Last Updated on March 23, 2021 by Sarah McCubbin
Accomplishing your goals can often be this vague idea without a lot of direction. It isn’t a clear principal taught in schools other than “Go to college” or “Go to trade school” to do the next thing. As I’ve spent time working on and thinking about accomplishing different goals, a number of successes and failures come to mind as well as some basic steps that can be used over and over to do the things you want to do.
I remember the first time I decided I wanted to sell something on eBay almost 20 years ago. My mom’s friend was selling clothes on eBay and making pretty decent money in the process. The whole idea seemed so overwhelming. I had never sold anything online…it seemed so big and unfamiliar…buying and selling from random people who mailed each other packages…and somehow they got paid. I was sure she had some secret that I needed. So I sent her an email and asked her to share all the steps I needed to take to sell on eBay. She replied back, “Go onto eBay and click SELL.” That was it. No pep talk…no hand holding…no meeting or hour-long phone call.
I had the choice to do what she said…or do nothing. Simple. Who knew that it was all spelled out. I clicked SELL just like she said and right before my eyes a whole list of steps appeared to set up an account, which led to instructions on listing and how to get paid. I didn’t list my first item that evening. I think it took me a few days to do all of the steps. But before I knew it, I gathered up a pile of odds and ends from around the house and listed them. I think I sold my husband’s college cap and gown first. Next were assorted baby items and other new items we weren’t using. All these years later, I still sell things there on occasion. It was a useful skill and it all started when I took the first and only step I knew to take.
Going through high school and college were easy for me. I could do book work all day long. But where I was strong in academics, I lacked a lot of practical skills and didn’t have a lot of confidence that I could do anything else. But to be honest…that was ok. I was good at something and that gave me the confidence that I could do the next thing. As I’ve thought about the steps that are useful in accomplishing a new goal, here is what I do…over and over…
Table of Contents
1. Identify what you do easily
Before trying to tackle a new goal, I think it is helpful to go ahead and look at some area that you are already successful in….ANYTHING…that you are good at already. That could be something work related, a task around the house, spending time with your kids or finding time to read regularly. Not everyone is great at doing what you do easily. Take a minute to think about why you are successful. Make a list. Here are some of the things on my list.
- My THING makes me feel accomplished.
- It’s fun most of the time and even when it is hard, it brings personal satisfaction.
- I can do it in large or small chunks of time.
- I can put it down for a while and still want to come back to it later…sometimes much later.
- It also helps other people that I care about.
- It is something that I already have the skills to do.
Why does that matter? When we want to achieve a new goal, it is helpful to look at what it already working for us…and repeat when possible.
2. Identify your goal area(s) that you would like to improve on
Have you ever cracked open a new planner at the beginning of the new year and had your hand hesitate as you started to write down your New Year’s Resolution? Not that goals are just for the new year, but it is a common time when many of us reevaluate. You start to write and your hand pauses. Is it better to write it down….and fail. Or maybe that goal is just too big so you won’t write it down…because then you can’t fail. I’ve been there. Goals can be overwhelming. But there is no harm in dreaming big on paper. No one has to see it. Do a brain dump and get those goals on paper….all of them…
Now look at that list, and put them in order. Some are probably long term and some are shorter term. For the sake of this exercise, what is your number 1 goal this month? What is your number 2? You can start with the bigger goals but I think its helpful to practice with a small win! It is difficult to prioritize many new goals at the same time, so you will need to narrow your focus knowing that you will revisit this list many times in the future.
3. Where can you educate yourself about the process you need to go through?
Are there blogs, books or courses that teach what you need to learn? I’ve found that when I have a new goal, there are so many ways to spend money that it makes my head spin. Its almost as if we feel a small “win” in our goal area when we spend money investing in that goal. And there is nothing wrong with that. But if your budget is tight or you are trying to be narrow down your goal focus, I have found that gaining some education in my goal area is very helpful.
More than ever today, there are an abundance of resources available to help us learn. I love picking up ebooks from the library or on Kindle Unlimited to read up on a new topic. Blogs, podcasts and courses are other places to learn more about a new topic.
One of my favorite places to learn from the “experts” are all the “free” courses that individuals offer on Facebook or Youtube. I know they usually lead to a purchase option, but many of these micro-courses have a lot of valuable information that can help you figure out what area of your goal to focus on…whether that is fitness, health, parenting, education, or starting a new business. These freebie courses are gold mines when it comes to learning little gems that expand your understanding.
4. Work Backwards
To hone in on your goal, start with the end in mind. I’ll use a current goal of mine for example. As a homeschooling parent, I want to make sure my children’s education is sufficient at the end of 12th grade so that they have the tools to do whatever they want next….go to work, go to college, start a small business…whatever they want.
In order to achieve my goal, I start with that end in mind and envision the steps I need to get to that goal some day in the future. This seems simple enough. If I want my homeschooled child to graduate from highschool, I would start by pulling my states graduation requirements. Next, I would divide those requirements over 4 years to help me figure out what my child needs to study. Then I would want to make sure that in core subjects, my child will be on target to be able to take those subjects when they get to highschool. If my son is only doing subtraction in 8th grade, it will be hard to do Algebra in 9th.
Starting with the end in mind, also helps you envision if this goal actually leads to something you want. Maybe you want to be a hugely successful business owner but also want to be very present for you family. Deciding which goal has priority, will help you make decisions that keep your main priorities while meeting secondary goals.
5. Identify your goal area and break it down into steps
Once you have a clear vision for your goal and have thought about what the end result should be of achieving your goal, its time to make steps from where you are now to where you want to be. You aren’t going to actually know what all the baby steps are at this point, but you may have a general idea of what you need to do to accomplish your goal. If your goal is very large and feels overwhelming, it may be helpful to practice with a smaller more achievable goal to help you build success.
6. Set a deadline for step #1
Ok, back to the steps you wrote down. First, look at that first step and write down all the baby steps you need to complete that big step. Next to this big step, write down your deadline. Do you have a day…a week..a month to complete that goal. What baby steps do you need to take to get there? And now is my favorite…this is the thing that really helped me start to make progress on goals that I thought were impossible……
7. Set a timer and work on the first baby step for 10 minutes…without stopping
Ready…go! Stop when you complete 10 minutes…or keep going. Do this without stopping, without checking emails or Facebook or whatever else distracts you. Really…this is how this works. This is the Ten Minute Momentum….ten glorious minutes…600 seconds to focus on your first step. Don’t look at the rest of them.
Look at your list. Maybe your goal is that you want to start investing in stocks. Your first step might be research. So for the next 10 minutes, you research “How to start investing in stocks.” Or maybe your goal is to have a clean kitchen…so for the next 10 minutes you load the dishwasher, throw away trash and wash as many dishes as you can. You get the idea. Just start…for 10 minutes.
8. Identify the obstacles that came up
What could you do to prepare before starting to work on the goal? During that time you discover that the first step is to open a brokerage account and that you can do this online. You don’t have a brokerage account yet. Maybe baby step #2 is to research brokerage firms for 10 minutes. Or maybe you already learned that information in your research and your next step is to actually click “Open an account” and start the process. So here we are at step 2…and you could already be filling out the application.
Now here is the thing….and I will use myself as an example…when I went through this process, I did step 1 a whole bunch of times. But I didn’t take the time to actually write out any goals for myself. So when it came time to actually open an account, my brain would start to spin and think…”I don’t know anything about investing. What if I invest in the wrong thing? I could lose all our money. Maybe this isn’t really for me. This seems overwhelming….” And before I ever did Step 2, I talked myself out of completing the goal because I felt unqualified. I didn’t have enough knowledge…so I didn’t even start. I didn’t give myself permission to learn while I was taking baby steps.
What I needed to do before I started was write down the big steps and agree with myself that I would keep chipping away at this 10 minutes at a time until I got it done. That could mean research, setting up accounts, attaching bank accounts, verifying bank accounts, emailing documents, making phone calls, researching investments….and actually transferring money and investing. This did not have to be something that would consume an entire day. I could start with 10 minutes and do it again tomorrow…for 10 minutes…and eventually, I would accomplish my goal.
9. What thoughts came up as you started working…write them down
As you start to work on a goal process, it is helpful to make note of any positive or negative thoughts you had as you started. Often we are “talking to ourselves” and we aren’t really processing what we are saying. We aren’t tuning into to those thoughts. Additionally, when we make action steps, other ideas might bubble up, go ahead and write those down. I find that it is easier to remember a thought…or capture an emotion, if I write it down first. Once you write it down, you can now “deal” with it.
If I wrote down, “I’ll never figure out investing. This is so frustrating!!” I might combat that thought with something like, “Even Warren Buffett had to start learning about finances at some point…and look where he is now. I am smart and I can learn how to do this too.”
We combat the negative with positive…Take every thought captive.
10. Lastly, tomorrow, repeat #7
Tomorrow, when you revisit those baby steps…you get to start with baby step 2…or maybe you are still on baby step 1. And that is fine. You made progress!! You are moving! It may not feel like anything happened but you showed up again to tackle the same goal. If you don’t quit, you will win!
As it turned out, that beginning of selling on Ebay was a major confidence booster for me. The small wins there led me to open an online store which I had for 10 years. During that time, I developed skills in photography, graphic design, communications, filing business taxes and sales tax, buying wholesale, international imports and more. I never developed these into large operations but I learned so much from my living room while out little family was growing. It all started with the decision to say yes to my goal…to take the next step…to do the next thing. And you can too! Accomplishing your goals does not have to be difficult or confusing. With a little bit of planning, it can easily become manageable to do what you set your mind to. I’m so glad you are here! You were made for great things!