This Time It’s Different: 3 Keys To Reaching An Elusive Goal

Succeeding at Goal Setting

Note: This post originally appeared as a Featured Article in the Get Organized newsletter.

We all have goals that seem out of reach.

Things we’ve wanted for a long time. Plans that never seem to come to fruition. Desires that we can’t fulfill, no matter how hard we try.

Some of the things people chase, sometimes for years or even decades, include:

  • Following a career dream
  • Writing a novel
  • Getting free of clutter
  • Losing weight
  • Finding or improving a relationship.

If the desire is there, what stops us from getting something we want so much?

And what can we do to turn things around, so we can fulfil our dreams?

Here are three things that can flick the switch and help you to finally get what you’ve wanted for so long.

1. Know Why You Really Want It
(It Mightn’t Be The Reason You Think)

Take a good look at your reason for wanting the thing you want – your reason may be sabotaging you.

For example, let’s say you’ve always wanted to write a novel.

‘I want to be famous’, you say. ‘Like JK Rowling’.

So every time you think about writing your novel you feel pressured to write something popular and adventure-filled.

But what if popular and adventure-filled isn’t you? What if your real reason for wanting to write is to express a unique, interesting and funny voice that you feel inside? Then that voice will get strangled every time you try to write.

It’s worth taking a moment to write down the reasons you want your heart’s desire.

If a reason brings up resistance, then it may not be genuine. Perhaps it’s a reason you think you should have, or perhaps it’s someone else’s goal for you.

But if the reason stirs excitement, then congratulations – you’ve unlocked your true motivation.

Now you can use this real reason to drive yourself forward.

2. Have A Powerful Process

Unlocking genuine motivation is crucial – it’s difficult, if not impossible, to achieve a challenging goal without it.

But it’s not enough. All the motivation in the world won’t get you there if you have a sucky plan.

Let’s say you’ve always wanted to be an archaeologist/tree surgeon/stand-up comedian. Then you need more than a constant craving to realize your ambition.

You need a well-thought-out program of steps to complete, tasks to tick off, and knowledge to gain. That’s how you’ll bridge the gap from where you are now to where you want to be.

Depending on your heart’s desire, putting together a powerful program could be as simple as thinking through all the steps and writing yourself a plan.

You could take it up a notch by brainstorming with a friend, or reading books on your ideal career to boltser your strategy, or buying a book or program that provides a ready-made plan for you.

If you’ve had the same goal forever, then check how you score on this step. A clear map could be the missing element in your journey to success.

3. Change The Path of Least Resistance

One of the strongest, most intractable obstacles to achieving anything you want is habit.

You can have a pure, strong motivation as well as a fierce strategy for achieving your wishes. But if you’re stuck in habits that keep dragging you back to old ways, then it can feel like you’re doomed to frustration and failure.

For instance, let’s say you desperately want to lose weight, you know why, and you have a sound plan. But you keep giving in to late-night snacking. It’s such an established habit that you can’t imagine ever overcoming it.

So there’s one more strategy to add to our arsenal of true motivation and a powerful plan: it’s to change the path of least resistance.

You can think of the path of least resistance as a well-worn track through dense undergrowth – it takes tremendous energy and effort to go any other way. And most of us are too tired, busy and distracted to spare energy and effort for fighting foliage.

This is the toughest step in achieving a challenging goal. It takes insight, self-analysis, experimentation and persistence.

A good place to start is to look at your patterns – what underlies the habits that sabotage you? Are you snacking at night because you haven’t eaten enough through the day? Because you haven’t eaten the right kind of food? Because you’re looking for a reward after a tough day?

Once you see the reason for a habit that undermines you, you can trade willpower for smarter strategies. And unlike willpower, smart strategies can change the path of least resistance – they can forge a new track that doesn’t require bashing your way through bracken.

Perhaps you can eat a more satisfying dinner. Or more protein. Or have another reward (a scented bath? an hour of novel-reading?) prepared for tough days.

The idea is to identify what behaviours you naturally fall into, and then to look at ways to substitute other behaviors that still meet your underlying drives.

When you change the path of least resistance, you don’t have to fight yourself so hard. Instead, you align your desires and behaviour.

So now we know. This time, things will be different. Let’s get started.


If you’ve struggled to achieve your goal in the past, here’s how to make this time different:

  1. Know Why You Really Want It
  2. Have A Powerful Process
  3. Change The Path of Least Resistance.
[Image by jepoirrier]

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