The Secret to How I Actually Reach My Goals

The secret to how I actually reach my goals - April Bowles-Olin on Blacksburg Belle

Your New Year’s resolution sparkle has fizzled out.

You’ve skipped the gym a few times. You missed a couple blog posts. You actually never got past page five of that book you promised you were going to write this year. You didn’t reach your sales goal for January.

You’re discouraged. And, you’re frustrated with yourself. You might be thinking, “What the heck is wrong with me that I can’t keep up with my goals for more than a month? Why does everyone else seem to have it together?”

You really want 2014 to be THE year for you. I get it, and I’m with you. I’ve got big plans for this year: a speaking engagement I’m excited about {more on this later}, a new program I want to launch, a book I want to finish and a lot more.

So, I’m going to share my simple {yet awesome} secret with you on how I take those super big dreams and break them down into bite-sized bits of action.

First, I start by prioritizing my goals. {I know. BO-RING. But, it’s non-negotiable.}

Be realistic with how much you can actually accomplish right now. Don’t try to set eighteen million different goals, because you’ll get overwhelmed and give up. Remember that just because you set something aside for now doesn’t mean that you won’t ever get to it—you’re just not getting to it right now.

Narrow your focus to three goals or less. {That’s an order.}

They can be resolutions that you set at the beginning of the year. They can be health-related, personal, or something to do with finances. They don’t all have to be about your business {but if they are, that’s cool, too}.

You got your goals? {Scouts honor!}

Here’s the secret. The magic ingredient. And, it’s so easy.

All you need to do is make one decision or take one action that will get you closer to your goal{s} each day. It can be a tiny step or a huge leap. If you start today {yes, I’m giving you permission to reset your resolutions this instant}, by the end of the year, you’ll have made a ton of progress.

There’s one other piece to this puzzle: tracking your progress. In a journal or notebook, you need to write down what you did to work towards your goal{s} each day. If you didn’t do anything that day, you have to write, “I didn’t do anything to get closer to xyz.” This will hold you accountable and the tracking process will turn into a habit.

It will also help you to remember to take action every day.

Let me give you an example.

One of my goals for this year was to feel more creative. I want to make more time for creating and my hobbies because they make me incredibly happy. On a day-to-day basis, it looks something like this: Monday – Knitted for twenty minutes while watching Parenthood, Tuesday – Played in my art journal for thirty minutes, Wednesday – Took photos and played in my art journal for ten minutes, Thursday – Created my own recipe and tested it out, Friday – Worked on my Alabama Chanin poncho for an hour, Saturday – Worked on my Alabama Chanin poncho for two hours, Sunday – Played in my art journal for an hour.

If your goal is to improve your health and lose weight, a week of tracking your progress might look like this: Monday – Green smoothie for breakfast and passed on the birthday cake at the office, Tuesday – Hot yoga class, Wednesday – Ordered a large salad when we went out for dinner and walked for twenty minutes, Thursday – Walked for an hour, Friday – Hot yoga class, Saturday – Hiking with friends, Sunday – Green smoothie for breakfast.

This isn’t “I’m-going-to-change-my-life-in-one-week” kind of stuff, but it adds up over time. Those little steps that you take daily will create a new reality for you. They can {and will} change your life.

And, it’s doable, unlike so many other crazy goals that we set for ourselves. {Hello losing twenty pounds in ten days…} Instead of being so hard on yourself, you’re making one decision or taking one action every day that fits into your life to get closer to your goals.

This means if your goal is to get healthier and you don’t have time to exercise that day, you eat a salad for dinner instead of indulging in spaghetti and meatballs. Or, if your goal is to open an Etsy shop and you only have fifteen minutes to work on it today, you could work on writing one product description or you could spend those fifteen minutes editing a set of product photos.

The point is that if you set rules like you have to exercise for an hour or paint for three hours or write all of your product descriptions in one sitting, you’ll fail. If you give yourself some room to take actions that actually fit into your busy life, you’ll be much more likely to succeed.

It sounds possible, right?

Are you with me?

If so, what are you going to do today {even if it’s only for five minutes} to get closer to your goals?

I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.


22 Responses to The Secret to How I Actually Reach My Goals

  1. Linda February 12, 2014 at 8:02 pm #

    This whole article is so perfect. It all adds up over time. Beautifully written also. Best wishes, Linda

    • April February 13, 2014 at 10:54 am #

      Thanks Linda!

  2. Marian February 12, 2014 at 9:19 pm #

    This is good advice as always. I am 74 years old and look forward to your blog posts because you are talented, enthusiastic, and very bright.

    P.S. You look very pretty in the photo which I hope is current and that your health has improved tremendously.

    • April February 13, 2014 at 10:55 am #

      You’re awesome, Marian! Thank you so much for your kind words.

      My health hasn’t improved very much, but I’ve gotten really good at hiding my sickness.

  3. Natasha February 12, 2014 at 11:36 pm #

    So simple yet powerful! Thank you for sharing 🙂 Your posts and videos are always inspiring!

    • April February 13, 2014 at 10:55 am #

      Thanks Natasha! 🙂

  4. Luana February 13, 2014 at 12:32 am #

    Thank you very much for the advice, it makes a lot of good sense. Writing the little things I did day by day will encourage me to believe in myself, because I will always know I’ve tried my best. Even a little bit.

    • April February 13, 2014 at 10:56 am #

      Yes, Luana! Doing a little bit each day can make a huge difference over time. And, seeing it on paper definitely helps boost your confidence, because you can see the changes you’re making.

  5. Angie February 13, 2014 at 8:15 am #

    April, you seem to read my mind! I have been feeling discouraged as of late!
    Some things that I have been doing this week, I am trying to get my business more visible to brides-to-be, so every evening when I get home from work, I have been working and/or researching one type of marketing that targets my ideal client. And since I’m really tired after being at work all day, sometimes it’s only for 15 minutes! But I joined WeddingWire, and I’m also working on looking for bridal shows that I may be able to participate in, etc.

    I really like the idea of writing everything you do in a journal, I need to do that.

    Thanks for your advice and encouragement!

    • April February 13, 2014 at 11:00 am #

      It sounds like you’re making a lot of progress, Angie. Those 15 minutes will add up over time! But, I understand how discouraging it can be when you want to do more. When I was working full time, I was exhausted when I got home from work and felt frustrated with myself, so I can completely relate.

      Keep at it even if it’s just 15 minutes and at the end of the year, you’ll have made a lot of progress. And, write it down so you can scan your progress when you’re feeling discouraged. That’ll lift you up!

  6. Megan February 13, 2014 at 12:00 pm #

    This is such great advice! I was just thinking this morning I haven’t even looked at all the goals I wrote down at the beginning of the year. This is such a practical and less intimidating way of looking at it. Thanks so much for this, I’ve been feeling a bit lost and unmotivated in what I’m doing these past couple weeks- I’m going to try this out!
    Megan recently posted..Print Spotlight- Calm My Anxious Heart

    • April February 14, 2014 at 6:20 pm #

      It can be completely overwhelming to think about how you’re going to reach those HUGE goals that you set for yourself. This definitely makes it less intimidating while still holding yourself accountable. And, it works really, really, really well, because it becomes a habit! Please let me know how it goes for you, and I hope you feel more motivated and energized over the next few weeks.

  7. Jennifer Kennedy February 13, 2014 at 12:43 pm #

    I’ve just had a funeral for my 18 point TO DO List! R.I.P. This week I was seriously feeling unproductive. I would stare at all of the things on my list and be completely overwhelmed with where I needed to start!

    So, I’m happy to report that I’ve narrowed it down to 3 items and I feel I can breathe now!! Such a simple (yet powerful) idea. And, you’re right, it was impossible to get so much done in one day!

    Thanks for the inspiration and the kick in the pants!
    Jennifer Kennedy recently posted..Not Sure Where to Begin? Start with these Free Worksheets

    • April February 14, 2014 at 6:21 pm #

      Hahahahaha….YES!!!! Here’s to getting rid of those horrid million item to-do lists!

      I’d love to hear how it goes. When I narrowed my to-do list down to three to five items a day, I actually started getting so much more done. Crazy, right?

  8. Verónica February 13, 2014 at 2:51 pm #

    I love this gentle approach April, it matches perfectly with my feelings lately. I want to do lots of things but I’m trying not to get overwhelmed or lost in an ocean of planning. The journaling is a great idea, I usually make lists of pending stuff, so this will be a lovely change!
    Verónica recently posted..This is the year when you decide

    • April February 14, 2014 at 6:23 pm #

      I can completely relate to wanting to do a lot of different things. My husband said to me the other day, “You have more hobbies than anyone I know.” And, it’s true. I wish I could: write, paint, draw, sew, make jewelry, cook, and spend eight hours on my business every day. But, when I narrow my focus, I actually have a lot more time to do the things I love and I get a lot more done.

  9. lynni February 14, 2014 at 12:33 am #

    Hi April,
    What I do to reach my goals is work backwards. So, for this year I started with where I wanted to be and then listed each step in order to get there, then put it in a calender. I have kids so I don’t always get everything on my list done, but I know I’m working toward my goals each and every day!

    • April February 14, 2014 at 6:25 pm #

      Yes, that’s the BEST way to figure out how to reach those really big goals. My friend Mayi and I made a video about it that we used for our Connecting the Gaps launch. We call it reverse engineering. Figuring out the smaller steps that add up to that big goal is like a big “aha” moment. It’s like a spotlight of clarity! Thanks for sharing!

  10. Paula Martin February 28, 2014 at 12:46 pm #

    Dear April;

    I opened my Etsy shop just a few weeks ago, and based on my goals for my business, I everyday add a bit of “something” that will help me get started on sellings and making costumers want to buy and make me one of their favorites. Today this is my “somethig” to help me get started. Thank God, I am very organized and love planning my steps to help me reach my goals. I would love, if you can, to have a look at my shop and let me know your impressions. That would be wonderful and very helpfull!!!

    Thank you so much for sharring you knowledge and experiences and hope to hear from you soon.


    • April February 28, 2014 at 1:09 pm #

      Hi Paula!

      That’s a great strategy. A little something every day adds up to big somethings over time.

      Congrats on opening your Etsy shop! That’s a huge step. On first glance, my advice would be to learn as much as possible about product photography. You’ve got some beautiful pieces, but some of your pictures are really dark–I can’t see the pieces very well in some of them. When selling online, your product photos do all the selling, so that’s where I would focus my attention.

      I hope that helps some!

  11. Luiza March 1, 2014 at 9:21 am #

    That’s simply fantastic!
    Thank you so much for sharing! It’s so inspiring! I am feeling like I was working with this idea not realizing it and not apprechiating it enough. Lovely and very true.

    As one of my goals in get fit, I will take a walk today in a few short hours. Yay, great 🙂
    Luiza recently posted..Long Silk Scarf Calia Flowers hand painted handmade Scarves – green gold white by MinkuLUL

    • April March 3, 2014 at 5:01 pm #

      You’re so welcome, Luiza! I hope you had a lovely walk.

      You can reach any goal you want to if you take small steps to get there!

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