Flash back to the beginning of this year with me for a moment: You’re excited. You’re motivated. You’re optimistic about the year ahead. In the heat of your enthusiasm, you decide you want to be super-ambitious this year. And you set some big stretch goals((Harvard Business Review: The Stretch Goal Paradox)) for yourself. “It’s going to be a great year,” you tell yourself. “This is the year I actually learn how to make goals happen.”
Now, let’s fast-forward to a handful of months (or more) into the year.
How are you doing with your yearly goals?
Have you broken them down? Have you created actionable plans and projects to help you accomplish your goals?
Have you actually even looked at your annual goals since you wrote them down at the outset of the year?
Have you taken those yearly goals and broken them down into monthly goals? Weekly goals? Daily goals?
And as of right now, in this moment, are you doing the most important thing you can do to bring your greatest goals closer to completion?
If your answer to any of the above questions was no, then I would propose to you that reading this article—and following the actionable advice within it—is the single most important thing you can do right now. Here’s how to get started.
1. Take More Action
The greatest barrier folks face when they’re trying to figure out how to make goals happen is a lack of action.
Why do so many of us set big goals and fail to follow up with action?
The problem is not you. It’s not that you aren’t capable of achieving your goals…you are.
The problem is within the way the goal was set in the first place.
The reason people don’t achieve their goals—the reason people fail to take consistent action towards making their goals a reality—is because:
They set goals once a year and don’t revisit them often enough.
They don’t break big goals down into smaller goals to be achieved within a narrow timeline.
To make goals happen, take more action. To take more action, shrink your timeline.
2. Shrink Your Timeline
The simplest way to make your biggest goals happen is to break them up into several smaller goals, insert them into a narrow timeline, and plug away at achieving the small goals, which will eventually lead you to achieving the big one.
Here’s what I mean by that: it’s tough to wrap your head around achieving a big yearly goal within a day, But that’s what your mind thinks it needs to do when it sees a big goal by itself. It thinks it needs to take down a herculean—year-sized—goal with one fell swoop. But this would be nearly impossible, so it gives up.
However, if you take that big yearly goal and create a timeline of tasks (beginning today) that progressively lead to you achieving your big yearly goal, now your brain sees a path to victory.
Your brain can’t achieve what your brain can’t see.
It’s like walking into a pitch black room. At first, you walk inside and you can’t see a single thing. But then you flip the light-switch and boom—now you can see. All of a sudden the room is flooded with light and everything is clear.
That’s what happens to your brain when it sees a clear plan of action((Dean Bokhari: Action Leads to Motivation)) with a timeline.
The key, then, for making big goals happen is to:
Define a big picture goal. This might be a yearly goal you’ve already set, like “read 50 books this year” or “make $1,000,000 this year.”
Narrow the timeline by working backwards from the bigger picture goal, breaking it down into smaller monthly goals, followed by smaller weekly goals, followed by still smaller daily goals, all the way down to your single current goal in this very moment.
This process is called “Goal Setting to the Now,” and the simplicity and effectiveness of this system helped me become a millionaire by the age of 30.
But it’s not just for professional success. Goal Setting to the Now works to help you make your goals happen in every area of life: health and fitness, spirituality, personal development and education, relationships and more.
3. Use Goal Setting to the Now
In their book, The One Thing, authors Gary Keller and Jay Papasan write:
“By thinking through the filter of Goal Setting to the Now, you set a future goal and then methodically drill down to what you should be doing right now. It can be a little like a Russian matryoshka doll in that your ONE Thing “right now” is nested inside your ONE Thing TODAY, which is nested inside your ONE Thing this WEEK, which is nested inside your ONE Thing this MONTH… it’s how a small thing can actually build up to a big one… You’re lining up your dominoes.”
Side note: I had one of the authors of The One Thing come onto my podcast to break this idea down, you can listen to it here.
Goal Setting to the Now is all about lining up your dominoes and knocking them down, one by one, until you achieve your ultimate goal.
Let’s say, for example, that you have an ultimate goal of reading 50 books a year. Here’s how you would drill down the actions and narrow your timeline to make this something you’re likely to achieve.
What’s the ONE thing I want to do someday?
Develop the habit of reading 50 books per year for the rest of my life.
Based on my Someday Goal, what’s the ONE thing I can do in the next 5 years?
In order to achieve my goal of reading 50 books per year for the rest of my life, I must read 250 books within the next five years.
Based on my Five-Year Goal, what’s the ONE thing I can do this year?
In order to achieve my five-year goal of reading 250 books, I must read 50 books within the next 12 months (one year).
Based on my One-Year Goal, what’s the ONE thing I can do this month?
Since there are about 50-53 weeks in a typical year, in order to achieve my one-year goal, I must read four or five books a month. This month I will read the following four personal development books:
The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill
How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie
Oh, the Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss (In case I need something easy at the end of my first month!)
Based on my Monthly Goal, what’s the ONE thing I can do this week?
In order to achieve my monthly goal, I must read one book each week. This week I will read The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.
Based on my Weekly Goal, what’s the ONE thing I can do today?
Since the average book is about 250 pages in length, in order to achieve my weekly goal of reading a book a week, I must read approximately 36 pages per day.
In order to achieve my daily page-count, I will block off one hour of dedicated reading time at 8:00 AM each morning on my calendar.
Based on my Daily Goal, what’s the ONE thing I can do right now?
Give myself a pat on the back, because I completed my morning reading, and I’m on track to achieve my Someday Goal of reading 50 books per year for the rest of my life!
Now, all you need to do is knock down each domino until you’ve hit your Someday Goal. Should keep you pretty busy, right?
The Bottom Line
It might seem redundant, or even overly simple, but the real key to actually making your greatest goals happen in any area of your life is to break them down and narrow your timeline—collecting lots of small wins, which eventually build up to the achievement of the bigger goal.
Start by defining a big picture goal for yourself, or use one that you’ve already defined but have yet to accomplish.
Break that goal up into actionable steps.
Insert those steps into a narrow timeline by using Goal Setting to the Now.
More Tips on How to Make Goals Happen
How to Stay Motivated and Reach Your Big Goals in Life
11 Ways to Motivate Yourself to Complete any Task in New Year
How to Plan Your Life Goals and Actually Achieve Them in 7 Simple Steps