires and is synonymous with self-control.

It includes having the personal initiative to get started and the stamina to persevere. Being disciplined gives you the strength to withstand hardships and difficulties, whether physical, emotional or mental. It allows forgoing immediate satisfaction, in order to gain something better, but which requires effort and time.

Discipline is one of the cornerstones to living a successful and fulfilling life and something we should all strive to master.

Benefits of becoming a disciplined person

When you are consistent in doing the things you know you should do, when you know you should do them, here are the benefits you will enjoy:

  • You will achieve your goals. When you are consistent in doing the things you know you should do, your odds of achieving your goals will be dramatically increased.
  • Your self-esteem will soar. Every time you push yourself to do something you know you should do, you are building your self-esteem.
  • People’s respect for you will grow. This includes everyone from your spouse to your employer who witnesses your efforts.
  • You will influence the lives of others. Every good and right thing you do, influences the lives of those who are watching and can have a ripple effect on future generations.
  • You will see greater success in all areas of your life. Jim Rohn said, “For every disciplined effort there is a multiple return.” Think about it.
  • You will enjoy a more rewarding and satisfying life.

Downside of lacking discipline

When you consistently neglect to do the things you know you should do, when they should be done, here’s the downside:

  • You won’t achieve your goals. I’ve never met anyone who achieved any worthwhile goal who lacked discipline.
  • You won’t feel good about yourself. No matter how hard you try to justify your actions, you know what’s right and wrong. Lying to yourself only makes it worse.
  • You’ll lose the respect of those who are dependent upon your actions.

Making the decision to become a disciplined person may prove to be one of the most important decisions you make because of its powerful influence on every part of your life.

A commitment to discipline

The first step in becoming a disciplined person is to make a commitment to yourself that from this day forward you are going to do the things you know you should do, when you should do them. As part of this commitment, you cannot allow yourself to make excuses or justify not doing what you should do.

If you struggle with discipline, start small. It’s how we all got started. Start by taking out the overflowing garbage, answering an email, changing the light bulb, or cleaning your bathroom. Start today doing all the little things you know you should do, but don’t feel like doing.

When you need to do things that make you uncomfortable, remember the wise words of leadership expert Dr. John Maxwell who said, “If we’re growing, we’re always going to be out of our comfort zone.”

When things come up that are scary, heed the experience of Dale Carnegie who said, Do the thing you fear to do and keep on doing it… that is the quickest and surest way ever yet discovered to conquer fear.

Becoming a discipline person will likely be the hardest thing you do, but it can also become the most rewarding. All successes in every part of your life are built on the foundation of discipline.

I want to challenge you to start doing the little things you know you should do. As you do, recognize yourself for each thing you do. With constant awareness and sustained effort you can actually train yourself to become disciplined.

This is not the first time I have blogged on the importance of discipline, and it won’t be the last. Of the over 1000 little things on my list, nothing has a higher dollar value to the market than discipline.

Discipline is one of the key differentiators separating those who live successful and fulfilling lives from those who don’t.

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Todd Smith – Started his first business at 18; at 23 earned $250,000 his first year selling real estate; earned 25 million dollars in last 23 years as an entrepreneur. Learn more about him at littlethingsmatter.com

Why 4 Smaller Goals is More Effective Than 1 Big One

The end of the year is fast approaching, which is when many business owners’ thoughts turn to planning and goals.

If you’re like most people I know (including me!), the vast possibilities of the new year are totally inspiring, and you start doodling long lists of goals and aspirations around what you’d like to accomplish both in your business and your life…

…travel abroad for a month

…get to the gym more

…reach six figures and beyond

…launch a new product

…double your email list

…hire a team member

…take up salsa dancing

But once January rolls around, how will you make those goals and dreams a reality?

Statistics tell us that only 8 percent of people who make New Year’s resolutions actually keep them. And anecdotally, I’d guess it’s roughly the same for business owners who set lofty goals at the beginning of the year, but don’t have any plan for how to reach them.

And that’s the key: It’s not about setting different goals, it’s about having a better plan.

I encourage you to dream big! Set those pie-in-the-sky, out-of-this-world goals!

Then develop the plan to execute them.

If you’d like a little help getting started, I’ve developed this simple goal-setting worksheet you can download here.

First, you’ve got to have a plan.

Planning is absolutely necessary for business success.  You cannot expect to grow with any kind of consistency without a solid plan.

Planning will:

  • Provide crystal clear focus on what tasks you should be tackling at any given time.
  • Reduce mistakes and missteps over time.
  • Actually save you time.

That last one is people are often skeptical of. Planning is one of those “important but not urgent” tasks that gets put off, because people assume it will take too much time away from their productivity.

In fact, productivity expert and author, Brian Tracy, suggests “Every minute you spend in planning saves 10 minutes in execution.”

That means for every hour you spend planning, you’ll get save 60 hours on the execution.

And I don’t know about you, but I could definitely find a good use for 60 additional hours next year!

But one big goal isn’t very helpful.

The problem is that most people go about planning the wrong way. They either make way too many goals, without any concept of how long each of those things will actually take to achieve, and then get scattered when they try to do it all…

…or they make one giant goal, but lose track of it in the day-to-day business of running their business.

While it’s OK to have one big goal for the year — to increase your revenues to a certain dollar amount, gain a certain number of new subscribers, or expand your product line, for example — that kind of big goal is often hard to keep track of over the course of the year, and very hard to break down into action steps.

The solution, then is, what my friend Todd Herman calls the 90 Day Year.  He suggests breaking down your year into segments of 90 days, four segments per year.  For each 90 days, you choose one or maybe two goals that you can achieve in 90 days and then spend the entire time focused on those goals.

This kind of planning has a lot of benefits over traditional annual planning:

  • First, it’s more predictable than annual planning. It’s very difficult to break down long-term goals into individual action steps or to figure out what you should be doing to reach that goal on any given day.  Ninety-day plans strongly connect the action you take today with the specific results you want.
  • Having shorter-term goals keeps you more focused. Annual plans fail because too many objectives result in chaos and poor execution. Ninety-day plans force you to choose 1–3 priorities with greatest impact, and then create energy and urgency to act.
  • Having short-term goals forces you to break a big goal down into individual parts and then create daily action steps for each part. These steps are specific, actionable and achievable in the time frame.
  • The overall plan is structured so that if the action steps are completed on time, your goals are achieved!

The biggest benefit for me is that it helps keep me laser focused; if a new opportunity appears, I can quickly ask myself, “Does this help me reach my short-term goals?”  If the answer is yes, I can say yes to the opportunity with gusto. If the answer is no, I can turn it down without guilt or schedule it for later.

This kind of planning really helped us 10x our business and focus on the tasks and goals that would make the biggest impact.

Short-term goals help you focus on what’s working — and what’s not.

The other huge benefit of this kind of short-term planning is that it gives you the freedom and imperative to pivot when something isn’t working — and the mechanisms to figure out what isn’t working and why.

If you have just one huge goal for the year, it’s like driving a giant cruise ship; it becomes slow and difficult to change directions mid-journey.

But a short-term plan is like a luxury yacht that can maneuver and change directions much more quickly and easily, to head for the best possible destination.

When you’re taking the time to stop and plan every 90 days or so, it:

  • Builds your self-esteem. It’s much easier to see your progress and what you’ve achieved, and help assure you that you’re on the right course.
  • Demands your attention and helps you to respond more quickly (rather than ignoring the fact that a certain tactic isn’t really working — which is so easy to do!).
  • Helps you understand why you’re not hitting goals when something falls a little short. It’s much easier to see if it’s a flaw in the plan or the execution.

 

At first, some people may be a little disappointed when they see in black and white how little they’re moving towards their goals — but this is actually a good thing!  Most of us drastically underestimate how long a project will take and then overestimate how much progress we’ve made.

But when you break your goals down into short sprints, with clear action steps, you can’t help but see where your process is working and where it’s not. This is invaluable information for the smart business owner; you can start outsourcing, find more team members, change direction, change your forecasts, or any number of other solutions once you know what the problem is.

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This article was written by Melanie Duncan.

The 24-Hour Trap: Rethinking Daily Habits

Rituals and habits are hot topics in productivity circles these days, for good reason.

What you do as you manage your daily life matters a great deal. A simple choice to grab a piece of fruit with your coffee in the morning turns you into a person who eats a healthy breakfast. If you get up and write five pages every weekday morning, you will have a manuscript in a few months.

But that last description of frequency–“every weekday morning”–contains an insight that suggests there’s a problem with how we sometimes think about time. Even people with so-called “daily” rituals don’t always do the same things on weekends. They do these rituals Monday through Friday, and as I study people’s schedules, I find many veer from the usual routines on Fridays, too. These so-called “daily” habits actually happen only four to five times a week.

Why does that matter? This insight is good news for those of us whose days can’t always look the same, but who still want to build sources of joy or meaning into our lives. We live in weeks, not days. Rather than succumbing to the “24-hour trap”–the belief that something has to happen daily on weekdays in order to be part of our lives–we can look at all seven days, and find space for things more often than not.

Take exercise for example: Many people would like to exercise more. But then they tell themselves “I’m not the kind of person who can just leave for an hour at lunch each day to go work out.” Or “I just can’t stomach getting up at 5:30 a.m. every morning to exercise.”

This is the 24-hour trap. But if you can’t leave at lunch every day, here’s a different idea. Just one day a week, pack a lunch and comfortable shoes and go for a walk during the time you’d normally hit the deli. Then, one morning per week–just one!–wake up early and use the treadmill gathering dust in your basement. Add in a run around the fields where your kid plays soccer on Saturday, and maybe another run sometime Sunday evening while the rest of the family is watching TV and suddenly you’re exercising four times per week.

It’s not the same time Monday through Thursday, but it doesn’t have to be. Accumulated minutes still matter.

I’ve been trying to adopt the same philosophy when it comes to writing fiction. I’m never going to be Anthony Trollope, working on my novel for three hours each morning. But I block off 5:30-8:30 p.m. one night per week, and another hour some afternoon, and in those four hours I can crank out the 2,000 words per week I need to write to stay on track.

Daily rituals are great, but they are not the only way to make things happen. By being creative and looking at all 168 hours in a week, we can often find space for more things than we think. The 24-hour trap limits possibilities. Looking at 168 hours opens things up.

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Laura Vanderkam is the author of several time management and productivity books, including I Know How She Does It: How Successful Women Make the Most of Their Time (Portfolio, June 9, 2015), What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast (Portfolio, 2013), and 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think (Portfolio, 2010). She blogs at www.lauravanderkam.com.

How to Create a System That Will Help You With Any Goal

Life coaches are crazy-obsessed big goal-setters. Coaching is largely about beginning with the end in mind (a goal) and creating an action plan to get there, wherever “there” is. I personally reset my goals every 6 months. They are pinned to my vision board as a daily reminder of what I’m working toward.

But a goal alone isn’t enough for success. You also need a system to get you there. Because systems work—they provide clarity and keep you on track.

In How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big, best-selling author Scott Adams explains: “A goal is a specific objective that you either achieve or don’t sometime in the future. A system is something you do on a regular basis that achieves your odds of happiness in the long run. If you do something every day, it’s a system. If you’re waiting to achieve it someday in the future, it’s a goal.”

Why the differentiation? Because systems make winning likely. It’s the system that matters, not the rare moments of ticking a box that was a goal. A system is set of steps to help you achieve your goal, not just dream and talk about it.

For example, let’s say your goal is to find a job. Your system might look like this:

  • Research career websites every day.
  • Have a networking coffee with someone new every week.
  • Allocate an hour per morning to do some fresh outreach.
  • Consistently polish your LinkedIn profile and resume.

A system makes your goal real. It’s concrete. It gets you moving. When you put your system into action, you’ll be very likely to reach your goal, because you have a map to get there.
The system is all you have to worry about to summit whatever mountain you are climbing.

Here’s an example of one of my systems in action: When I started my side hustle, my goal was to get five coaching clients. One way to attract new clients was to start blogging life advice, hoping that the right people would find me. To do that, I decided to publish one fresh blog post each week on a topic I felt mattered.

My system to do that was to write every. single. morning. Even when I didn’t feel like it. Just for 15 minutes if that’s all the time I had. Some of my writing does nothing—it tanks and attracts no readers at all! But I always write every day. It’s not “I’ll do it when I feel like it.” It’s “I’ll do it today.” Because it’s my system. Morning time is writing time. (It’s morning right now, and so I’m writing this column.)

Following my system ultimately got me featured in my dream publications and eventually even resulted in my first book being published. I scored my goal and then some through that process, because, unlike goals, systems never end (they also take away the guesswork).

What goal do you currently have that you could replace with a system?

  • Could you replace looking for a relationship with going on two new dates per week?
  • Could you replace a goal of losing 5 pounds with cutting out soda from your diet?
  • Could you replace your revenue goal for your business with spending 20 minutes per day on marketing?
  • Could you replace your desire for a deeper spiritual practice with a 15-minute morning meditation?
  • Could you replace a goal of spending more quality time with your spouse with all screens off during dinnertime?
  • Could you satisfy your desire for work-life balance with a massage every month and no email-checking after 7 or 8 p.m.?

Systems reduce decision fatigue; they provide you with an inner guidance system and a equip you with the power of habit. What system can you start this week?

Susie Moore is Greatist’s life coach columnist and a confidence coach in New York City. Sign up for free weekly wellness tips on her website.

How To Set Goals For The Life You Actually Want

It’s a commonly accepted sentiment that setting goals will lead you to success.

Many of us believe life will be better by reaching those goals, so we make our plans, put our nose to the grindstone, and work our butts off until we’re there.

Many high achievers I’ve worked with over the years reach their goals, but they end up missing their lives in the process–and not in a trivial “I’m-working-too-hard-to-have-friends” kind of way.

No, they reach their goals and discover they were the wrong goals and the wrong path to get there. No one taught them how to set goals that would give them the life and the career they wanted.

Here’s how to set the right goals for the life you actually want:

1. STOP SETTING GOALS FOR THE WRONG REASON

The first step to setting goals that will bring you an awesome life is to stop setting goals that will bring you a sucky life.

Most goals are about a destination. “I want a million dollars.” “I want enlightenment.” “I want a truck.” If you tend to set your goals based on the destination, and don’t consider the journey, try switching it around.

2. CHOOSE A GOAL TO CREATE A JOURNEY

Instead of setting life goals, think about setting a life direction. Figure out the things that would create a fun, meaningful, compelling journey.

Ask yourself:

  1. How do I want to spend my time?
  2. What daily activities make me want to leap out of bed?
  3. What do I want to learn?
  4. Who do I want to hang out with? Talk with? Collaborate with?

Now set your goal. Choose one that will create the journey you just designed.

In fact, the specific goal you set is almost arbitrary–it’s simply setting a direction so the pursuit itself gives you the life that you want. With the right journey, it won’t even matter if you reach your goal.

For example, Chris, a mid-career finance executive, had an original life goal of making a small fortune. That goal led to an education in securities and securities law, a life of financial analysis on Wall Street, and a community of financial professionals. Despite the money, Chris feels like life is slipping by in a gray fog.

Any number of goals could send Chris on a different journey. Here are his answers to the above questions:

  1. How do I want to spend my time? “Helping people.”
  2. What activities make me want to leap out of bed? “Problem solving, using my body, and public speaking.”
  3. What do I want to learn? “History, anthropology, and urban design.”
  4. Who do I want to hang out with? ”Creative, ambitious, motivated people who expose me to new ways of thinking and challenge my assumptions.”

Many possible goals can bring about this journey for Chris. He could help an immigrant neighborhood plan annual events to preserve its cultural identity; work on designing his city’s response plan for weather emergencies; or champion a real estate development in a historic section of town.

These goals are wildly different from one another, but what they all share is that the journey to reach them will motivate the activities, learning, and community that Chris really wants out of life.

3. IF THE GOAL DOESN’T WORK, CHANGE IT

As you can see, the goal is really just a way of making sure we take a meaningful journey. Some journeys are so much fun, people stay on them forever. My actor friends often say, “Why would I retire? What I do isn’t work; it’s pure fun!”

But if your job involves staring at a screen and filing TPS reports, you may not share that sentiment. As much press as persistence gets, keep in mind that you can always change your direction. Your goal is there to shape your life in a way that delights you, not enslaves you. If the pursuit of the goal is draining your life, then why keep it?

We adopt goals for one reason and one reason only: to change our lives. Rather than adopting a goal you hope will change your life once you reach it, do it the other way around. Choose the journey that for you would be awesome–the activities, personal growth, and friends. Then choose a goal that acts as a compass to give you that life as part of the journey.

And if you ever feel your direction needs changing, change goals. Because it’s not about where you end up, it’s about the life you live on the way. Your life is too precious to settle for less than extraordinary.

Stever Robbins is an executive coach and serial entrepreneur. He helps people live extraordinary lives and embark on big-vision, world changing projects. He is the host of the Get-It-Done Guy podcast, which has been downloaded more than 22 million times, and the author of bestseller Get-it-Done Guy’s 9 Steps to Work Less and Do More.

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