By Linda Van Valkenburgh, MS, CCMC, CJSS, CSMCS, CELDC

Only 8% of people successfully achieve the goals they set for themselves. Don’t let this discourage you, though. Most people fail because they don’t have the right plan, tools, or skills needed to succeed. Are you ready to set yourself up for success? Then it’s time to learn and apply these five tips.

1. Clearly Define Your Goal
The first thing you need to do is define your goal. How can you stay motivated and focused if you don’t have a clear picture of what you’re working for? Write down a definable goal and the steps you need to take to reach that goal.
Let’s say you want to retire early. This isn’t a clear goal. Saying that you want to retire by 50 is. From there, you can create stepping stone goals of targeted saving, income level increases, promotions, and investment growth.
You now have a clear roadmap for you to follow to reach your end goal.

2. Break It Into Chunks
The human brain likes to find groupings. This is why it’s easier to remember a phone as three groups of numbers instead of one long string of ten. The grouping strategy is effective beyond memory tasks.
If you look at the entirety of your goal, the sheer magnitude of it will become overwhelming. This will drive you to avoid working towards it. Instead, break it up into manageable chunks that your brain can focus on.
Jump-start your progress by making the beginning chunks smaller and have them get progressively bigger. This will give you several “wins” early on. Your motivation will exponentially build so that you can better tackle the larger chunks.

3. Give Yourself Positive Reinforcement
As a manager, you should be familiar with positive reinforcement. Rewarding desired behavior yield better results than punishing undesired behavior. You achieve better results, and morale remains high.
Use this tactic on yourself. Find a small reward that makes you happy. Every time you perform a task towards your goal, let yourself enjoy your reward.

4. Create a Social Support System
People try to use social support to pull themselves along to their goals. This is not the right way to use this tactic. The biggest mistake you can make is to tell your support system your end goal and depend on that person to stop you from slipping up.
Instead, tell your support system the goal for the current chunk you’re working on. This will help you stay focused on the task at hand. Next, only use your support system to validate your wins, and not as a guilt-trip.
Let’s continue with the goal of retiring at 50. Don’t tell your support system this goal. Instead, tell them your goal is to attend two networking events a month. By doing this, you’ll expand your professional network, which helps you move up in your career, increase your salary, and eventually retire early.

5. Plan for the Bumps in the Road
Don’t plan to fail. But you’re human, slip-ups will happen. Create an action plan for when those bumps in the road occur. It should include things like these:
Avoid negative self-talk
Own the slip-up to your support system
Avoid over-analyzing
Recognize repeated slip-ups and do self-reflection to break the pattern
Take the First Step to Achieve Your Professional Goal

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