Here’s a sobering thought:

Only 8% of people achieve the goals they set for the New Year.

The reason?

They don’t have a clue if their goals are actually achievable by the deadline that they set and they are hoping by sheer will power things will work out.

This post explains what you’re doing wrong and what you need to do now to achieve your goals this year.

1. Instead of an overwhelming BHAG, start small

BHAG is short for ‘Big Hairy Audacious Goal’. I had often been told to set huge, scary, exciting, a cannot-believe-I-will-ever-achieve type of goals for myself.

It is supposed to help us to think outside the box and be courageous when setting our goals.

I was surprised to find that the term BHAG started out as a term for companies and defined as…an audacious 10-to-30-year goal to progress towards an envisioned future.

No wonder so many of us are overwhelmed and disappointed when we fail to achieve our goals by the arbitrary deadline we have set for ourselves.

Instead of an overwhelming big hairy audacious goal, start with a small, achievable goal and step up from there.

In his book One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way, Robert Maurer, a clinical psychologist writes that by taking very small steps, we keep the fight-or-flight response at bay.

Every little success builds on top of the next one. And because each step is so small and achievable that it helps bypass the fears that would usually hold us back.

Let’s take an example in the online marketing space. Instead of a goal of 10,000 subscribers by the end of the year, how about a goal of 10 subscribers this week? How can you help just 10 people this week? So much so that they want to give you their email address because they want to hear more?

Or if you’re looking to improve your health by drinking more water, instead of drinking 8 glasses a day, how about just one glass of water in addition to what you usually drink to begin with?


2. Instead of S.M.A.R.T goals, choose habits

We’ve been told, to increase our chances of achieving our goals, we need to set SMART goals.

An S.M.A.R.T. goal is defined as one that is specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused, and time-bound.

But how do you know if your goal is specific enough or achievable by the time that you set?

The problem with setting a goal is we tend to get a lot of momentum at the beginning as our enthusiasm is high and then procrastination sets in when we hit a roadblock. Soon enough, we simply lose the willpower to continue.

Instead of writing down your goals, create habits that when done consistently, can help you achieve your goals.

For example, if you want to lose 40 lbs. by the end of the year, a small habit to start with could be to do 10 pushups every day in front of the TV.

Just one set. And after a few weeks or so, when that becomes easier, increase that to 20 pushups.

Using the goal we had earlier of achieving 10 subscribers by the end of the first week, a habit could be to help 5 people a day in your Facebook group.

Another example of a typical goal you may have is to be more mindful or present with your family. It is hard to specify a mindfulness goal and even more difficult to measure how that has improved over time.

However, using a habit makes things a lot easier. You could meditate 10 minutes every day. If that seems daunting, how about just sitting down quietly for 5 minutes?

Now that you know to use habits to achieve your goals, how do you go about taking action on them?


3. Instead of setting an arbitrary deadline for your goals, schedule your habits.

I have in the past given myself a deadline to achieve a goal. Sometimes that deadline is in my head and sometimes it’s written down somewhere in my journal.

At the beginning, I’d give myself some slack as I still have lots of time to achieve my goal. But as the deadline draws closer, I start to panic.

And sure enough, the goal will become practically unachievable with the time I had left. And I would feel like a failure once again because I did not meet my deadline.

Like Marie Forleo famously said, “If it’s not scheduled, it’s not real”.

You can schedule your habit in a calendar, agenda or whatever you use. Not one that you never check but one that you check daily and one your life actually depends on.

The calendar I use is the Google Calendar and I also use a habit app that I check in every day.

I love using HabitBull as it works very well and it’s free to use. It allows you to set your habits daily, multiple times a day or a few days a week. Every time you perform a habit, you click on a day in the calendar.

The goal of the app is to create a long string of successful days. Maintaining the streak encourages you to keep going. It also shows you fancy graphs if you’re into that sort of thing.

If Habit Bull doesn’t work for you, there’s also many similar apps that do the same thing as well.

One of my habits is to wake up early to write. There have been mornings when it’s hard to get up when the bed is nice and warm (especially now that it is winter). But the thought of breaking my streak always gets me up in the morning.


4. Instead of goals for every area of your life, focus on 3 main improvements you would like to make this year.

Have you ever done the exercise where you break down your life into areas like finance, family, career, spiritual etc. and for each area, try your best to come up with a few goals you want to achieve for the year?

Wasn’t that stressful and overwhelming?

I had done that type of goal setting exercise and found myself overwhelmed at the end of it. Knowing that by the end of the year, it’s up to me to complete these 10 or so goals with no idea if they are achievable and with no plan of action.

I feel like a failure before I even started.

With too many goals, you end up starting many but achieving none.

This year, I’ve chosen to keep things simple. I knew I would get overwhelmed with those 5-year or 10-year type exercise, so I decided to pick the top 3 things I want to achieve for the next 3 months.

As an example, my top 3 goals are to start and launch a new blog, be more focused and mindful and be healthier.

Right now, they sound pretty vague and it is hard to measure my progress as time goes on.

Breaking them down into habits, it means I will work on my blog early every morning, meditate every Monday to Friday (as a start) and drink at least one 16 oz water every day.

When I look back after the 90-day period, I would be able to count exactly how many hours I have been working on my blog, how many days I’ve continuously meditated and how much more water I have had.

And instead of waiting till the next New Year’s Eve to see how far you’ve progressed with your goals, you get to reflect at the end of the 90 day period, celebrate how far you have come, adjust your techniques and create new habits.

Now, doesn’t that look more achievable?


5. Instead of shouting from the rooftop your New Year’s resolutions, keep your goals a secret

We were told to broadcast our goals and the more people we tell, the more accountable we will be and the easier it is for us to stay focused on our goals.

Right? Except it doesn’t quite work that way.

Derek Sivers talk about this in a TED talk here. For those who prefer to read, he wrote about it on his blog too.

Telling people your goals can give you a premature sense of satisfaction, thus making you think you’re more ahead than you really are.

If you tell the wrong people your goals, it runs the risk of nay-sayers discouraging and distracting you from your goals.

However, if you have to share, share it with someone positive and someone that you trust. Share it because you want an accountability partner and that you know that person will give you a hard time if you veer off course.

So what will you do differently?

Achieving your goals can be tough but it’s achievable when we break it down into habits that we perform consistently.

Just imagine getting closer to your goals in the next 90 days because today, you decided to make a small and consistent change.

Or feeling confident and in control because you are focused on completing one small habit each day. And not being a victim to your goals anymore.

So act now. Review your life. Review the small habits you can do every day this week. And tell me in the comments below what they are so I can cheer you on.

[This was originally a guest post I wrote for Aha!NOW.]