Dr. Dawn-Elise Snipes PhD, LPC-MHSP, LMHC
Executive Director: AllCEUs.com
Podcast Host: Counselor Toolbox and Happiness Isn’t Brain Surgery

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10 Ways to Achieve to Achieve Your Goals
Dr. Dawn-Elise Snipes PhD, LPC-MHSP, LMHC
Executive Director: AllCEUs.com
Podcast Host: Counselor Toolbox and Happiness Isn’t Brain Surgery

Get Clarity: What EXACTLY are you doing?

Getting in shape is too vague. Improving my relationships is also too vague. What exactly are you going to do to achieve that goal, and how will you know when you have achieved it. Goals need to be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time Limited or SMART. If you want to improve your relationship, you have to identify what is wrong with it in the first place or what you are going to enhance, and how you plan to do that. Many times it will involve learning more about the issue through books, podcasts, self-reflection etc, then taking one or two steps to start on your journey. Don't do too much at one time or you will likely fail. Do one or two things well, then move on to the next. It is like going down stairs. One step at a time. If you try to do three at a time you will probably wipe out.

The other question to answer is, why is it important to you? What are your reasons for wanting to do this? How does this help you get closer to the things and people who are important in your life? This will help you not only get clarity, but increase your motivation.

Make a plan
When you make a change you are embarking on a journey. Just like taking a long trip, divide it into segments or “legs.” Each “leg” has its own set of things you need to do, but finishing each leg gets you that much closer to your goal. You also want to plan for problems. Like planning for a trip, you know where the rest stops are, make sure you have your cell phone charged and ensure you have a credit card incase your car breaks down. When you are planning to achieve a goal, you need to look for things that might become obstacles or make it hard for you to stay on task (for example, maybe you have family coming in for a week). If you plan in advance, you can figure out how you are going to handle those things.

Add time constraints
People tend to drag a task out for as much time as they have or procrastinate until they know they only have just enough time to get it done. Set time constraints for each step in achieving your goal so you will make steady progress. Time constraints will also stop you from spending too much time “relaxing” between steps.

Tip the decisional balance
Focus on 4 things: 1)What is beneficial/why you like things the way they are, 2)Why you want to make a change/how the change will benefit you, 3) What are the drawbacks or problems with the way things are right now, 4) What are the drawbacks or potential problems with the change. For example, if you want to start eating healthier… What do you like about the way you eat right now? This is important, because if you feel uncomfortable or deprived when you make the change, you will probably go back to the old way. So, if you like being able to eat pizza, then great! When you start eating healthier, make sure you allow yourself to have a slice of pizza every once in a while. If you like the convenience of being able to eat out, find resturants that serve healthier options. The second question: What are the benefits of eating healthier? Clothes will fit better, more energy, clearer complexion, reduced chance of cancers, get to try new foods…Post this list somewhere so you can remember the reasons you are making the change. The third question: What are the drawbacks to eating the way you do right now? Weight gain, bloating, doesn't set a good example for your kids, it's expensive to eat out so much… Your answers to these questions will help keep you motivated for change too. Finally, what are the drawbacks to eating healthier? The kids may rebel at first (find a way to gradually make the change so it isn't a system shock), you will have to learn a new way of cooking (Take a class, buddy with a friend to learn), it takes more planning (plan your meals a month at a time and prepare the bulk of things for each week like rice, pasta, stews, chili etc. one day on the weekend so everything is ready to go.)

There are only so many hours in the day. Tasks to accomplish your goal need to be a priority. This may mean not doing other things. Make a list of all of the things you have to do and plan when you can do each of the really important things. The rest of the things may need to just slide for a bit, or you can delegate them to others. Combine activities whenever possible such as do all your shopping in one day. Often grocery stores, home improvement stores, Walmart/Target and pet stores are all right next to each other. Instead of making 4 trips, do it all at once to save time and gas. You can also have many nonperishables delivered straight to your home–no more emergency trips for toilet paper at 8pm.

Laser Focus
It is easy to get side tracked. Set aside a time to do what you need to and discipline yourself to only focus on that. During that time, don't answer the phone, check emails, surf the internet etc. If you need to, put a do not disturb sign on the door. This is true whether you are talking about a task at work, improving communication with your spouse by spending 30 minutes of quality time together each day, or even relaxing. Yes, you need to relax so you can “recharge” yourself.

Get over fear of success and failure
Many people are afraid of failure, so really explore what failure means to you. Look up quotes about failure. Nearly all successful people got that way because they were willing to take a risk, get outside their comfort zone and experience failure. Failure teaches you how to improve.

Likewise, some people fear success. If they succeed, then the pressure is on to maintain. If you get a promotion, people are looking at you to be a good supervisor. If you succeed in getting drafted to the NFL, people are looking at you to step up your game so you can play with the big boys. Many times people are afraid that if they succeed they won't live up to other people's expectations. It is vital to be aware of what succeeding means to you, and what YOUR expectations are. In the same way, think about your best friend or your child. If they succeeded at something, but then made a mistake or couldn't continue to do it for some reason, would you think of them as a failure, or encourage them to learn from their experience and come out of it stronger and wiser?

Get support and encouragement
The going will get tough. Some days will suck. That is when it is important to have a cheering squad who can remind you of how far you have come and how capable you are of continuing.

Visualize success
Each morning when you wake up, before you begin the task and each night when you lay down, spend a minute or two visualizing what it will be like when you achieve your goal. This helps keep you on task and increase your motivation.

Embrace the unknown
There are always unexpected consequences or events. Sometimes they can be really awesome. Sometimes not so much. The key is to view this journey as an adventure. If you have ever watched Dual Survival you know what I am talking about. They are in the middle of the wilderness trying to get out. Sometimes they come across a flare gun or campsite. Other times they may get a hole in their makeshift canoe and have to figure out how to adjust. Each time you experience an unknown it makes you stronger and wiser if you use it as a learning experience instead of viewing yourself as defeated and helpless.

Setting and achieving goals sounds easy, but it gets more complicated when you have to balance it with all the other stuff in your life. These 10 tips can help you get and stay focused and motivated.

Learn more about motivation and goal setting