Updated on 03.16.10

Eight Simple Tactics for Achieving Your Big Goal

Trent Hamm

Every single one of us has some sort of big project hanging out there in our lives. We’d love to accomplish it, but it seems so big and the free space in our life seems so small.

Spend a monent and think about what your big goal is. It could be something as down-to-earth as a major home repair. It could be something as horizon-stretching as launching a new career or new business. It could be something completely crazy, like moving to Norway.

Whatever it is, keep that goal in mind as you read the eight tactics below. Ask yourself how you could actually apply each of these tactics towards your goal. By the end, you just might find that you’ve worked out a plan to take you from the mundane here to the amazing there.

Stop Thinking About Failure
What if I don’t succeed?

That’s often the big question that holds us back from taking big leaps in our life. We see something that would require a lot of work and energy and time and we can’t imagine the disappointment and pain if it didn’t work.

To that, I say who cares if it doesn’t work? If this is your dream, the process to get there should be filled with fun for you. Even if the destination isn’t what you dreamed of, the journey there will be fulfilling.

I want to be a fiction writer. In fifteen years of attempts, I have not successfully published a single piece of fiction. I keep writing, though. Why? Because it’s a lot of fun, regardless of whether I succeed or fail. In fact, I don’t even think about failure. It doesn’t matter. I write stuff I like and keep sending it out, at which point I’ve already succeeded. Anything else is just icing on the cake.

Keep Your Goal Within the Realm of Reality
Goals like quadrupling your salary in six months are going to backfire and demotivate you. No matter how good you are, they’re simply not going to happen.

One great way to make sure a goal is realistic is to ask yourself how much of the success of that goal relies solely on you. The more that relies solely on you and not on the actions of others, the more likely you’ll find success.

Another effective tool is to get your goal reviewed, but we’ll talk about that in a bit.

Take Small Bites Every Day
Every day that goes by, you should take some sort of action towards your goal. Take a walk for better health. Read a book for your education. Write 1,000 words a day (as Stephen King famously suggested for budding writers). Do something to stretch your skills or to learn more about the area where your goal is focused. Take an incremental step directly towards your goal.

The big advantage to doing this is that it keeps your goal always fresh in your mind while slowly reducing the size of the iceberg. You’re always moving in the right direction, bringing that mountain in the distance closer and closer and always keeping it in mind.

Find a Mentor
A mentor is someone who can offer you unbiased and worthwhile advice about your goal and your approaches to achieving it. A mentor can fulfill more of a coaching role, pushing you along through the specifics, or more of a guidance-based role, offering you general feedback on your goals and plans to get there.

How do you find a mentor? Seek out people who are successful in your area of interest, as well as people who are knowledgable about the area you’re trying to cover. Places to start might include your doctor, your social network, or your work environment.

Find Positive Support
Having people that you can discuss your progress with and who will support you in a positive way is essential for big goals. Good positive support fills you with confidence and helps you pick yourself back up after struggling with a particular goal.

This might not be your usual social network. Many people are often unhelpful when it comes to the positive support that others need. Do the people around you make you feel good about the things you want to do? If they don’t, it may be time to start seeking out more positive people to surround yourself with.

Remember, a good, valuable friend is one who makes you feel better about yourself and makes you feel ready to conquer the difficult things in life.

Shred Your Routine
When we have a highly established daily/weekly routine, it can often feel impossible to find room in that schedule for the things we dream of doing. Our routine feels natural and it enables us to keep up with the day-to-day ebb and flow of events.

If you want to find room for that goal, shake up your routine. Start doing some things before work instead of after work. Drop an activity or two that’s gone stale for you. Start taking a nap. Stop watching television or surfing the internet as much.

Shaking up your routine makes many things in your life feel new, and that’s a perfect time to start working every day towards a big goal in your life.

Share Your Goal Widely
Turn the people in your life into motivators by telling them about your goal. When you share your goals with the key people in your life, they become a source of motivation to get up and do something.

On one level, you’re personally motivated because you simply don’t want to show failure to the people in your life. On another level, they will often actually motivate you.

Know Your Motivation
Why are you working towards this goal? If it’s just something you want, it’s much easier to put it aside. It is much easier to convince yourself to make the hard choices if you’re making those hard choices for the benefit of others.

Learning something new because it fulfills you is an easy thing to put off. Learning something new because it brings value to others is much more urgent.

Keep that motivation front and center. Use visual reminders of your motivation. Put a picture of someone you really want to impress on the front of your refrigerator if you’re trying to diet, for example. Wrap your credit cards in a picture of your children. These external sources will motivate you to make the little choices that build the foundation of success.

Good luck!

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  1. Stephen says:

    Wonderful and timely post. I’ve been thinking about a major life change within the next year (going from a lucrative career in IT to travelling to third world countries doing volunteer and charity work) and am very overwhelmed by the entire process. I feel like I will fail, I feel like I don’t know what to do, and that there’s just too much to do to make this change happen. Thanks for the insight and motivation to get moving!

  2. David says:

    Presumably all the good Norwegians have moved to Iowa (as I seem to recall Trent asserting in previous posts). Otherwise it would not be completely crazy, or crazy at all, to move to Norway.

  3. CB says:

    It’s very cold in Norway half the year, and darker, too. Stockholm is known as the 24-hour nightclub in the winter.

    As for traveling to third-world countries and volunteering, it is possible if you work contract in your field and when you can take a break, go for the gold.

  4. The one I’ve just started to do and you mentioned is ‘find a mentor’. I’m starting my first bee colony and after reading all about it I went out and found a mentor who I could talk to and work with before taking the plunge into the passion of beekeeping!

  5. Steffie says:

    Looked up Norway, doesn’t sound so bad…good education, health care, lots of stuff to do, close to Europe…The word ‘crazy’ seems rather negative and contrary to the message of the post.

  6. Johanna says:

    And don’t forget the calm and friendly personalities…

  7. reulte says:

    Steffie — uh, Norway isn’t close to Europe — it’s in Europe.

    I think the ‘crazy’ part of the idea is the moving – having done it so many times in my life. Although, I suspect that if I declutter efficiently, it wouldn’t be so crazy.

    I like the “Shred your routine” advice. It particularly points out what is actually currently necessary in your life as well as what is unnecessary. So many times we find ourselves doing things by rote; not even paying attention to where we are, who we are with, what we are doing.

  8. JonFrance says:


    Clearly Steffie was referring to _inhabited_ Europe :-p

  9. David says:

    And CB (#3) was clearly referring to some small Norwegian village that shares a name with Stockholm, the capital of Sweden.

  10. reulte says:

    JonFrance — Ohhh! :-)

  11. -hilde says:

    You guys! As a Norwegian I of course take exception to the thought that moving here is crazy :-) The act of moving across the Atlantic I can concede is crazy (having done it myself).

    Wonderful post, Trent. I was just pondering how to keep striving towards a bigger goal when all individual days seems filled with “everyday” stuff.

  12. Matt says:

    For budding writers, Stephen King’s advice (from his book “On Writing”) was invaluable to me. He basically says to just set yourself a word quota per day and write until you reach it. Stop thinking in terms of chapters, passages, or whatever… just realize that as long as you’re putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), you’re moving your career forward.

    I started out a while ago at a modest 500 words/day, which in the beginning was hard simply because I wasn’t used to it. I have a recurring scheduled event every few months to evaluate my current quota and adjust it. I like to shift it *just* outside of my comfort zone so that I continually push myself.

  13. Lexi says:

    Great post, Trent! I used wrote a post myself based on this one.

    I’m currently trying to live the life I want to live and become the person I want to be and this is some excellent advice!


  14. Stewart says:

    One of the most important things is missing. Make a decision to do everything and anything to get your goal and to keep going until you get it.

    Only when you are ‘totally committed’ do the obstacles shrink from view. When you are committed, no obstacle is as big or as powerful as your dream and your decision to achieve it.

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