How to make sure your goals don’t suck.

“People are always asking me about the secrets and tricks I use to get results. Sorry if this disappoint you: there are no secrets. There are no tricks. It’s simple: ask yourself where you are now, and where you want to be instead.” -Tim Grover, Michael Jordan’s former trainer

Changing any part of ourselves is hard. It hurts, at least a little bit. Kind of like when you work out — you are literally destroying your muscles, tearing them apart and breaking them down. However, your body start repairing itself after you’re done, becoming bigger and stronger. Different.

“We are kept from our goal not by obstacles but by a clear path to a lesser good.” -Sir Robert Brault

Some of you might still be going strong with any resolutions you made for the new year. If so, you’re quickly falling into the minority. One of the reasons why less than 10% of people actually achieve those types of goals isn’t necessarily because there were a lot of obstacles standing in their way.

There was probably a clear and defined path to achieving lesser goals, and there wasn’t any such path to achieving the real goals.

Here are some great goals with no clear, defined path.

  • I’m going to learn Korean.
  • I’m going to get 6pack abs.
  • I’m going to run the Spartan Race.
  • I’m going to read more books.
  • I’m going to eat healthier.
  • I’m going to become a better basketball player.
  • I’m going to be more productive with my time.

All well-intentioned goals, I’m sure. But for each one of those goals, there are clear, defined paths to a lesser version of that goal, and no clear definition of success. If given the option of a challenging, inspiring goal with no clear path or easier, softer goals with a clear, defined path we will naturally begin shifting into the latter.

The solution? Make extremely, overly, over-the-top specific paths for your big goals.

For instance, I have a goal to learn Korean, because my wife and I are moving to South Korea for a year to teach English. Here is my goal, in all its specificity.

Goal: by 2/14/17, I will have a conversation in entirely Korean w/ a native Korean speaker that includes:

  1. Get directions to a location in the city and in the country
  2. Order breakfast, lunch, dinner, and drinks
  3. Exchange pleasantries about personal life (where I’m from, my interests/hobbies, etc.)

How I will get there:

>practice speaking Korean with a virtual tutor for 2 hours a day, 5 days a week, for 4 weeks

>practice speaking Korean with a virtual tutor for 1 hour a day, 5 days a week, for 4 weeks

>memorize top 100 relevant phrases and vocab words I will need to complete step 1 (will take 2 weeks)

>write top 100 phrases and vocab on flashcards with matching pictures (will take 1 day)

>research top 100 phrases related to goal (will take 5 days)

>look up English-to-Korean online translation tool (will take 30 min)

>buy flashcards

You’ll notice the entire goal is “reverse-engineered,” starting with the end and working back to the beginning. Reverse-engineering your goals is an excellent way to create a clear, defined path of success.

There is very little ambiguity. The first step? Buy flashcards. What’s next? Schedule 30 minutes to look up an online tool. It’s clear, and I build motivation through momentum.

This way, I won’t get lost in the complex details, which any superior goal will have. There is a clear, defined path to my success.

Call to action:

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Writer for CNBC, Business Insider, Fast Company, Thought Catalog, Yahoo! Finance, and you. Come say hey.

Writer for CNBC, Business Insider, Fast Company, Thought Catalog, Yahoo! Finance, and you. Come say hey.