Money & Career

How to achieve any goal

By: Jacqueline Kovacs

FlickrCC/Stacy Author: Canadian Living Credits: FlickrCC/Stacy

Money & Career

How to achieve any goal

By: Jacqueline Kovacs
Want to make a big change in your life? Start with a lot of little ones. Those micro-victories tend to motivate people to carry on to meet their larger goal. "That's the way we're designed to respond," says Piers Steel, a University of Calgary professor and author of The Procrastination Equation. "We can feel good about these smaller milestones on the bigger journey toward the long-term goal."

But that's only part of the equation when it comes to achieving personal and professional goals. We spoke to Steel and to Burlington, Ont., life coach Laurel Crossley for their insights.

1. Be ready for change
Sometimes people talk (and talk and talk) about what it is they want to achieve—maybe it's a promotion at work, maybe it's a fitness or weight-loss goal. But sometimes talking is all they do, says Crossley. Moving from talk to action tends to happen one of two ways: having an "entrepreneurial spirit" or experiencing a situation or event that changes your mindset.

If you have an entrepreneurial spirit, she continues, then you're open to change and will tend to notice "holes" or openings in situations, either professionally or personally, that you can seize as opportunities. Or if you experience something traumatic like an illness or the death of someone close to you, that can also shock you into action. Either way, changes in your life will not happen unless you make them happen—whatever the catalyst is.

2. Make a plan
"Write a list of criteria for whatever the changes are that you want to make," says Crossley. "Break it into categories." Then try to match what you'll need to achieve each of the steps—whether it's gaining a new skill or getting to know people in your own professional network better.

"Think of those rubrics kids bring home from school for projects or assignments," says Crossley. "Make something like that for your larger goal." Breaking it down into components will help you reach those micro-achievements mentioned earlier.

3. Get support
Finding the right group based on the help you need to achieve your goal is also key, says Crossley. "Find a support group to help you facilitate change." And that goes for corporations, too: You want to work for a business with a philosophy or mission statement that is in harmony with your own approach to life.

Working in a like-minded space with supportive people has other benefits, too. "It can open you up to new ideas," says Crossley. "Hanging out with the right people can also give you the extrinsic motivation you need to get intrinsic motivation you require."

4. Stay motivated
Staying motivated these days is much easier said than done, says Steel. "We live in a motivationally toxic world," he says, pointing to all of the physical and digital distractions around us. "It's like trying to diet in a candy store. The distractions and temptations have never been more succulent and available."

So how do you find the motivation to achieve your goals in a demotivating world?

- Don't fret. "If you fall off course while reaching for your goal, don't beat yourself up about it," says Steel. "That will just make you anxious and won't get to the source of why you lost motivation." Instead, forgive yourself and renew your commitment to goal achievement.

- Plan for setbacks. "Try to focus on the outcome," says Steel. If you're trying to improve your fitness, for example, recognize that the first couple of weeks might be hard and have a plan to get back on track if necessary.

- Add value. "How can you make achieving your goal more enjoyable in some way?" asks Steel. Maybe it's involving a friend, or perhaps it's investing in workout gear you like or creating an upbeat playlist of your favourite songs.

- Schedule it. Are you tired during the time you've allocated to working on your goal? "Most of us only have four or five hours of peak energy," says Steel. "Are you using that for easy stuff instead of personal or professional goals? Reverse that!"

Both Steel and Crossley stress that these techniques can be applied to any goal—big or small, professional or personal—whatever it is that makes life better for you.

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Money & Career

How to achieve any goal