How to reach your goals?

Jorge Contreras
4 min readAug 28, 2019

No matter how big or difficult your goal seems to be, there is always a way to get there. Here I share some thoughts that you can apply to your own circumstances to reach whatever goal you have defined for yourself.

Scope.
Clear definition of what IS and, most importantly, what IS NOT your goal. Remove all the clutter. Define exactly what you want to achieve and when in a single sentence. If your goal is too vague, you will end up wasting a lot of time doing things that do not contribute to your goal. Keep it simple, clear and visible at all times. Remember to keep your goal realistic and achievable, otherwise you would have already failed before even starting. Do not be tempted by silly phrases that tell you that you can achieve anything you want. Spoiler alert: you can’t. No matter how much I want to be an olympic medalist, if I set that goal for myself, it would be unrealistic and it would only lead to frustration and disappointment. You have to know yourself, be honest and know your own limits. There’s nothing wrong with being realistic. Quite the opposite, you will not waste time in goals you can’t achieve, and instead spend your time in goals that you actually can.

Plan.
Your goal needs to be divided into smaller, actionable parts. A goal is reached when a sequence of actions are done in a certain order. This is the part where these actions are identified. What needs to be done and when? How will each action contribute to the ultimate goal? Ideally, these actions should be easily translated into habits. One action alone does not create much change. That same action repeated over and over, is what really makes a difference. This plan does not have to be very detailed. There are many uncertainties in the initial phase. You will need to start with some actions, get feedback, and adjust the plan accordingly.

Start small, and start again.
Change small, change consistently. Reaching a complex goal requires a new order of things. And things don’t change by themselves. Depending on your goal, you may need to persuade people, change habits, get out of your comfort zone, try new things, say no to other, experiment or learn new skills. It may even impact the status quo of a system or way of doing things that has been like that for a long time. People, naturally, refuse to change. Change is more likely to succeed if it is done little by little, one step at a time. The actions performed here, should create discomfort, but not too much. If it’s a fitness goal, you may get a bit sore. If it’s an organizational change in your company, some might complain about it. If you’re trying to quit smoking, smoke 2 instead of 3 cigarettes. The key is to make it small enough to be sustainable.

Measure.
If step 3 is done correctly, change will be almost unnoticeable. Changes are so small, that it feels like it’s not happening at all. This is why you need to measure your progress. After some time, the numbers will start to change. Reaching a goal is a journey. It does not happen overnight. Measuring will ensure that you are moving and in the right direction. Do not be discouraged by the results of one particular measurement. It is natural that sometimes you win and sometime you lose, sometimes you go forward and other times you go back. What is important here is to see the overall progress. The results observed from these measurements, should be used as feedback for the plan (step 2). As mentioned, the plan is subject to change and it should be flexible enough that it can be updated based on the progress.

Be consistent.
This is, in my opinion, the most important and most difficult steps of all. Anyone can start a change. Not many can sustain that change. From what I have seen in my life, most people fail at this. I have failed myself many times at many things I’ve tried due to lack of consistency. Once the excitement of the change is gone and the tasks start to become repetitive and boring, many people quit. Achieving a goal is not always exciting. Yes, we all want the rewards that come with achieving what we want, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Behind any great achievement, there is hard work, boring tasks, failed experiments, painful mistakes, sore muscles. People who achieve their goals are those who did not quit despite all this.

These five ideas are not linear. Success does not start at step 1 and end at step 5. Success is the result of the repetition of this cycle, for an indefinite amount of times. After many cycles, the results will be good enough to be considered a success and that is when the goal is reached.

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Jorge Contreras

I develop software professionally, and take aerial photography and race triathlons for fun.