3 things to do after writing down goals

You’ve written down your goals. And if you do say so yourself, you’ve got some pretty bad-ass goals. Your goals make you feel exhilarated and energized. Perhaps, too, you are a little intimidated.

The good news is that you can use the HOW of past success to move you towards future success. Even if your past goals are very different from where you want to do next, they provide important clues as to how best to tackle the next phase. Plus, it can be inspiring to remind yourself that you HAVE and you CAN accomplish your goals.

First, write down past successes

Take a moment to revel in previous triumphs. Relive the glory days. Write down all your previous accomplishments, even the tiny ones you think don’t matter. Think about milestones completed, bad habits broken, and times when you truly shone. My personal example is quitting smoking. I used to smoke a packet of Peter Stuyvesants a day, wasting brain power and dollars trying to get my next fix. I am proud to say that in 2005, I stopped smoking for good. I didn’t think I ever could do it. I’ve been quit twelve years!

Next, analyze HOW you made past goals successful

Deconstruct these past achievements. What did you actually DO to make these things happen? What did you have to NOT DO to make things happen? Be as specific as possible. What did you tell yourself in order to meet the goal? How did you manage setbacks? What environment(s) helped you be successful? Who inspired and supported you? Also, if you are feeling brave, write down all the things that DIDN’T work.

For example, when I quit smoking, I found the following strategies helpful: reading books about addictive thinking (Alan Carr’s Easy Way to Quit Smoking is highly recommended), staying away from “triggering” scenarios, and tracking daily progress. What didn’t work: feeling guilty and ashamed, nicotine gum, acupuncture, and reading about ill-effects of smoking cigarettes. And watching those anti-smoking ads only made me want to smoke more (go figure!)

Now, break it down for future goals

You know have a picture of what has worked for you in the past, so chances are, similar tactics will work in the future. This is the premise of “Solutions-Focused Counseling,” a technique whereby you identify “the differences that make a difference.” You recognize what you have been doing right, rather than dwelling on problems and obstacles.

With that in mind, write a list of strategies that will provide the best chance of future success. Some ideas:

• Proximity: What environment(s) will help you thrive? What needs to change in your daily life?
• Tools and props: What types of gadgets, if any, will help you meet your goal? What apps/newsletters will keep you on track?
• Support: who will you ask to champion your progress? What will you require of your groups/social circles? How can family and friends best demonstrate their support?
• Inspiration and motivation: What resources will keep you motivated during setbacks?
What types of books, podcasts, CDs, etc. seem to get you going when things get tough?

Let’s apply these ideas to an example from my future goal list: “Lose X amount of weight by September 1.” From past experience, I know that shaming myself about the extra pounds is a one-way ticket to Pink Iced Donut Land. Based on how I kicked the smoking habit, I know that I could buy some inspiring books about weight-loss psychology. I could also install a weight-loss app on my phone, as visualizing and tracking my progress was important to staying quit when I was tempted to cheat. And you better believe I am not going anywhere near a Dunkin’ Donuts, especially on days when I am tired and cranky.

What happens next?

By now, you should have a list of future goals (yay!), a list of past goals (yay, again!), a list of past goal strategies that did and didn’t work, and a list of potential goal strategies for future success. You will also have a greater sense of what makes you tick, and what tactics will make you more likely to be successful. So, go start doing these things today!