To get results, you need to have a clear vision of what you want, you need to know why it’s important to you and what you really get out of it, you need a plan, and you need to take specific steps to get there. It’s also helpful if you have a clear vision of what life will be like if you continue to not have the results you desire. When you add in accountability, achieving your goals can become almost certain.
The key to making all of it work is setting things up in such a way that it’s easier to succeed than it is to fail.
Build your vision of the future
In order to achieve any dream in life, we need to first know the shape of that dream. So the very first step in getting results is to define what those results are.
We all have dreams, so this is the easiest step in the entire process.
Choose one of your dreams, and take a few moments to work out what it will be like when you have achieved it.
Just close your eyes, and imagine. Really go inside that dream future and notice what it’s like.
Then write out a statement that perfectly describes that future. Describe it in the present tense as if it were happening right now.
Here’s one of mine:
I’m sitting on the teak deck of my 12m center cockpit sailboat anchored off Vanuatu. It’s a beautiful day, and I can see and hear the waves lapping onto the soft white sands of the beach. A gentle breeze cools me as I bask in the hot sun. I pick up my phone and sign in ready for a pre-booked call with someone I’m helping to achieve their own dreams.
You can go into as much or as little detail as you like. Mine has a lot more detail, but I see no reason to bore you with it. Hopefully there’s enough here for you to get the idea.
To give you some ideas: I know exactly how big the boat is, what the internal layout is like, what time of year it is, who is there with me, what supplies are onboard, what systems I’ve built on board the boat, how I feel in that moment, and even how the business that funds it all is running.
Don’t worry though. All you really need at this point is a clear idea of what it looks like. We’ll flesh out the details shortly.
Discover what you really get out of your results
If you want to achieve your results, it’s critical to know what you’re really getting out of it. To do this, consider what you will feel like when you have each result. What’s one word that sums up that feeling for you?
Now that you’ve got your vision of the future, take a few moments to close your eyes and imagine that future as vividly as you can.
Look around your vision and notice all the details. What stands out to you?
When you’re oriented into that vision of your dream, notice what it feels like in that moment. What’s one word that sums up that feeling completely?
For me it’s tranquility.
Yours will almost certainly be something different.
Once you’ve found a word, close your eyes again and try it on. Does that word really match your dream future? Or is it slightly off?
Keep cycling through words until you find the right one. Most people don’t get it on their first try. Usually it takes 3 to 5 attempts to find the word that perfectly fits your feeling in that moment.
It’s not a race.
Take your time to choose exactly the right word, because this part is critical for motivating yourself to get there. You’ll know when it’s close enough.
And remember: You can always come back and change it later.
Figure out what motivates you
Next, check out my article on Human Motivational Drivers, and figure out which of those drivers most closely matches that feeling.
By this point you should have a very solid grasp on exactly what it will feel like in that moment, and what’s going to motivate you to get there.
Or put another way, you know why that future is important to you.
Modify your dream until it’s just right for you
At this point it’s worthwhile asking yourself whether it has to be this way.
For example, in my vision of the sailboat, I could just as easily have decided that the boat was totally unimportant and it would be enough to live somewhere near a beach. Or a forest.
In my case, I love boats.
Here’s the thing: It’s going to cost a lot of resources for me to get there. I’ve already invested a decade into learning all the necessary skills. Because I was interested, that was a worthwhile investment to me.
If I didn’t love boats, it would have been much more efficient for me to choose another goal that got me that same feeling of tranquility.
So take the time to figure out what your dream vision really is.
It doesn’t have to be the first one you come up with.
In fact, it’s usually best if this is an iterative process. Start with one dream vision, and modify it until it’s just right for you.
Develop a plan to achieve your results
Once you know what you want, why you want it, and what you will get out of it, it’s time to build a step-by-step plan to take you from where you are now to where you want to be. Design your plan by starting with your vision and working out what needs to be different in order to achieve it. Be sure to build in your motivation.
So how exactly do you build a plan?
There are a few keys to making an effective plan.
Ultimately, you need some way to know when you’ve achieved your goal. In my case, it’s easy: I’ll know I’m there because I’m sitting on the deck of my boat.
How will I be able to tell? By making an observation.
If you’ve ever worked a corporate job, you’ve probably come across SMART goals. SMART is an acronym that lays out some key features any goal needs to have in order for it to become achievable.
In short: A SMART goal is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timed.
Some people will give slightly different definitions, so don’t worry too much if your definition diverges from mine.
Each of these 5 parts is vital if you want to succeed. With some caveats.
Let’s go through each of them.
Specific means that you know exactly what it is. There are details. In my example, I could have said sailboat rather than 12m center cockpit sailboat with a teak deck, but that would not have been very specific. And there are lots of sailboats that would not match my vision.
Measurable means that you have some objective way of determining when you’ve achieved your goal.
Achievable and Realistic work together. Their combined meaning is that not only is the goal possible, but it’s something that you personally can achieve. I am 100% confident that I can achieve my goal and that it is realistic, because thousands of everyday people have done so already.
Timed means that there is some time by which you will have achieved your goal. For almost everyone, having a deadline is a critical part of success. You’ll notice that my goal doesn’t include a deadline. That’s because I find that they have the opposite effect on me. I’m weird like that.
Write out your goal being sure to touch on each of these points.
Attach your motivation
Next, take the feeling and motivation that you worked out earlier, and attach it to your goal.
The easiest way to do this is to write another sentence on the end of your goal stating in the present tense how you feel when you’ve achieved it.
Find a photograph that represents that goal for you, print it out, and stick it somewhere you can see it regularly. Practice feeling those feelings when you think about having achieved your goal.
Work backwards from your vision
Now that you’ve written out your goal and motivation, the next step is to build the plan.
But don’t go into too much detail. As you work through executing your plan, things won’t work out. Accept that you will have to modify the plan as you go.
Start with your vision of your dream future, and work out what has to be different to get there.
What skills do you need? Are they skills you should personally acquire? Or should they be outsourced? Are some of them so complex that you’ll need a partner who already has them?
I like to be self-sufficient, so the skills I need for my goal include a comprehensive knowledge of boatbuilding and sailing. There are also legal requirements which mean I’ll have to acquire certain certifications before I head off. Others with the same dream might simply hire a captain, or register their boat in a country without such requirements.
What resources do you need? Resources can come in the form of time, physical resources, virtual resources, and money. Ultimately, everything can be acquired if you have enough money, so it’s vital to figure this part out.
It’s almost always going to be most efficient to pay for things to get you there more quickly.
For example, if you make $200 an hour, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to learn how to properly prepare the hull of a boat, seal, and paint it for the simple reason that you can hire someone for less than $200 an hour to do those things for you.
And they’ll probably be at least ten times as fast as you because they do it all the time.
The exception is when it’s a skill you’re interested in and would like to have.
Think through everything you’ll need to achieve your goal, starting at the high level.
Don’t go into too much detail at first, because it is certain that the plan will change over time.
Attach your motivation to every step along the way.
Take regular, consistent action
If you want to get results, it’s vital to take regular, consistent action towards executing your plan. Work out how your plan fits into your life, set aside time for it, and then build habits to ensure that you actually do it.
Now that you’ve got a vision of your dream future, you know why it’s important to you and what you’ll get out of it, and you’ve got a plan to get you there, it’s time to start executing your plan.
Build habits to automate achieving your goals
It’s easiest to do things when they become habits.
All habits have some kind of trigger mechanism.
So if you want to achieve your goals, take the time to figure out where working towards your goals can fit into your day-to-day life. Then make it a habit to always work on those goals at those times.
Set milestones and celebrate your wins
Set milestones throughout your plan to keep you motivated. Celebrate every time you achieve a milestone.
It doesn’t have to be big.
Just enough that you know you’re making progress.
As a rule, you want to have at least one thing you can celebrate every single time you work towards achieving your goals.
Regularly revise your plan
Have you ever wondered why software has so many bugs?
It turns out that bugs are mathematically guaranteed when you have a capitalist system beyond a certain scale. The reason for this is that removing bugs takes time. The key feature that software needs to have is that using it results in a net benefit for the users.
If a piece of software allows someone to work 10 times as quickly, and they lose an hour every day because it crashes, they are still getting 70 hours of work done in 8 hours.
It’s exactly the same with any kind of plan. You could go into exact detail and figure everything out beforehand. But when we do, planning takes so long that we never achieve our goals.
Break your plan down into small, manageable pieces of no more than a day each.
Measure the results.
And when your plan doesn’t work out, revise and refine.
When you do this, what tends to happen is that results start to pile up fast.
How to stay on track and get results fast
The easiest way to make sure you stay on track is to find someone to hold you accountable and keep you motivated.
Have you ever tried to achieve a goal and then found that you’re constantly pulled away to do anything other than what needs to be done to achieve that goal?
Of course you have. It happens to all of us.
And the truth is that our brains are wired to make it easier for us to keep on doing what we’ve always done. It’s a survival characteristic.
Here’s the thing though: For most of us, our survival is rarely in question.
Despite this, our brain can see change as a direct threat to survival. Even when that change is in our best interests.
Now we can ask family and friends to help keep us on track. But there’s an issue: Even when they know how to coach, they’ll usually see the same things we do. Not only that, but their unconscious survival instincts are usually wired to keep us the same.
But it’s not a good way to make progress towards your dreams.
What’s needed is someone external to keep you on track to achieving your goals.
That’s where a professional coach comes in.
Now I get it that it can be scary to even get onto a call with someone.
So I’ve put together an experimental public chat server.
If you’d like my help, come on over to my public Discord server for a chat. It’s the easy way to get hold of me to ask questions about anything I talk about on this site.