Consistently Achieve Your Goals — For Real This Time

The no-excuses system to make changes that stick.

Cut flowers in mason jars of water with reflection
Cut flowers in mason jars of water with reflection
Image courtesy Maria Shanina on Pixabay

“We are what we repeatable do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” — Aristotle

This past summer I set a goal to drink more water. I knew the health benefits, I was motivated to incorporate more H20 into my life by dreams of hydrated skin and flushed out toxins. I planned to pour myself a pint glass of water in the morning, again in the afternoon, and have some beside my bed at night. Since I was in the habit I’d probably be inclined to drink more in between.

That was it — my whole plan start to finish.

I set an intention…and then I assumed my best-intentioned-self would follow through. The plan was obviously good for me. It was logical — and — it was my idea. Why wouldn’t I be motivated?

I followed this plan for a sum total of 36 hours. It looked a bit like -

  • Morning 1 — I got up and drank a glass of water before I started the coffee maker. Killing it.

I’m going to bet that you have found yourself in a similar position at least once in life. Clear, measurable, beneficial goal. An intention to start. Get started and feel good about yourself — and then it falls off the rails. I was left feeling mild shame (The goal was so easy! What is wrong with me?) and like I had had a minor set-back. There wasn’t a lot of incentive to try again tomorrow once I was in that headspace and I let it go. You multiply that feeling by twenty small goals not achieved in a year because <insert reason here> and you’re left with a large dose of frustration.

Breaking The Cycle

After the water incident I wanted to break that ‘idea — fail — shame’ cycle and decided to try a new approach — a goals journal.

  • I had journaled through my childhood and teen years. Journaling has been proven to both increase short term working memory and clear the mind of intrusive thoughts. With a settled mind the writer can make room for more helpful cognitive functions like stress management and decision making. I needed to infuse both into my process.

My hypothesis was that if I wrote it down it would be more likely to stick. I decided to purchase a goals journal and give this method a shot in an attempt to create lasting habits and more confidence in my ability to stick to it. I decided I would take my goals journal everywhere with me as a physical reminder of pending action. I would be as consistent as possible writing daily for three weeks. I gave myself permission to stop in three weeks if I didn’t feel like the practice was adding enough value for my effort. Finally, I asked a trusted friend right up front to check in on my progress (‘Hey! How is the goals journaling coming along?’) a few times during this experiment time frame.

SELF journal on a bed with handwritten notes
SELF journal on a bed with handwritten notes
Week 3 in progress in my Best Self, Co SELF Journal

The Experiment Ends

I stuck to my rules and journaled my goals and progress for three weeks. Here’s what I learned from the experiment -

  1. Writing down goals clarifies how life will improve once you reach that milestone. It’s important to understand WHY you are working toward a specific objective and describe the intended outcome. Example — ‘I want to create space for my passion projects because being sparked creatively gives me more joy in everyday life.’

Did It Make A Difference?

At the end of the three week cycle I had achieved -

  • 24.5 new actions from habit commitments. Out of the five main habits I checked off each day, I was generally successful 70% of the time. This equates to (5 opportunities a day * 7 days a week = 35 opportunities to reach my goal )* .7 success rate = 24.5 new actions every week. I added more consistent action to transform my habits. [Author’s Note — Ha! And here I thought all those math courses would never come in handy.]

The System Works

Image for post
Image for post
Image courtesy Maria Shanina on Pixabay

Aristotle has been quoted to say “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” Goal journaling is a simple yet surprisingly effective method to consistently change habits and reach goals. There is very little start-up cost and you can start tomorrow with a pen, paper, and a plan. Adding in a friend or two to support your efforts, paired with writing down your goals, is a proven method to consistently reach your goals.

I would encourage you to test the waters and give goal journaling a try. Set yourself up with this simple yet powerful system and reach your goals consistently by tracking progress along the way.

About the author: Hi! My name is Jess Anderson (MBA, CSPO). I am a technologist based in Louisville, Ky. I lead technology product and project management teams and am ‘mom’ to two school aged kids.

Originally published at on November 26, 2019.

Written by

I help busy people optimize life. Business technologist. Fan of human potential, creativity, collaboration, entrepreneurial spirit.

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