Your goal path is the figurative route linking where you are now to where you want to be. Unlike a real journey, however, the goal path is not defined using distance, but rather using time. It is a temporal journey.
Nonetheless, it is useful to imagine that you are embarking on a journey when you set out to achieve a goal simply because it makes the process familiar. We have all taken trips somewhere we wanted to go; a journey to a resort or vacation town, or a road trip. Comparing your goal achievement campaign to a journey can make it easier to appreciate that a worthwhile experience awaits you at the destination and the tedium and/or challenges of the journey must be endured if you want to reach that destination.
Unlike taking a trip where you pretty much always get where you want to go, however, there is a real danger that you won’t reach your goal somewhere along your goal path, either because you give up, get distracted or lose motivation.
Let’s look at a few ways you can overcome the struggles inherent in the journey to your goal so that you have a better chance of persevering enough to reach the end of your goal path.
1. Break Up Your Goal Path into Step Goals
In the Greater² Goal Achievement System, I advocate breaking your goal path down into small, more manageable “step goals”. Determining step goals is usually done by breaking your ultimate goal (the final result you are trying to achieve) into equal parts and distributing them equally along your goal path.
For example, if you are trying to lose 20 kilograms by the end of the year (let’s say that is 10 months away), you could divide the target by the number of months so that each step goal is to lose two kilograms per month. Two kilograms seems a lot more doable than 20 kilograms, right – even though they equate to the same thing.
If your step goals still seem like they might be challenging, you could look at weighting them. This entails making the first few step goals easier while you find your feet and get used to taking the actions necessary to move towards your goal. And, if you make the first few step goals easier, you need to make the last few step goals correspondingly more difficult to “restore balance to the universe”.
When weighting your step goals, be sure to ramp them up, so make the first month easy, followed by the second month that is less so. Using our weight loss example, you could weight the step goals so that you only want to lose one kilogram during the first month, ramping up to one and a half kilograms the second and then two kilograms thereafter.
Remember that you then need to add what you reduced on the front side of the goal path to the backside. Therefore, you will have to lose two and a half kilograms during the second-last month and three kilograms during the last one.
2. Look Out for Potholes
When planning your goal path and step goals, be sure to think carefully about any “potholes” (problem areas) that may be present so that you can navigate around them.
For example, if you want to lose weight, but Christmas and Thanksgiving are smack dab in the middle of your goal path, you need to prepare yourself for those events. Adjust your step goals to compensate so you can enjoy some of the fine festive fare that will surround you and make up for it later. You can also mentally prepare yourself to resist most of the enticements by deciding what you will be allowed to indulge in.
3. Create a Map
If you are traveling somewhere you have never been before, it makes sense to have a map. The same is true of your goal path. In the context of goal achievement, the “map” is more of a progress chart on which you can depict your headway towards the goal you set.
But why go the effort of using such a map or chart? In one word, motivation.
As discussed in other articles, motivation is the one thing that will make or break your ability to achieve your goal. Without motivation, you have no “fuel” to run the “engine” that will carry you to the finish line. Having a goal map or progress chart on which you can mark off how far you have come through your small wins, you are able to remind yourself, at a glance, what you have already achieved through the blood sweat and tears you have invested into the achievement of that goal. You can also visualize yourself getting closer and closer to the ultimate goal.
Your goal path map can take many forms – it could be a piece of paper that you draw a progress line on. It could be something ornate or evocative – a picture of a literal path with pictures next to each step goal and a large, attractive picture next to or above the ultimate goal. Or it could take the form of a thermometer device that you fill in with color as you advance along your goal path. Whatever it is, make sure it is easily visible and easy to update.
Visualizing the path to your goal is an essential part of goal achievement for one simple reason: it allows you to track your progress. Tracking your progress towards your goal is motivating not only because it is an indicator of everything you have already invested into your goal attainment effort, but it offers an almost tangible reminder that your goal is closer and closer. And as already stated, without motivation, there is virtually no way you will reach your goal.