What was the most surprising thing about Malcolm Gladwell’s research on achieving goals and succeeding in life? “What surprised me most were the ordinary methods successful people use to achieve all they achieve,” writes Malcolm Gladwell in Outliers: The Story of Success.
If your goals are big, they’re worth chasing. Here’s what one reader says: “I’d love to run a women’s retreat center somewhere beautiful and warm for women who were victims of violence, long-term survivors,” says Sydney on Examples of Smart Goals – From Specific to Timely (SMART). “It would be someplace comfortable, safe, peaceful, and spiritual, where they could go to get encouragement and support through fellowship with other survivors and begin work on a plan to reframe their life experience so they can move on to fulfill God’s purpose for their lives. There would be activities to soothe the body and soul, like yoga, art activities, and gardening as well. I want to help women achieve their goals in life.”
How do you start achieving goals in life? You ask for help from people who might say no. For example, an unknown, newly published author once asked Jack Canfield of Chicken Soup for the Soul fame to write an endorsement for her book. He said yes even though he normally doesn’t do endorsements. Sometimes we assume something is out of our reach, but we don’t really know until we ask for it.
But it wasn’t as easy as it sounds. The author had to ask twice before Canfield said yes. First, she sent a profession business letter. When his representatives said no, the author sent a heartfelt email. She told Canfield how meaningful an endorsement would be and how much his books helped and encouraged her. That’s why Canfield endorsed it and even put her book on the front page of his website – which she didn’t ask for.
10 Tips From Gladwell’s Outliers on Achieving Your Goals in Life
No matter what life goals you’re setting and hope to achieve, ask for help. Talk about what you need. You may not get what you ask for, but you have no chance of getting it – or achieving goals in life – if you never ask.
If you don’t have the right education, expertise or resources, your first goal is to find what you need to succeed. One of my favorite goal setting tips is to avoid working towards competing goals. If your goal is to earn more money so you can make your RV retirement dreams come true, for example, don’t also set a goal of getting pregnant and starting a family. Focus on achieving one or two life goals, and make sure they’re compatible.
1. Incorporate rewards
One of the best ways to achieve your goals in life is to keep persevering – and the way to persevere is to reward yourself along the way. For instance, every time you make a sincere effort to achieve your goal or you accomplish a small goal, reward yourself with a healthy, meaningful something.
Focus on moving forward. For an appropriate period of time, make this life goal the extraordinary focus in your life. It doesn’t have to stay #1 on your to-do list for the entire duration, but it has to put in an appearance in the top spot.
2. Refuse to beat yourself up on the slow days
Instead of berating yourself for your weaknesses and failures, a great tip for achieving your goals is to set yourself up to succeed. For me, this means making my “to do” list at the end of each work day…and forgiving myself for not achieving everything on my list today (it’s about overcoming perfectionism).
Write your goal in the present tense. When you say, “I will…” it tells the spirit that so far, we aren’t. Write your goal in life as if it is already in existence: “I am…” Your logical mind knows it’s fiction, but your spirit listens to the truth in the words and works to make it so.
3. Work with your strengths
I’m a big fan of “to do” lists and I love checking off each task as I accomplish it. That’s one of my strengths, and I work with it to achieve my goals. What are you good at? Use your inclinations, and be creative. For instance, if you’re good at talking to strangers, find ways to use that ability to get you a step closer to achieving your goal in life.
Make it a medium-large dream. Your goal should be big enough to make you wonder at your temerity, but not quite so huge that you question your sanity. If you shrug at the ease of the effort, double the goal. If you shrug at the impossibility of achieving your dreams, dial them back to the realm of what you can believe and achieve.
Is your goal to start a family? Read How Goal Setting Helps You Get Pregnant.
4. Identify the obstacles to your goals
What’s stopping you from achieving your life goals? Be honest. Is it lack of discipline, physical impediments, lack of money, a weak support network, or a feeling of hopelessness? The sooner you identify what’s holding you back from achieving your goals, the better able you’ll be to deal with those obstacles.
Savor the benefits of achieving your dreams in life. Know what you expect to get out of this goal, and list the benefits. It’s good to recognize the benefits other people may derive from you moving forward in life, but the primary motivation comes from within you.
5. Ask for help in achieving your goals in life
What do you need to achieve your goals and overcome your obstacles? Do you need money? Time? Motivation? Support? Be specific about what you need to achieve your career or personal goals, identify who specifically can help you, and be clear about what you’d like them to do.
Write a press release that announces your dreams come true. Create a press release as it would appear in your favorite national newspaper when you’ve achieved your goal in life. Tell your success story, how it fits into your life’s purpose, and how you overcame all obstacles by setting immediate, mid-range, and long-term goals. The lead paragraph emphasizes the benefit you (will have) derived. Read your press release at least once a week until it is reality.
6. Prepare to overcome obstacles
“Sometimes constraints actually create success,” writes Malcolm Gladwell in Outliers. “Not being able to swim made me run. And running taught me the discipline I needed as a writer.” Whatever your obstacles are, don’t fight or struggle against them. Work with your obstacles to achieve your goals.
Surround yourself with likeminded folk. Who is where you see yourself in one, five, ten, or even fifteen years? To achieve your goals, stay connected to people who achieved their goals in life. Their attitudes, values, habits, and thoughts will rub off on you. Also, stay away from people who hold you back or aren’t supportive.
Sometimes achieving career goals requires setting new goals. Read Making a Career Change at 40? 10 Things You Need to Know.
8. Put your time in
Bill Gates programmed computers at university for 10,000 hours before he started his own company. Gates is one of the most successful entrepreneurs in recent history (perhaps of all time) — but he spent 10,000 hours practicing before he took the leap. That’s 416 days of working around the clock. This tip for achieving your goals is from Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, and involves practicing your craft. “But they [successful people] also simply put in more hours than anyone else,” writes Gladwell.
Break your life goals into three stages. Stage one is one you know you can do in a few weeks – it is the starter and momentum builder. Stage two is a mid-point, a measurement to encourage you to strive to achieve your goals by a target date. Stage three is the final achievement, and includes the celebration! Throughout all three stages, stay open to “lucky” opportunities.
9. Help people achieve their goals in life
When you encourage or educate or help someone achieve their goals, you renew your own dedication, determination, and self-discipline. It feels great to help people move towards their dreams, and it’s good karma.
Tell at least three people who’d like to see you achieve your dreams. The first person agrees to “hold your feet to the fire,” reminding you of your intent to move forward in life. The second person is a cheerleader, who is proud of you. And the third person holds your intent at a spirit and soul level, and keeps your goal in their prayers or meditation.
10. Revisit and revise your life goals regularly
Last year, my goal was to earn a certain amount of money per month as a freelance writer. This year, it’s to land my first book writing contract — which means the amount of money I earn each month as a freelance writer may decrease. To achieve your goals in life, be open to revising as you go. Take your nose off the grindstone every so often…look around…and make sure you’re still on the right track.
“We’re socialized that we must always succeed, but we don’t always recognize that we’re limited by resources such as time, circumstance, and ability,” says Social Psychology Professor Dana S. Dunn in When to Give Up on Your Goals and Start Fresh. “Motivation isn’t the problem. Our own infrastructure can hold us back. We don’t always have the right education, technical expertise, or resources.”
“You can’t force a Wildly Improbable Goal to happen, but you can create conditions that will either prevent it or invite it,” says Martha Beck author of Finding Your Way in a Wild New World: Reclaim Your True Nature to Create the Life You Want. “Pay attention to your real needs, treat yourself not just fairly but kindly, and stand up for yourself even if it displeases people around you. Befriend, nurture, and protect your own Spirit.”