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No one starts a book on the last page or begins a movie by watching the last five minutes. However, when goal-setting, beginning at the end instead of the beginning, is some of the best advice I’ve ever received.
We often put a lot of thought into deciding what we want to accomplish, but not as much energy into planning out the steps to achieve said goal. To crush your goals, you must reverse engineer your way from the top to your starting point, and here’s how:
Be Very Specific with Your Goals
If you’re clear about exactly what you want to accomplish, how can you make the necessary plans to get it done? Before you make a plan, you need to know your end goal. Making general statements like, “I want to save money this year,” or “I want to lose weight,” actually make them harder to accomplish. How much money do you want to save, or how much weight do you want to lose? I heard a wonderful quote from Cynthia Erivo recently:
“To be very specific about the things that you want in your life, to see them clearly, actually helps to bring them into fruition.”–Interview with Oprah
The way to ultimately plan for success is to lay out exactly what you want, so your mind has a clear picture of precisely what you are trying to achieve.
Last Step First
When setting goals, we often think about the first thing we need to do to get the ball rolling. When reverse engineering your goals, the first thing you need to do figure out is the last step in your goal process and work from there. If your goal is to get a higher-paying job, the last step before that is clearly a job offer. To get a job offer, you need to interview. To get an interview, you need to network, etc. Seeing the end of the path will help you set a plan for how to get there.
We often write out our first step and then once that is accomplished, we plan for the next. To jump-start your success, look at the whole process and plan every step before you start. Once you have planned out the steps, review them and see if they make sense, keeping in mind that you may need to rework some along the way.
If you have a long-term goal you want to accomplish—something with a timeline of a year or longer—then setting milestones along the way is a great way to keep yourself motivated and on track. Saving money for a down payment or opening a business takes time, so celebrate your success along the way when you save your first $5k or find your first investor. Set a handful of critical milestones along the way that you can cross off when you reach them. Nothing is more motivating than being able to cross a major task off your list when you are trying to accomplish something big!
Set Deadlines and Stick to Them
As you reverse engineer your goals, set appropriate timelines for yourself. A study from the Harvard Business Review indicated that we all tend to procrastinate when we have extended deadlines. I, for one, know that when given more time, I generally take it, as opposed to finishing early. As you map your steps to achieve your goal, note a timeline for each step that forces you to work expeditiously. A shorter deadline will motivate you to finish each task quickly so you can move on to accomplish the next step toward your goal.
As you approach every new goal you set, follow this method. It has transformed the way I make plans and tackle big projects, and I am sure it will help you crush your goals this year and every time thereafter!