Research has found that having clarity about your goals is essential to having the motivation to achieve those goals. If you’re not clear on what you’re doing, it’s hard to be motivated. Which is why seemingly easy tasks, like sending a fax, could end up taking months. There’s a lack of clarity on how to do it, so you don’t — until either you have to or it’s too late.
Unfortunately, having a lack of clarity is why so many people settle for less than their dreams. Robert Brault, author of Round Up the Usual Subjects, says, “We are kept from our goal not by obstacles but by a clear path to a lesser goal.”
You want clarity so badly that you’re willing to settle for lesser goals, simply because the path to getting your true goal is less obvious.
When you’re trying to accomplish something big, you have the why but rarely the how. The path to achieving your goals is far from obvious. You have no clue how you’re going to do what you want to do.
1. Set goals that actually matter to you.
When you set goals that actually matter to you, it’s a lot easier to take massive action to reach those goals. Think about what truly matters to you and what you really want to accomplish during your lifetime.
What impact do you want to make on the world? What kind of legacy do you want to leave behind? Who do you most want to be as a person? What are you incredibly passionate about? If you’re not sure what lights you up.
2. Embrace the unknown.
“Prepare for the unknown by studying how others in the past have coped with the unforeseeable and the unpredictable.” – George S. Patton
When you experience the unknown, what is your emotional experience? Most people perceive the unknown as threatening, signifying a low tolerance for ambiguity. But some people are more open to the unknown.
Interestingly, researchers have found that children generally have a higher tolerance for ambiguity than adults. Children are often more willing to accept murky conditions—situations where the likelihood of winning or losing is unknown. As you get older though, your desire for surety and security keeps you safely protected in your comfort zone.
Research has found that the more satisfied you are with your work, the higher your tolerance for ambiguity. In other words, if you enjoy and believe in what you’re doing, you’ll take on the emotional discomfort of the unknown.
“If your why is strong enough, you will figure out how!” by Bill Walsh, former head coach of the San Francisco 49ers,
3. Find clarity quickly.
It’s settled then: If you want to achieve big things, your path will be unclear and hazy. The emotional need for clarity and fear of the unknown leads people to abandon their dreams for more straightforward pursuits.
Having goal clarity is essential to motivation. Consequently, in order to get motivated to achieve your big dreams, you need clarity. But this does not mean you have it all figured out. It means you’re clear on the next step or two.
If you’re at mile marker 1 and your dream is at mile marker 50, you just need enough info and support to get to mile marker 3 or 4. Once you get there, you’ll need further instructions. But you have no clue what those instructions will be, because you don’t currently know what you don’t know. When you get to the next step, you’ll be able to ask better questions. You’ll be able to better assess who can help you get to mile marker 5, 6, 7 or 8. What got you here won’t get you there.
You’re on a treasure hunt and you’re finding clues and guides along the way. This is the process and emotional experience of pursuing a big dream.
Here’s what you need to move forward right now:
- A clear checkpoint (so you actually know what to do)
- A hard and fast timeline
- The right tools and systems
- A support structure
If you have these four things, you’ll have enough clarity—and thus enough motivation—to move forward. You’ll be stretching, growing and moving while other people are overwhelmed by the distance between mile marker 1 and 50. While they’re staring at the forest from a distance, you’re winding your way through the trees. And soon enough, you’ll be on the other side.
With this backdrop, here’s the most effective way I’ve found to getting just enough clarity to continuously move forward.
4. Learn with a purpose.
“Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?” —T.S. Eliot
When you seek learning, it should be purposeful. Only you can decide the direction of your training. Research has found that self-directed learning is highly correlated with learning satisfaction. Thus, what you learn should clearly connect with your interests and goals. As Albert Einstein said, “That is the way to learn the most, that when you are doing something with such enjoyment that you don’t notice that the time passes.”
5. Streamline your life.
If you want to achieve your biggest goals, you’ll need space in your life to take action toward those goals. The way to create room in your life is to streamline your life. You’ll need to streamline your schedule and get rid of the unimportant junk to make time to take massive action toward your biggest dreams.
Start by eliminating time-sucking ’empty activities,’ the activities that don’t add value to your life. Carefully evaluate how you are spending your time and determine which tasks you can declutter from your schedule in order to create room to work on your big goals.
6. Find people to help you.
No matter how driven you are, you’d be foolish to think you can achieve success single-handedly. Even if someone else isn’t aiding you directly, it’s helpful to establish a few individuals whom you can emulate, who will inspire you to persevere or hold you accountable.
For example, a mentor can dispense valuable advice so that you won’t have to learn basic lessons the hard way. You might benefit from a sidekick or cheerleader to keep you motivated and hold you accountable. Find specific people who can help you bridge the gap between where you are and where you want to be.
7. Find an accountability partner.
One of the best life hacks to reach big goals is surrounding yourself with people who are also working on big goals. As Jim Rohn said:
“You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.”
Are you spending time with people who are inspiring, encouraging, and uplifting? Surround yourself with people who help you become the best version of yourself, and ask someone to be your accountability partner as you both work toward bettering your lives. Knowing that someone is overseeing your progress can help give you that extra boost you need to take massive action on the days when motivation is lacking.
Hopefully you find these strategies as helpful as I have. Keep setting and working toward big goals, and take action every day toward the life of your dreams.
8. Stop procrastinating.
If you want to reach big goals, you’ll need to kill your procrastination habit. One way to do this is to spend a few minutes each evening, writing out your schedule for the next day. When you plan in advance how you’ll spend your time, you’ll wake up in the morning knowing exactly what you’re going to do with your day, so you can be sure to take action toward your big goals.
Another great way to kill your procrastination habit is to “eat the frog every morning”. This comes from Mark Twain, who said, “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” Your frog is the task you’ve been procrastinating.
It’s the thing you dread, or the action step you need to take that’s out of your comfort zone. As you work toward reaching big goals, you’ll need to eat many frogs along the way. Make a point to eat the frog each morning, and you’ll make massive progress toward your big dreams.
9. Tracking and accountability.
“When performance is measured, performance improves. When performance is measured and reported, the rate of improvement accelerates.” —Thomas S. Monson
Clarity is what creates motivation.
Tracking is what creates awareness.
Reporting is what creates accountability.
Having these three will help you progress quickly.
If you’re not tracking your daily behaviors, you are undoubtedly doing worse than you think you are. For example, most people have no clue where their money goes because they don’t track their expenses.
According to research, self-regulation is the psychological process that detects inconsistency between your goals and your behaviors. It is the ignition of your motivational forces helping you get from where you are to where you want to be.
Specifically, self-regulation works in three ways:
Self-monitoring determines how well you are currently performing.
Self-evaluation determines how well you are performing comparative to your goals.
Self-reaction determines how you think and feel comparative to your goals. When you feel dissatisfied with your performance, self-reaction pushes you to reallocate your motivation resources.
Beyond tracking, research has found that accountability improves performance. When you report your performance to someone, particularly someone you respect, it adds external and relational motivation to succeed.
During your accountability sessions, you can get coaching and feedback on where you can improve. Striving to accomplish big goals is not easy. Most people will give up on their dreams in order to have a clear path to lesser goals.
If you want to move quickly toward your big goals, you’ll need to become proficient at acquiring clarity for the next few steps of your journey. The best way to do this is through context-based and immersion-style learning.
The deeper and wider your clarity, the bigger your goals can be. In order to ensure you achieve those goals, you’ll need to track your behaviors daily and have an intense accountability system in place.