The first part of this 3-part series on turning your dreams into reality showed you how to properly set goals. If you don't have a goal or remember how to set one, I would recommend reviewing How to Turn Dreams Into Reality - Part 1 before moving on.
Now that you have your specific goal that is relevant to your passion, stated in the positive with a definite deadline and written in a place where it is visible every day, it's time to develop a plan of action.
Here are the steps for creating an effective plan to achieve your goals:
Step 1 - Mind the Gap
Pardon the pun but the first step for turning your dreams into reality is to understand your current situation and the gap between where you are and where you want to be. During this step you want to explore and brainstorm all the different possible paths that go from where you are now to your destination.
Example: If my goal is to be healthy by losing 20 lbs in 3 months, there are many ways I can go about it. I can choose any one of the countless weight-loss methods out there (Weight Watchers, Slim-Fast, etc.), hire a personal trainer and nutritionist or decide to create a custom regimen based on my research from the internet.
Step 2 - Choose the Best Path (for You)
In most cases, it is not possible nor is it efficient to try all the different ways to achieve your goal so you need to choose one method. Your choice will depend on your resources (time, money, environment, etc.) and the nature of your goal. My general advice is to choose the path that will give you the best "bang for the buck" (most benefit with the least effort).
Example: If money is an issue, hiring a personal trainer will be out of the questions and I will most likely create a custom diet and exercise program based on my research done on the internet and through books borrowed from the library.
Step 3 - Create Daily Milestones
Now that a path has been decided, it is necessary to break down your goal into smaller chunks. What will you do on a monthly, weekly and daily basis to achieve your goal? The key is to clearly define what you will do every day to get closer to your goal.
Another benefit to breaking down our goal into smaller pieces is that we can test the feasibility of our deadline. If after breaking down our goal into daily tasks, we find that it is too difficult to consistently do on a daily basis, it may be better to extend the deadline date. If the timeline is feasible, then we know by doing the defined daily action, we will achieve our goal. Of course, unexpected things will happen so it is important to factor in some "extra" time just in case.
One thing to keep in mind when breaking down your large goal into smaller ones is that the proper goal setting rules apply for both the large goal and the smaller goals.
Example: If I decide that I will create a custom diet and exercise routine for myself to lose 20 lbs in 3 months, I will break down those 3 months first into weekly tasks. Week 1 may be to research and create an exercise and nutrition plan. Week 2 may be to start plan and track results every 3 days. Then I will further break down my weekly tasks into daily tasks. I may plan that on Day 1 of Week 1, I will research effective exercise routines that I can do at home. Day 2 of Week 1 may be to learn more about diet and weight loss from the internet. I will continue to break down all the bigger weekly tasks into smaller daily ones which include the days I will rest.
Step 4 - Review and Finalize Plan
Once you've broken down your goal into daily milestones, review your plan to make sure you can sustain it by considering possible obstacles. Once you've factored in ways to handle unexpected difficulties, you are ready to finalize the plan. The plan does not have to be perfect at this time and it will most likely change as you execute the plan. The important thing is to remember to be flexible, one of the 30 Qualities that Make Ordinary People Extraordinary.
Example: I've finished breaking down my goal to lose 20 lbs into my daily tasks for the next three months and I review the plan to make sure that each daily task is achievable and that the plan is flexible enough to handle unexpected distractions such as working late (no time to exercise) or going to group celebrations (high risk of overeating).
Most people begin to execute their plan after finishing Step 4 and there is nothing wrong with that but there is one thing you can do that can dramatically increase your chances for success. If you want to make sure you achieve your goal, I highly recommend that you include step 5.
Step 5 - Design an Accountability System
When you have a well-formed goal and a thorough plan, all you need to do is follow through. Unfortunately, following through is one of the toughest parts of achieving your goal. Think of all the obese people in America who want to lose weight, have all the knowledge and resources to do so but yet still remain obese.
Most people find ways to keep themselves accountable only after they've failed to execute their plan. Why wait until you are in trouble? Why not build accountability into your plan?
So how do you do that?
Here are three ways to build accountability:
- Write down your daily tasks on a calendar and review the calendar daily to make sure you have finished your task.
- Find an accountability partner or support group that you can announce your goal to and ask for their help to keep you accountable on a daily basis.
- Put your money where your mouth is and create a Commitment Contract on StickK where you place a monetary wager on your own success. If you lose, the money goes to charity. You can even set it to go to a charity that you dislike to further motivate you.
So if you all read the first article in this series, you should all have your own properly set goal. Let's apply what you learned in this article to that goal.
1. Assess your current situation and explore the different ways you can achieve your specific goal.
2. Choose the method that best fits your resources and situation.
3. Break down your goal into daily tasks. Start with what you want to achieve each month leading up to your desired goal. Then break up those monthly milestones into weekly goals which you will then breakdown into daily tasks.
4. Review and make sure you have taken into account things that may go wrong when you execute your plan and to factor in a contingency plan for those situations. When everything meets your satisfaction, finalize the plan knowing that it will probably change in the future.
5. Make yourself accountable by creating a daily goal tracker for yourself and by enlisting the help of an individual or group that you will have frequent contact with to keep you accountable for your plan. If you want to take it one step further, create a commitment contract on stickk.com.
Let me know what you think about this series so far. I'm interested to hear about your plans and any other tips you have for creating an effective plan to reach your goals.
In the next and last article of this series, we will discuss strategies for successful and focused execution and what happens once you achieve your goal. If you follow all the steps in this series, achieving your dreams will not only be possible but inevitable.
Photo by Will Scullin
Robert Chen is the founder of Embrace Possibility and author of The Dreams to Reality Fieldbook. He helps people who feel stuck move forward by guiding them to see other possibilities for their lives. He specializes in working with high performers get to the next level. If you're going through a tough time right now, check out Robert's article on How to Feel Better Right Away and if you're having trouble getting what you want out of life, check out How to Always Achieve Your Goals.