I’m sure you can bring to mind a really big goal you want to achieve. Something that is radically different from what you have right now. What would it feel like to achieve it?
Setting goals is an important tool for moving forward in life, succeeding in our career and generally becoming a better person. But it’s often easy to fall short on actually achieving those goals.
When it comes to the really big goals it’s even harder to succeed. We can start to feel a sense of overwhelm and even doubt that it’s possible from the beginning. Perhaps we don’t even set those big goals because we feel they are out of reach.
The skill of goal setting is one thing but the skill of achieving those goals, especially big ones such as career changes, is where the real work starts. So what is the key to achieving big goals?
The Usual Method of Achieving Goals
Once goals are set, plans are made and you’re ready and motivated to get started it seems sensible to just get on with it. This is exactly what most people will do. They will work within their current environment and expend a great deal of energy overcoming distractions, limiting beliefs and dips in motivation.
It often depends on how desperately they want to achieve their goal whether or not they can push themselves continually against the traffic like this.
Willpower and motivation will get them so far, but these attributes can drop off dramatically once the novelty of starting a project has worn off. The added struggle with decision fatigue, where there are only a limited number of decisions we can make over a day, makes the situation worse.
It can then become a bit of a drudge through to the end if they can make it that far.
I fully understand life can get in the way, I experience these struggles every day. There are always going to to be distractions and challenges in everyone’s life.
How Our Environment Influences Us
“I do have this belief that we all have a chance to be great, beautiful people based on how we are raised and our surroundings.” – Rod Lurie, Film Director
Our environment can have incredible influence over the way we feel, act and think. A very interesting study carried out by Ellen Langer in 1981 looked at how the lives of a group of elderly men from a nursing home would change if they were to live as if they were 20 years younger. 
These men were given an environment to live in that replicated 1959 living. They were told to act as if it were 1959 in their day to day lives, including having to fend for themselves where they would otherwise have had help in a nursing home.
By the end of the study, which lasted only 5 days, the men demonstrated noticeable improvements physically and mentally.
It was not just the environment that had an effect, it was also the fact that they acted the part too and this is something important that we will discuss later.
Now look back at the previous section regarding how people normally try and achieve their goals. Can you start to imagine a better way to go about it?
Designing our environment to suit the goals we want to achieve is a surefire way to success.
What Limiting Beliefs do we Possess?
If you were to think of your characteristics, the kind of things people would use to describe you to someone that doesn’t know you, what would they be?
Would you say you’ve always been that person and always will be?
Now you might be jumping the gun and saying “hell no!” right now, but the vast majority of us think of ourselves as a particular kind of person. Usually this is because we constantly get told that is who we are and we develop a fixed mindset on this.
There is a Japanese therapy known as Morita therapy which considers taking the right action in any given moment. 
Rather than doing what your personality dictates you do, it is a combination of the moment and your awareness of it that suggests what you should do.
This includes being the kind of person that succeeds at the goal you have set yourself.
“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts.” – William Shakespeare, As You Like It, Act II, Scene VII
You may have heard the term ‘fake it ’till you make it’ and that does apply here. Acting as the person you wish to become is a proven practice in psychotherapy . But this is just the start, you soon get over the ‘faking it’ part and just become the part. The more you do it the easier it becomes.
The great thing is that we don’t always need to figure out how to act at the right time.
How to Achieve Big Goals
Here’s a break down of how to use your environment to achieve your goals:
- Set yourself the right goal
- Determine the roles you need to play
- Set up your environment
- Act the part
- Journal your progress
Set Yourself the Right Goal
“But, I’ve got my goal already.” Yes, you do have a goal, but if you dig a bit deeper is it the best goal?
This doesn’t mean that you need to scrap it and find another goal. It simply means you need to consider whether you have framed the goal in the right way to help you succeed.
For example, if your goal is to find your perfect career what does that actually mean? If you move into a better career, but not perfect, have you failed? Does finding the perfect career seem possible anyway? What makes it actually worthwhile putting the effort in?
If you re-frame it to be ‘having 3 great career change options within the next month’ then you have a time frame, some context and a way of measuring progress. It seems achievable too.
Goals need to be SMART. Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-based.
There is one thing, however, that is key to achieving big goals by setting up the right environment:
“Be not afraid of discomfort. If you can’t put yourself in a situation where you are uncomfortable, then you will never grow. You will never change. You’ll never learn.” – Jason Reynolds, Author
If it’s too easy then (a) you won’t be reaching your full potential and (b) you’ll start to wonder if there is any point setting up your environment to succeed. This will only lead you back to the traditional way of trying to achieve goals and we know how that ends!
Determine the Roles You Need to Play
Remember we said earlier that you can be any personality you need to be in any given moment.
In order to know how to act, you need to know what roles to play. This means putting yourself into the mind of the future you that has already succeeded at their goal.
Here is a good exercise:
Imagine you have reached your goal. Great! Feels good right? Drink that in.
Now take a look back at how you got there, what you had to go through and the roles you had to play (even if those roles feel impossible right now).
If you want to get super fit to run a triathlon in under 3 hours you will need to be that person that gets up early every morning to do some yoga, go for a run or take a swim. You will need to be that person that says no to a second glass of wine (or perhaps even the first one! Have I put you off entering a triathlon!?).
If you want to build a successful business that makes £1 million a year within 3 years you will need to be that person that networks with other people. You will have to be that person that can totally focus during the day to work on what’s important for the success of your business.
This is your path to success. You will need to act out all of the roles you envision in order to reach your goal.
It doesn’t matter that you think you can’t do them right now. You will be setting your environment up in the best possible way to help you act out those roles.
Set up your Environment
We’ve discussed how your environment can affect your success in achieving a goal, but how do you design your environment?
Well, you can start by not changing anything. Bear with me on this!
Spend a day going about your tasks as normal to develop an awareness of what gets in your way. Notice what distracts you, moments when your focus wanders, when you feel less energised, when you start to procrastinate. Anything that prevents you from following the path towards your goal.
Write this all down. You could even do this over the course of a week to see if there are trends.
You will start to see little things that are obstacles to your success. For example:
- Notifications on your phone when you’re trying to work
- That tube of Pringles in the cupboard when you’re trying to lose weight
- People disturbing you for a quick question (that turns into a 30-minute lesson)
- Times of the day when your concentration is terrible
You may end up with a whole list of obstacles, we recommend ranking them in order of those that take away the most time from your day and working on the top 3-5 for the biggest impact.
When you know what all the obstacles to success are you can start eliminating them. From the list above you might use the following solutions:
- Use screen time controls to reduce non-essential notifications (or get rid of the apps you know you can do without!)
- Clean out all the food you don’t want in your diet and replace it with stuff you do
- Create focus time when no-one is allowed to disturb you. It will do them good in the long run to be more independent too!
- Schedule breaks when you know you need them. Make them power breaks with some yoga, a workout or even a cold shower!
In addition to getting rid of the obstacles, you need to set yourself up with triggers that will guarantee success.
For example, if you are trying to improve your productivity you can join an accountability group (or start one yourself) that you have to check in to every day. I do this for my writing and it has dramatically improved my output.
Using the triathlon training example from earlier, you can prepare your running clothes the night before so that you put them on first thing. This immediately prepares your mind for your morning run.
I mentioned accountability groups earlier and that is the next important aspect of setting up your environment for success. You can’t achieve big goals by yourself, or at least you shouldn’t have to.
Having a group of friends, mentors, family members around you that buy into what you want to achieve is very important. These people will help drive you, hold you accountable to what you need to do and celebrate your successes.
“The bigger the dream, the more important the team.” – Robin Sharma
As well as having your team of cheerleaders, don’t be afraid to make use of people as resources to help reach your goal. We all have strengths and weaknesses and it is more productive for you to concentrate on your strengths and outsource the weaknesses if you can.
This doesn’t have to be about productivity. By outsourcing your ability to think through a career change to a career transition coach you gain their vast experience and knowledge. You also gain an accountability mentor and set up an automatic decision making trigger (your appointment with them).
So far you have discovered what obstacles you have in your current environment and found solutions to eliminate them. You have set up automatic triggers to make the right decisions for you. You have a team of success seekers and experts to outsource to.
The last part of the environment set up is literally the immediate environment around you within which you work towards your goal.
To make it inspiring you want to have items that trigger a strong emotional connection with your goal. An inspirational quote that aligns perfectly with what you are aiming towards. A short video that you play when your laptop starts up. A mood board that helps visualise your goal. Mood lifting music.
To make it practical, think of everything you need to succeed. A comfy seat. Good lighting. An organised way to capture ideas, notes and research. Make good use of technology (as long as it’s not just a sneaky distraction!) to set up timers for drinking water, having a break, turning your phone off for a focus session.
To make it variable try to avoid working towards your goal in the same place every day, even every few hours. Change things up. If achieving your goal involves working at a laptop, try standing up for an hour or sitting in the garden or park for a different perspective and re-invigoration.
Act the Part
You have the environment down. You know the roles you need to play. Some of your day will be set up to automate your feelings or actions, but you still need to do a bit of work to achieve that goal!
This will be a struggle at first, but you’ve done the hard work in setting up the environment so it will get easier every time. Until eventually the roles become a part of you and you don’t even need the triggers and inspirational quotes (but keep them anyway!).
One trick that will help you get into your role faster is to put yourself in situations that demand you be that role. If you need to network, sign up to a networking group. If you need to get fit for that triathlon, sign up for a triathlon and tell everyone about it.
Journal your Progress
Journaling is a vital part of the process. When you are starting off you will wonder if any of it is worthwhile. Whether you are making any progress at all.
We all need to see validation for the efforts we put in. We’re just not very good at seeing it.
That’s where a journal comes in. You can chart your progress from beginning to end and see tangible improvements at each step of the journey. This is where you get a lot of your feedback from all of your practising!
It helps that you have come up with a measurable goal early on!
Your environment has a big influence on everything you do. If you can have some control over it then you can have control over your actions and therefore your progress towards achieving any goal you set.
Relying on willpower alone to achieve your goals is unlikely to work in every scenario. Getting a good understanding of what it takes to achieve your goal, setting up the right environment and putting yourself into the roles required to reach your goal will always guarantee success.
Instead of having a big motivation surge to achieve your goal and seeing it slowly wane as time goes on, use that motivation to set up your environment for success and ride the wave.
Let us know your big goals and what you are doing to set yourself up to achieve them in the comments below. If your big goals involve career changes, building a brand presence, creating an online business or any of the services we provide, please do get in touch to arrange a free consultation call. We have helped so many people change their lives and we want to help as many people as we can!
If you want to arrange a free conversation about improving or changing your career with a coach, send us an email to [email protected]
We want to see you fulfil your potential!