There is a lot of fuss made about setting goals. Tony Robbins says, “Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.” I think goals are great, but it seems that most people never achieve them, partly because they don’t realize that a goal is part of a journey. Setting a goal without action is simply a dream. Achieving a goal takes work. Not just work every now and then, but consistent work, every single day. You can’t just work on a goal half heartedly when you feel like it and then think you will wake up one morning and TADA there it is: achieved!
Sweat The Small Stuff
The place I learned how to both set and achieve goals was in boxing. I learned early on that you can wish that you had an amazing game, but you soon realize that without putting in the work, having that game remains a dream. In fact, it’s not really about the goal per-say, but rather what are you doing each and every day that will lead to the end result that counts. Crucially, what are you doing on the days you simply don’t feel like working on your dream? You see, while the end goal might seem all romantic, the road to the goal is hard, uncompromising, and unromantic. In this sense, motivation is nonsense, because so many days we don’t feel like doing what we know we must do.
The strategy that I have successfully used to achieve the goals I have set in my life is to reverse engineer them. I learned this in boxing. I always start by writing my goal down, which everyone does, but then I focus on writing down all the steps that would be required to achieve that specific goal (which most people don’t do). If I don’t know what those steps would look like, I go ask someone who does. I learned early on, if you want to achieve success, you need to swallow your pride, leave your ego at the door, and pluck up the courage and ask the people who have achieved what you most want, how they did it? Luckily, even if you don’t know that person personally, there are tons of books you can read about people who have achieved what you want too.
Start With The Easy Stuff
Once I have all the steps laid out I do something that I feel is crucial to succeeding, I put them in an order from easiest to the most difficult to achieve. This is one of the major reasons I see people not succeeding at their goals. They define a goal, but then start with the most difficult steps first. There are a few reasons why this is an ineffective strategy.
Firstly, you haven’t built up enough confidence yet to take on the journey you have set for yourself. If you tackle the hardest steps of that journey first, and you fail at it (which you most likely will) you will then feel defeated and give up. Secondly, often, the most difficult steps require a formative foundation built off prior successful steps. For example, if I went into a boxing gym with no experience, and wanted to be able to spar like a pro on day one, not only is that an unrealistic goal, but trying to do so, will likely result in me getting knocked out. There are dozens of steps that must be accomplished first — like getting your cardio up, starting with footwork, then punching the mitts, slowly entering into light sparring and so on — before you can even think about taking on the best fighters in the gym.
This is why, I have always looked at the steps to the goals, and asked myself realistically what could I take action on now, and make sure I can accomplish that first. No matter how unromantic that step may be, or simply something that requires some slog work, that’s what I take action on first. When I started boxing, I realized straight away, besides not knowing anything, my fitness was terrible. Without getting my fitness right, there was no way I would be able to achieve the next step to move towards my goal of being the best in the gym.
What did I do?
I started running every day. A small step for sure to becoming great at boxing, but an important one too. Importantly, it was a step I could do, and could succeed in. As I began to accomplish the easier tasks, like getting my fitness up, my confidence began to grow. Before I knew it, I was working on the harder steps, like getting in that ring and surviving my first round.
Goals are great, but success happens on the journey. If you take that journey and start with the easiest steps first, by walking a path you know you can handle — as you achieve in each successive step you take on — before you know it you will be climbing that mountain. When you are finally at the top, and you look back, you will realize it was how well you traveled the path to the top of the mountain, the journey, that mattered most. Standing on top of that mountain and looking out at the amazing scenery, you realize that this is simply the prize for a journey well taken.