The Secret to Goal Smashing (So To Achieve any New Year Resolution)

Seth Godin once said, “I’m very passionate about exploring why you are so afraid about creating art that is actually within your grasp.”

Which begs the relevant question: how is it that we’re able to achieve goals at work but in our personal lives, we consistently fall short of achievement?

What’s going on here?

I’m particularly curious about this because I’ve rarely had this problem: goal setting and smashing has been a super power of mine. On a weekly basis, I set 30 goals per week with a success rate of 90% without fail, for the past 3 years.

I don’t share this to gloat, but to dissect and answer the question: what am I doing differently?

Most after college have a tough time holding themselves accountable and achieving everything they want, often because of distraction, laziness, or {insert 1 of 10 different excuses here}.

However, for each person, there are rays of hope here & there.

Someone starts a new fitness routine, starts building a “home down payment fund”, or starts writing 2 blog articles, all in anticipation of turning a new leaf and becoming the “ideal” self they day dream about.

But often it ends just there. At “starts.”

So let’s dissect this and get to the bottom of how to overcome this.

Essentially there are 3 levels of achievement, each celebrated with their own “why”:

  • Start
  • Sustain (“Start” lead to this)
  • Finish (“Start” and “Sustain” lead to this)

In process, there develops an inverse relationship with a) effort & difficulty, and b) probability/quantity of people who reach it. 

To give a visual, begin by imagining an exponential decay graph, with time on the X axis (i.e. Start, Sustain, Finish) and # of people who achieve it on the Y axis.

Now imagine laid over this, an exponential growth graph, with yet again time on the X axis, but this time effort or difficulty on the Y axis.

Makes sense right? In turn, “Start” achievements have the lowest level of difficulty and effort, so many people reach it. Yet “Finish” achievements, have an incredibly high difficulty and effort needed, so very few people reach it (think of someone successfully starting a publicly traded company or becoming a Hollywood actor).

Simple, yet power. Let’s dive a little further into each level.

Start

In American culture we celebrate starts like no other, perhaps because it shows a greater consciousness and desire to improve ourselves. 

For example, “I just started learning a new language and am taking an 8-week class online!” We celebrate these moments, and rightfully so.

Sustain

We celebrate someone sustaining a project, but only when someone shares that information (ex. “I’ve been learning a language for 9 months, practicing 5 days a week), or when the journey is clearly and publicly documented (via a blog, video, or photos). 

Finish

And the last is the greatest feat of all: finish, often coupled with some material outcome and ideally, a positive result.

Rarely is this exactly how you imagined it. Think of not only learning a language, but gaining a fanbase in the process (Tady Gavin is a great example, learned Czech over 36 months and earning 180K YouTube subscribers during his documentation).

As you can imagine, this is almost always an incredibly, hard feat that involved much pain, failure, doubt, and incremental gains.

Great, so I know what you’re thinking now: so what? How does this help me? What are some tactics so to not be the victim of your own demise? 

I’m glad you asked.

Here are 3 that consistently work for me.

#1: Incremental Consistency 

Compounding contribution has the ability to create slow but compounding, exponential returns. Similar to monthly contributions to a 401K, committing to say, studying 10 minutes a night every other night, starts to build the exact momentum and growth you need to reach “Sustain” and ultimately “Finish.”

Paired with a short term goal, this works wonders. For example,  read 7 pages every other day and you can finish the average book in 10 weeks. Or, write 2 pages every week and you’ll have 100 manuscript pages written by year end.

#2: Create Real Stakes 

If you’re an “Obliger” or “Rebel” on the 4 Tendencies scale, then without a doubt you need to create stakes to hold yourself accountable.

Otherwise, it will never happen.

My favorite: Venmo your closest friend or spouse $100 immediately and in the description write “If I don’t complete (insert goal) by (date x), you get to keep this $100.” 

I’m serious. Do this now, if you have a goal you’ve been working towards.

I’m waiting.

Take the bullet, for Pete’s sake!

#3: Leverage the “Law of Large Numbers

When someone says “don’t give up” or “it’s too early, give it some time” there’s actual statistical science behind this.

The law of probability tells us about specific events occurring.

Within this, the law of large numbers tells us that the more trials (trial being defined as whatever is relevant to your goal: foreign words learned, job applications submitted, customers acquired) you have in an experiment (i.e. goal) , the closer you get to an accurate probability.

As in, the closer you get to the result you’ve been jones’ing for.

So literally don’t stop until you reach enough “trials.” Only then, after experiencing minor success, decide if you want to give up.

Also, use this “checkpoint” as a motivating factor: “I’m only 6 lessons…10 job applications…15 gym hours away from seeing results. I can do this.”

Don’t let your achievement stop at “I STARTED a new diet” or “I STARTED looking for a new job” but instead work through to “I FINISHED the diet, and lost 10 pounds” or “I FINISHED 200 applications and got a new job that pays 50% more.”

Leverage 1 of the above to manifest your ideal self. You’ll thank yourself later.

~JK

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