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Setting goals is essentially a waste of time. How many times have you set a goal, got excited, showed remarkable willpower for the first few weeks, and then promptly fell off the wagon? That is the most common experience people have in setting goals. In some ways, not hitting the goal isn’t the bad part. The bad part is we start to take on the identity of “someone who never hits their goals.” We stop aiming for better things. We get sucked into a comfort zone.

The problem isn’t you. It’s with the way you are going about setting your goals. If you remember these three principles, you will consistently hit your goals.

Turn our goals into plans.

Goals only serve to set the direction that you would like to go. Once you have your goal, now think about your plan. How will you achieve it? What are the steps you will need to take? By when?

Think about it this way. You set a goal, then make a plan. Then, forget the goal and work the plan. Goals by themselves aren’t helpful.

90-day goals work. 365-day goals are next to impossible.

The “New Year’s Resolution” model of goal setting is a recipe for failure. December 31st seems like an eternity. We rationalize our lack of commitment. Procrastination has become our enemy. Yet, we have this feeling that we have forever.

When you set 90-day goals, there is no time to waste. Every day is important. A looming deadline is just around the corner. When I set 90-day goals, I can use willpower to my advantage. I can do anything for 90-days. One year from now? I’ll start on Monday. Ask any bride how much fast food they consumed in the months leading up to their wedding. When we have a fast-approaching deadline, we are more likely to focus and commit to achieving our goals.

Set 90-day goals throughout the year. Ditch annual goals.

Don’t boil the ocean – prioritize.

Another advantage of thinking about goal setting in 90-day chunks is that you are less likely to disperse your energy and focus. A looming deadline makes it easier to prioritize the most important things. It may feel better to be working towards many different things, but the mission is to achieve our goals. We’ll do that more effectively if we focus on three things at a time.

Go beyond the intellectual and find the emotional connection.

Too often, goals are an intellectual exercise. To consistently hit your goals, you must tie emotion to them.

Ask yourself these two questions.

  1. What good things will happen to me if I hit this goal?
  2. What are the terrible things that will happen if I fail to hit the goal?

You must answer these two questions thoroughly. List at least a dozen outcomes for each question. Look at your answers. The first question will speak to your pleasure motivation. Now examine your answers to the second question. This question causes you to connect with your pain motivation. Now sit with those emotions. Be as specific as you can. Describe the negative—what won’t happen—in detail.

Nobel Prize-winning economist Daniel Kahneman found that the pain of losing is twice as powerful as the pleasure of winning. Making goal-setting an emotional exercise instead of an intellectual one will bring new energy to your ambition.

Keep your goals in front of you.

Have you ever sat down, created your goals, maybe even scripted out a plan, only to tuck it away and not look at it for days, weeks, months? Most people have. It’s not that we don’t want to hit our goals—we just get distracted by other things. We forget about them. Out of sight and out of mind.

Keep your goals in front of you. Look at them multiple times every day. You can write them on an index card and carry them in your pocket or purse—somewhere you will encounter them throughout the day. You can cut pictures from magazines representing your goals and post them on your mirror or desk. It doesn’t matter how you do it—just that you do it. You must keep your goals visible.

By adopting these five concepts, you will give yourself the best chance to hit your goal. You can become the kind of person who sets goals, makes plans, and methodically executes toward achievement, 90-days at a time.

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