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Big, hairy goals: We all have them. From running a marathon to starting a business to write a book, everyone has that one bucket-list goal that’s been eating away at them. It may be something you dreamed of as a child, or an accomplishment that may seem impossible. A big, hairy goal is one that will take you outside of your comfort zone, challenge you like nothing else and, ultimately, change who you are as a person.
Whether you’re setting out on this journey to achieve an out-of-reach goal in an effort to stay motivated, learn about yourself and your potential or just for bragging rights, the best way to increase the odds of reaching your big, hairy A goal, is by putting these four tips into place.
1. You need to have a clear vision and strategy
You wouldn’t go on a road trip without having a destination in mind. Your goal is no different. To figure out your vision, you will need to ask yourself a few questions: What does your end result look like? Why is this goal important to you? What needs to happen to make it a reality?
Once you’ve had a chance to think through those questions and look at the big picture, it’s time to outline your strategy. Having a strategy in place will help guide you and your efforts. One of the key components of a large goal is your “why.” To get at the root of your motivation, ask yourself “why” five times:
- Why do you want to write a book? I want to become a published author.
- Why? Because it seems like a challenge.
- Why? I love to write and want to see if I can write an entire book.
- Why? When I was younger, I was told that I wasn’t a good writer so writing a book would prove that theory wrong.
- Why? Writing a book would show that I’m a smart, capable writer.
Staying focused on your “why” is about mindset and training your brain to think long-term. Your “why” should be a measurable objective and guided by experiences which drive your progress. This is how positive, sustainable change is achieved — continued dedication toward a definitive goal. Returning to your “why” will become your guiding principle and help to make sure you are staying the course.
Related: Why Having ‘Big Hairy Audacious Goals’ is Key to Inspiring People and Nurturing a Growth Mentality
2. You need to be SMART
Make sure your big, hairy goal is SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. Outline each step you need to take to reach your vision. It may take one month, one quarter or one year. It’s hard to reach a destination without a map.
Let’s take our writing-a-book example and apply the SMART lens to it. Writing a book is a solid goal, but maybe you can be more specific and outline exactly what type of book you want to write. Is it a biography, an instructional book, or perhaps a compilation of poems or short stories? Get specific and detail exactly what your book will offer.
Measurable means knowing when we’ve reached the finish line. How long do you want your book to be? If you know your target is 100,000 words or 10 chapters with 50 pages each, that is a great way to measure your goal. Knowing those numbers will help enable you to make the bigger goal more manageable with monthly, weekly and daily goals.
Attainable is whether or not the goal is actually achievable. Writing a book is definitely something that can be done. How about writing a New York Times best-seller? Still attainable, but perhaps a little more challenging. How difficult you make the goal is totally up to you? Does a challenge fuel your fire or give you a sense of overwhelm or impostor syndrome?
Related: What Are SMART Goals and How Can You Set and Achieve Them?
Realistic is in line with attainable. Flying yourself to the moon is not very realistic (unless you’re a multi-billionaire), but writing a book is very much in the realm of the possible. Writing a book in one day is not realistic, but writing a book in a month or year is doable.
Timely helps you to create a deadline. While you won’t need years to write your book (unless you’re writing a historically accurate 1,000-page novel), having a timeframe will help keep you in check.
Now you can put all of the pieces to outline your SMART goal: I will write a 90,000-word book in six months. Notice it doesn’t include publishing, marketing and all of the additional details that go along with writing a book.
3. You need to be consistent
Aim for progress (not perfection) each and every day. Keep that vision in your mind. Work towards it a little bit every day. It’s important to take a bite-sized approach. I always use the metaphor of eating an elephant. You wouldn’t try to shove that whole beast into your mouth. You’d eat it one bite at a time (although hopefully elephants are not part of your diet).
When looking at your big, hairy goal, break it down into bite-sized pieces. If your goal is to write a book, start by writing 500 words each day. If you do that every day for one year, you’ll have written at least 182,000 words. For reference, the average book is 90,000 words — so you could essentially write two books in one year. As you can see, small steps build up to big changes.
Related: Smart Tips for Setting and Actually Achieving Your Business Goals
4. You need accountability
This one has taken me awhile to realize. Over the last few years (and currently), I’ve had a figure coach help me prep for competitions. I want to win. Having someone to hold me accountable to this goal has made a world of difference. I’ve come to realize in order to be successful with any goal. I’ve set out for myself, I need a coach. I’ve hired business coaches, mindset coaches and marketing coaches, and I’ve made huge strides in making progress towards my goals.
I cannot stress the importance of being accountable when you embark on any lifestyle overhaul. Find a workout buddy, check in regularly with a fitness coach or join an online support community — whatever works best for you. Just be sure you are sharing your plans, progress and challenges with someone else who can help guide and motivate you to keep going towards your goal, particularly when your willpower wanes.
An American Society of Training & Development (ASTD) study on accountability discovered a 65% success rate for those who commit to someone else that they will complete a particular goal. That rate soars to 95% for those who set a specific accountability appointment with someone else to check-in on their goal progress. Do not go it alone — get yourself a solid support system.
A great first-step when it comes to accountability is making a public declaration of your big, hairy goal. So, let’s get committed now. What is your big, hairy goal, the timeframe to reach it and why is it important to you?