9 proven keys to achive your goals fast

The 9 proven keys to achieve your goals faster

I had failed again. My first year in college. It was the third time I had failed a year in my whole education.

I had to get back up again, gather my confidence and work hard once more to succeed. There was no backing down possible.

I refocused and went ahead. I put all my energy towards a single goal. The rest is history…

What about you? Are you an achiever? And what method do you use to achieve your goals?

Like many others, I’ve achieved many goals in my life. Lots of small ones, like cooking the dinner. And a few big ones, like getting a degree.

We achieve most of our goals without noticing it. But big goals demand a focused effort.

Recently, I’ve developed a bit of an obsession about achieving goals. I spent countless hours gathering scientific research, reading books and experimenting. This is part of my quest to design a lifestyle that I control.

Here’s the result of my research.

Self-made gurus will give you a lot of advice based on empirical data, i.e. their own experience. Sometimes this is good enough. But I wanted to go deeper.

So I made sure to systematically dig out scientific data before coming up with specific advice. I’m an engineer after all. The best part? A method based on scientific data will give you proven results, every time.

Want to learn the 9 proven keys you need to achieve you goals? Keep reading…

Now: this is a long article. If you’re not that interested in the scientific research, skip each section and only read the highlights under Practical Steps.

The PARC wheel

The backbone of the method is what I call the PARC Wheel. It has three major sections:

A. Plan
B. Act
C. Revise & Celebrate

PARC Wheel
The PARC Wheel

Since it’s a wheel, in effect, you go back to A after C.

To optimize the method for fast results, we need to review each section in detail. By leveraging research in psychology and neuroscience and best principles in project management, we can maximize its effectiveness.

The 9 key components of the system are:

A. Plan

1. Map Your Way To Your Goals

B. Act

2. Keep Your Eyes On The Ball
3. Stay Fully Charged
4. Master Mind
5. Pile Up Your Results
6. Your Secret Weapon
7. Become A Giant

C. Revise & Celebrate

8. Stay On Track
9. Party Time

Here are the 9 components and the scientific background to back them up.

A. Plan

1. Map Your Way To Your Goalsmap

Let’s say you are meeting someone in a town you don’t know. You don’t have a phone or GPS with you. How are you going to get there?

  1. Do you wander around, hoping you’ll reach you destination by chance?
  2. Or maybe you ask for directions?
  3. Or do you print a map beforehand?

You should ask yourself the same questions for goals. Which of the options above will get you quicker to your destination?

If you want to reach your goals fast, you’ll need a plan.

Here’s why:

A plan details the exact actions you need to take to achieve your goals. By being specific, it also excludes activities that are not congruent with your goals. It de-clutters your life and tells you where you should focus.

Research has shown that writing down a plan increases your chances to achieve your goals by 42%. And this percentage increases to 78% when you send your goals, action commitments and weekly progress reports to a supportive friend.

Also, committing to a specific plan frees up cognitive resources in your brain for other pursuits. Once you’ve made a plan for a goal, you can devote your thinking power to other goals.

On top of a plan, a mentor, who knows the way, can give you directions to get to your goals even faster.

Practical Steps

To write a plan, follow the three step process that Patrick Montana and Bruce Charnov outlined:

  1. Choose a destination (goal)
  2. Test alternative routes
  3. Decide the specific course of your plan

Planning becomes easier if you can predict the outcome of each activity and have a good knowledge of how to make things happen.

Make sure you have a plan before you move to action, so you know where to focus.

B. Act

2. Keep Your Eyes On The BallEyes on the ball

You have your plan? Good. It’s now time to act.

When you start executing on your plan, you need to watch out: it’s easy to get scattered. Keep your eyes on the ball. Stay focused.

You might be asking yourself: How do I stay focused? Let’s dig into neuroscience and psychology to find the answer.

Don’t get distracted

A study on 300 students showed that students were able to focus for 3 minutes on average, before technology would distract them. The usual distractions were smartphones and laptops.

Want to know the best part?

The study showed that the students with the best focus had better results in their studies. Anyone who checked Facebook even once during the 15 minutes study period ended up in the worse student category.

Multitasking?

Another study has shown that, in the brain, multitasking is in fact fast switching between different tasks. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), run during the study, showed that the prefrontal cortex (PFC) is switching between tasks when multitasking.

The right and left sides of the PFC work together when focused on a single task. But when people attempt to perform two tasks at once, the sides work independently. The study suggests that, when there are two concurrent goals, the brain divides in half.

When asked to do a third task, participants often forgot one of the three tasks. They also made three times as many errors as they had made when attempting only two tasks. The study shows that we might be in great trouble when we try to juggle more than two tasks, since we have only two frontal lobes.

The ease of switching between tasks depends on how engaged the PFC is. Eating and walking aren’t taxing on the PFC, while reading and driving are. It’s easier to check a message on your phone while eating than while driving.

Clifford Nass ran another study on multitasking. He asked 262 students how often they multitask.

Then, they went through three different tests:

  1. Notice blue squares flashing on a screen while ignoring red ones
  2. Remembering when a letter made a repeat appearance on a screen
  3. Alternating between noticing letters or numbers on the same screen

On all tests, multitaskers performed worse.

Multitasking or fast-switching between tasks is the opposite of focus and falling into this habit actually destroys focus.

It’s clear then. If you want to stay focused, stop multitasking and avoid distractions.

But how can you stay focused and avoid distractions?

Here’s how you can improve your focus

One way to train your focus is meditation.

A meditation practice is to focus on your breath. While doing so, thoughts will get into your head. The practice is to acknowledge them, then refocus on your breath.

Through repeated meditation practice, you train yourself to acknowledge and then dismiss or postpone thoughts, so you can stay focused on your breath.

When you’re working on something and the idea to check Facebook pops in your head, you have to postpone this thought and refocus on the task at hand.

That means the focus you gain through meditation will benefit you in other situations. And studies back this up.

A review of 23 different studies found that people who meditate are better at shutting out distractions and focusing for long periods of time.

In short: to improve your focus, practice meditation.

Pareto

Another way to be more focused is to use the Pareto principle.

The Pareto principle states that, for many events, roughly 80% of effects come from 20% of the causes.

But here’s the kicker:

You can use the Pareto principle to de-clutter your life. When you start executing on your plan, you’ll have several activities planned to get you closer to your goals. At the beginning, they might all seem to have the same importance.

But over time, you’ll notice that about 20% of your activities bring you 80% of your results. At this point, you can start eliminating 80% of your activities, the ones that bring you only 20% of your results. It takes some practice, but it will help you cut distracting activities so you can focus on what’s important to you.

In their book The One Thing, Gary Keller and Jay Papasan take the Pareto principle a step further, or more exactly a few steps further.

The idea is to apply the Pareto principle incrementally. Your first filter out 80% of your activities according to Pareto. Then, you take your remaining 20% and filter out 80% again. You do it several times, until you end up with just one activity.

So, the essence of the book is: focus your life on one thing you can do, such by doing it, everything else becomes easier or unnecessary.

This is what I call focus.

Peak performance

We can’t close the discussion on focus without talking about Flow. A state of Flow is a complete absorption in what one does. It occurs when you’re working on a high level challenge for which you are skilled.

At the neurophysiological level, flow emerges from a radical alteration in normal brain function. The slower extrinsic system (conscious processing) is swapped out for the far faster subconscious, intrinsic system.

Johns Hopkins examined the brains of improv jazz musicians (through an fMRI) and found that the dorsolateral PFC, an area best known for self-monitoring, was deactivated when they were in flow. Self-monitoring is the voice of doubt, our inner critic and it slows us down. Turning it off liberates you.

Flow is a real neurophysiological state, a state of high performance. Seek a state of flow, it will give you optimal focus.

Practical Steps

Here are the practical steps that will give you focus:

  1. Avoid multitasking and distractions. Turn your phone and notifications off when you need to focus
  2. Train your focus through meditation
  3. Use the Pareto principle to your advantage
  4. Get in Flow

3. Stay Fully ChargedFully Charged

To achieve your goals and overcome obstacles that get in your way, you need motivation. We all want endless motivation. But how do you achieve that?

Bear with me, I’ll get into that in a minute.

First, we need to take a step back and look at the psychological fundamentals of motivation.

Fulfill your needs

In 1954, Abraham Maslow described a list of needs and desires that people try to fulfill and that motivate them. Here is the list from his revised pyramid:

  • Transcendence: help others realize their potential
  • Self-actualization: realize our own potential, self-fulfillment, peak experiences
  • Aesthetic: symmetry, order, beauty, balance
  • Learning: know, understand, mentally connect
  • Esteem: achieve, be competent, gain approval, independence, status
  • Belonging: love, family, friends, affection
  • Security: protection, safety, stability
  • Physical: hunger, thirst, bodily comfort

Fulfilling those needs is what motivates us.

But deep down, where does our motivation to achieve goals come from?

Dopamine

Neuroscience tells us our behavior is motivated by our activities that cause a release of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain. Also, the amount of dopamine released depends on the rewards we predict.

This is how it works:

  • Every time the reward from an activity is bigger than you predicted, you get a spike of dopamine
  • Conversely, when you expect a reward and get nothing your dopamine level will go down
  • And when you get the exact reward you expected, your dopamine level will stay flat

In short, a better than expected outcome from an activity will reinforce a behavior. After engaging in the same activity for a while and getting a reward at the expected level, the spikes of dopamine will stop.

That’s why you need to form habits quickly. Or you need to raise the stakes to get higher, better than expected rewards.

You might now be wondering: How do I optimize my rewards to get my dopamine fix and keep me motivated? Fret not, we’ve got you covered.

Rewards

Rewards can come both from inside (intrinsic) and outside yourself (extrinsic).

Intrinsic rewards come from the personal gratification of solving a problem. Examples are: engaging in a sport because you find the activity enjoyable, solving a puzzle or playing a game because you find the challenge fun and exciting.

Extrinsic rewards come mostly from social recognition and praise. Examples are: studying because you want a good grade, cleaning your room to avoid being reprimanded by your parents.

Positive reinforcement can improve your intrinsic motivation. So, to motivate yourself to persevere in a new activity, put metrics in place that will give you a positive reinforcement: tick a box, be grateful, focus on your achievements.

External rewards can generate interest and participation in something in which you had no initial interest. They can motivate you to acquire skills or knowledge. Once these early skills have been learned, you may become more intrinsically motivated to pursue the activity.

If your task involves a delivery to someone else, the feedback you get will be an external reward. It will tell you whether you have achieved a standard deserving of reinforcement (think of how you initially motivate children to do their homework).

One word of caution: excessive external rewards can lead to a reduction of your intrinsic motivation. Avoid external rewards when you already find the activity intrinsically rewarding. Seeking a reward in that case might make a fun activity seem more like work.

Instead, use rewards when you are working on activities that you must do but don’t like. Invest yourself in those activities if they are recurring so that you can form an intrinsic motivation. And if that doesn’t work, delegate.

Incentive and drive

What drives your intrinsic motivation further is your incentive to achieve a goal. That is: your reason. Find the reason that motivates you to reach a goal. This is called the incentive theory.

To find your reason, ask why questions. Why do you want to achieve that goal? Keep asking why questions until you get to one of the needs in Maslow’s list. It has to touch you at your core, it has to be a life altering reason.

To illustrate, if you want to lose weight, ask yourself: Why do I want to lose weight? An answer might be: To have a more aesthetic body.

But you need to dig deeper, ask again: Why do I want to have a more aesthetic body? It might be because you want to be more attractive and to be loved (belonging need). And if being more attractive means a wider choice of partners, it can dramatically impact the quality of your future relationship.

That means the trajectory of your life. Bingo! We have found a life altering reason.

So, your reason for losing weight is then: To be more attractive and widen your choice of partners.

Always look for your reason/incentive to give yourself intrinsic motivation.

In the same way that incentive pulls you towards a goal, negative reinforcement pushes towards an action. If you eat when you are hungry, the feeling of hunger will go away. This is called the drive theory.

Increase the pain of inaction and you will be driven towards achieving your goals. One way to do it is to give money to a cause you don’t support every time you don’t follow through. That means it will be painful to you to stay inactive.

The motivation equation

To close this section on motivation, let’s have a look at a great tool: the motivation equation. It was first introduced in a 2006 Academy of Management Review article.

Here’s the equation:

Motivation = (expectancy x value)/(1+impulsiveness x delay),
where expectancy is the probability of success and impulsiveness is the sensitivity to delay (delayed gratification).

Want to know the best part?

Using this handy equation, you can extract valuable information about motivation. For example, you can see how an easy to achieve goal (high expectancy) can lead to high motivation. But also how a hard goal, with a huge value (result) can lead to an even higher motivation.

Here’s something else the equation tells you. Once you have your goal, to stay motivated, you need to focus on accepting delayed motivation. You need to look at future rewards and not fall into the instant gratification trap.

That said, you also need to have short term milestones on the way to your bigger goals. Achieving these milestones quickly will re-fuel your motivation.

Practical Steps

Remember I said I would tell you how you can get endless motivation? Here it is. Based on science and best practices, to get endless motivation, you need to:

  1. Find your reason (incentive) for achieving each one of your goals. Your incentive will be your intrinsic motivation
  2. Work on big goals that can get you big rewards. Rewards from achieving your goals will give you spikes of dopamine
  3. Always have small short term milestones to re-fuel your motivation. Make the first milestones easy to achieve, i.e. take small steps first
  4. Make it painful for you not to follow through with your goals
  5. Enjoy the journey and most importantly build habits so that you don’t need external rewards long term
  6. Put external rewards in place for new activities. This, until you have built your habits

4. Master Mindmastermind

We can’t talk about motivation without talking about its nemesis: procrastination.

Let’s be honest, we all suffer from it. Some of us have a mild case of procrastination, while others struggle to lead a normal life because of it. Unfortunately, it can become an addiction.

As we can’t avoid it, the goal is to learn to live with it. Control it, leverage it even, to stay productive and achieve our goals.

Let’s go and find out how you can do that.

A coping mechanism

First of all, let’s get willpower out of the way.

Willpower uses a lot of neural resources. Simply put, you should avoid using willpower to fend off procrastination, except when absolutely necessary.

In short, don’t use willpower to build discipline.

Now, here’s how procrastination works:

When you face something daunting or uncomfortable, the pain centers of your brain light up. So you shift your focus to something more enjoyable. This causes you to feel better (happy) temporarily.

In fact, procrastination often manifests as a coping mechanism for dealing with pressure and anxiety surrounding personal trials. It is an emotionally driven avoidance mechanism. It stems from an internal desire to protect ourselves from negative feelings associated with the fear of failure.

Let’s dig deeper into the mechanism so we can find solutions to cope with procrastination.

Fight or flight

One part of the brain, the amygdala, is associated with mediating fear, emotion, memory and decision-making as well as psychological disorders like anxiety and phobia.

The amygdala is involved in establishing the “fight or flight” response. This response manifests itself in task avoidance.

When we are overwhelmed by a particularly challenging activity or by the accumulation of many demanding projects, the amygdala induces a fight of flight emotional reaction. This reaction is here to protect us from negative feelings of panic, depression or self-doubt.

When in panic, the amygdala floods your system with the adrenaline hormone.

It gets worse: adrenaline can dull responses of brain regions involved in planning and reasoning.

It can leave you at the mercy of more impulsive brain systems. These systems may convince you that sitting on Facebook for the next few hours is not such a bad idea, even though you have an exam tomorrow.

Instant gratification is addictive

As discussed in the chapter on motivation, your brain has a preference for behaviors that provide instant gratification and avoids pursuing goal-oriented achievement. It’s looking for dopamine release. Most behaviors that make us happy increase the levels of dopamine in the brain.

The brain will then stimulate you to repeat behaviors that have caused a release of dopamine in the past.

If you let this avoidance become a habit, long term effects can be nasty. When you put of what you have to do, it can become even more painful to just think about it.

Procrastination can become an important keystone bad habit. A habit that impacts many areas of your life.

In fact, procrastination shares features with addiction. It offers temporary excitement and relief from a sometimes boring reality.

You start telling yourself stories, saying that writing a book requires imagination, your weakness, so of course you are bad at it. You devise irrational excuses that sound superficially reasonable. Like you can’t start writing now because you’re moving house next month and this will upset your writing routine.

You might even start telling yourself that procrastination is an innate unchangeable characteristic. After all, if it was fixable, wouldn’t you have fixed it by now?

Procrastination starts with you putting off that little one thing. Then you do it again and again, gradually growing used to it. That’s when it becomes a bad habit.

Practical Steps

To tackle procrastination, you need to take control and make the decisions. And not let your bad habits decide for you. You have to lay down the firm neural foundations you need to feel comfortable with uncomfortable activities.

This is how you do it:

  1. When you notice yourself procrastinating, write it down. What happened then? What were you doing before? Write down the steps that brought you to procrastinate.
  2. Based on the steps, look for your procrastination cues. Find what triggered you to procrastinate.
  3. Then, replace your bad habit by a new, good one. When you see the trigger that usually gets you to procrastinate, use it to prompt you to do your good habit.
  4. Start your day by eating your frogs. Do your most daunting activities first.
  5. Focus on less tasks every day. Starting with simple short term tasks will help you avoid procrastination.
  6. Then, stretch yourself progressively. Avoid tackling overwhelming projects, ease yourself in them.
  7. Procrastination tells you that you are overwhelmed (too many tasks, too difficult, daunting, long term, unattainable): listen to it and adjust your plan accordingly.
  8. Tackle procrastination by training your brain to see the completion of a task itself as the dopamine-producing experience rather than the procrastination (delayed gratification). Focus on rewarding yourself for completing tasks rather than punishing yourself for not getting them done.
  9. Slice your work in small sections so you can get your dopamine release every time you complete a section. Slice everything in chunks of less than 60 minutes. Then, at the end, reward yourself. Something small is fine (like watching a video on youtube).
  10. Stop, take a breath, relax for a minute, then go back to a task that can seem daunting. Don’t let the trigger bring you into procrastination.
  11. Low conscientiousness is associated with higher procrastination. Train yourself to be more conscientious.

5. Pile Up Your Resultspile up

Many will neglect this key ingredient to the “achieve your goals” recipe. If you’re not looking closely enough, you might not notice it in the first place. But its effects over time can be explosive.

I’m talking about the compound effect. You might be wondering: What is the compound effect?

Here is the explanation.

In finance, compound interest is how the same interest on an investment adds up over the years.

For example, a 5% yearly interest rate on $1000 equates to $1050 after one year. The next year it becomes $1103, the year after $1157, then $1216 and finally $1276 after 5 years.

In those 5 years, your investment will have gone up 27.6%, instead of 25% (5% a year) if there was no compound interest. After 10 years, it becomes 63% (instead of 50%). After 20 years, 165% (instead of 100%).

In physics, the compound effect also applies. For example, many elements can produce heat: the sun, friction, fire, etc. Each source of heat adds up on top of the others.

This is the principle behind the compound effect: every small step or action adds up.

Now that we understand the principle, let’s look at how it can help you achieve your goals.

If you apply the same principle to your life and improve your performance by 1% a day, through the compound effect, you’ll improve your performance 170% after 100 days (instead of 100%). And after one year that becomes 3778%! Instead of just 365% without the compound effect, 10x more.

Of course, at some point, it will saturate. But this principle will help you achieve extraordinary results once you understand it and use it to your advantage.

Here’s the deal:

Everything you do adds up. Consistent decisions and actions in the same direction will add up to explosive results. Don’t think: 1% is small, it’s not worth it. Instead, realize how 1% repeated over and over can grow to 200% and more through compounding.

Also, when you achieve small goals over and over, it also adds up. Repeated results will give you proof of your ability. And this proof will increase your confidence.

In turn, increased confidence will motivate you to go out and achieve more goals. Which will increase your confidence and motivation further. In the end, compounding actions build momentum that fuels the system in a positive feedback loop.

Practical Steps

  1. Take consistent action towards your goals. It compounds to build momentum
  2. Focus on improving everyday. It adds up to explosive results
  3. Every action counts. Make it count

6. Your Secret WeaponSecretWeapon

Do you know what your secret weapon to success is? We’ve come across it in the motivation section…

As your motivation will go down over time, it’s crucial to call upon your secret weapon before you run out of steam. I’m talking of course about habits.

Building the right habits is key to your success. Let’s dig deeper to find how you can build habits.

A 2009 study by Phillippa Lally showed that the average time it takes to form a new habit is 66 day. The study also showed that this time can vary between 18 and 254 days.

In short, it takes time to build a new habit and this time varies among different people. You need to practice habit building to find out how many days it will take you to build one.

In terms of process, we can isolate 3 parts in habit forming:

  1. Cue
  2. Behavior
  3. Reward

A cue is the trigger that causes the habit to come about. It can be associated to anything by your mind.

The behavior is the actual habit you exhibit.

And the reward, a positive feeling, keeps the habit building loop going.

Initially a habit may be triggered by a goal: we call it goal-oriented behavior. Over time the goal becomes unnecessary and the habit becomes automatic. It becomes a habitual behavior.

At the anatomical level, by building habits, you slowly move the processing of the activity from the reflective (located in the prefrontal cortex) to the reflexive (located in the basal ganglia) brain. The reflective brain is slower and requires more energy to work than the reflexive brain. The latter is energy efficient, fast and reacts automatically.

What’s the bottom line?

Building habits make you more efficient. They’re a must to keep a high level of energy.

Taking it further, you can form keystone habits. Keystone habits can influence the formation of other habits. If you identify as the type of person who takes care of their body and exercises regularly, that might influence you eating behavior as well.

Of course, habits can either benefit (good habits) or hurt the goals you set for yourself (bad habits). Because the processing of a habit is so efficient, getting rid of a bad habit is hard work.

Let’s sum up with the practical steps you can follow to build good habits and get rid of the bad ones.

Practical Steps

  1. Focus on building habits. Stay consistent with your new activity until it becomes habitual behavior. On average, this will take you 66 days.
  2. Build cues and rewards so that habits get triggered and then stick. When you switch from goal oriented to habitual behavior, you’ll free up precious resources.
  3. To suppress a bad habit, identify your cue (trigger) Then, replace your old habitual behavior following the cue by a new routine. Reward yourself for following through with your new behavior. Break the bad cue-routine-habit loop and replace it by a good one.

7. Become A Giantbecome a giant

If you want to achieve big goals, you’ll have to grow and become a different person. This is a must. How do you grow?

You grow by learning and building new habits.

As you learn, your brain changes. Shifts in your behavior, environment, thinking and emotions will cause your brain to create and destroy neural pathways. This is called neuroplasticity.

Neural pathways and synapses form the thought and behavior patterns our brain uses to make decisions, choose actions and make sense of the outside world. The pathways used more often get stronger. Those that are under-used grow weak and are eventually replaced.

To build the right pathways and achieve accelerated growth, you need to:

  1. Adopt a growth mindset
  2. Put yourself outside of your comfort zone

Adopting a growth mindset, as opposed to a fixed mindset, means believing you can develop your abilities through dedication and hard work. It means focusing on the growth journey. It means taking risks, accepting failures and learning from them.

Carol Dweck, in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, describes in details the differences between growth and fixed mindset. She also discusses the consequences of adopting one mindset over the other. Make sure you adopt the right mindset if you want to achieve your goals.

When you put yourself outside of your comfort zone, you increase your risk of failure.

This approach can seem counter-intuitive at first. But failing is what will increase your learning speed. When you fail, you analyze what went wrong, then, you make adjustments.

By always building skills that are just outside your immediate reach, you pull yourself to the next level in your learning. You build new neural pathways instead of just re-enforcing your existing ones.

This is key: to build new pathways that will enable higher performance and skills, you have to reach for what you’re not able to do right now.

One word of caution though: if you go too much outside of your comfort zone, you’ll get too much anxiety out of it. This will be detrimental to your progress. This is why you need to be just outside your comfort zone, but not further.

Another way to change your neural pathways, that will help you in your growth journey, is meditation. fMRI scans have shown that practicing meditation can result in improved levels of activity in brain regions associated with such qualities as: attention, anxiety, depression, fear, anger and the ability of the body to heal.

Practical Steps

  1. Focus on growth. Adopt a growth mindset and learn by failing and drawing lessons
  2. Push yourself outside of your comfort zone for accelerated growth
  3. Practice meditation to be more focused, relaxed and confident
  4. If you apply the three steps above, the right neuroplasticity will take place

C. Revise & Celebrate

8. Stay On TrackStay on track

How do you know you’re on the right path to achieve your goals? And how do you know when you’re going to reach you goal?

The answer to these questions is: By measuring your progress and making adjustments to stay on the right track.

If you’re building a product, you need to verify that it’s working properly before you sell it. If you’re in sales, you measure how much revenue your sales have generated during the year to check you’re on track to your target.

This is fundamental. Whenever you’re working on something, you need metrics, so you know whether you’re on track or not.

This is engineering 101. Here is what it means in practical terms for achieving your goals.

Practical Steps

  1. Review your progress every week
  2. Adjust your activities to stay on track & keep momentum
  3. De-clutter and re-focus where needed
  4. If you find yourself procrastinating and losing motivation, refer to the motivation section above and adjust your plan accordingly
  5. Build habits systematically

This is a straight forward approach from many years of project management, that gives proven results.

9. Party TimeParty time

When you’ve finally achieved a goal, it’s time to celebrate. But why, and when, do you need to celebrate?

As discussed in the motivation section, to keep your brain motivated, you need dopamine. And dopamine comes from rewards.

A dopamine release gives you motivation to persevere in a habit. That means celebrations are useful when you’re starting out with a new task. But over time, as you come to expect rewards from a specific activity, dopamine releases will stop.

What’s the bottom line?

You need to celebrate your achievements while you’re building new habits. This is key to fuel your motivation.

Later on, though, celebrating won’t motivate you any further. That’s why you need to focus on building habits quickly, while dopamine release is still active.

Celebrating a big goal later on is still a good idea. Not on the motivation front, but on the happiness front.

When you celebrate a big achievement, you feel pride over your accomplishment. And pride causes the release of the neurotransmitter serotonin.

Serotonin is one of the neurochemicals that make us happy. In short, celebrating the achievement of your goals makes you happy. And being happy is what we are seeking in life.

So, take the time to be happy and proud over your achievements. Take your time to celebrate.

Practical Steps

  1. Reward yourself for reaching milestones. This will fuel your motivation while you are building habits
  2. Celebrate your big achievements. Take your time to be happy

What’s the bottom line?

Some of you will have jumped straight to the end. I can’t blame you for not wanting to know every background detail on achieving goals.

So, you want to know the grand master plan for achieving goals? A plan based on all the research in neuroscience and psychology?

Here it is.

Master Plan Practical Steps (MaPPS)

PARC Wheel
The PARC Wheel
  1. Write your plan: choose a destination and plan your route
  2. Stay focused: avoid multitasking and distraction, train your focus through meditation, use the Pareto principle to your advantage and get in Flow
  3. Stay motivated: find your incentive for each of your goals, make it painful not to follow through, focus on reaching short-term milestones to re-fuel your motivation and enjoy the journey
  4. Keep procrastination under control: find your procrastination cues, replace a bad habit by a good one, focus on less tasks every day, slice up your work in small tasks, eat your frogs first, stretch yourself progressively and when you’re overwhelmed, take a break
  5. Leverage the compound effect: take consistent action towards your goals, focus on improving every day and make every action count
  6. Build habits: stay consistent with your new activities until they become habitual behaviors, build cues and rewards so that habits stick
  7. Focus on your growth: adopt a growth mindset and learn by failing, push yourself outside of your comfort zone
  8. Revise: review your progress every week, de-clutter and re-focus, make adjustments to stay on track and keep your momentum, build habits systematically
  9. Celebrate: reward yourself for reaching milestones, celebrate your big achievements and take time to be happy

Here you have it. The 9 steps Master Plan to achieve your goals. Follow it if you want to build your success.

If you have any question, comment or stories you would like to share, please leave a note in the comment section below.

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4 comments on “The 9 proven keys to achieve your goals fasterAdd yours →

  1. This is the most comprehensive goal settings, procrastination and habit building guide I have ever read. I have read a lot of books and download hours of courses. You have not only provided step by step but also studies and key points of books that help me understand. I am going to read this guide at least 3-5x more and implement this right away thank you.

    1. Hi Cong,

      Thank you for your comment, much appreciated. I’m happy to hear that you liked the post and that you’re going to implement the action steps.

      If you get the chance to let me know how you get on, let me know. I’d be keen to hear from you. You can post here or use the contact form.

      Take care,
      Antoine

  2. That’s a great article. It covers a LOT of material and information out there. However, it would be nice to have references or key books/authors for some of the topics.

    Anyway, well done! I’m wondering why this article doesn’t have a lot of comments and views.

    1. Hi Pietro,

      Thank you for your comment.

      I have put links to the main sources directly in the article, but I take your point about referencing more sources. This is something I had considered before publishing the post. Now that you’ve mentioned it, I’ll see what I can do.

      To comment on the popularity, this has been my most popular post so far, it has been well received. More comments might come later.

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