What to Do to Follow through on Goals in Life

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Goals are an integral part of our lives. Without them, we would be lost and fail to accomplish much in life.

However, not all of us are able to do what it takes to achieve their goals. Most often people start off with enthusiasm but gradually lose steam in a couple of days. The reason is that we are all humans and get easily distracted by bad habits.

Well if that’s the case you are not alone. I am going to share some real easy and practical tips that will help you develop good habits and keep you focussed towards your goal. First, let’s dive deeper to understand what causes you to fail.

Why is it Difficult to Stick to your Goals

Bad Habits are difficult to break free

Habits are formed when a behaviour is performed in response to a particular situation repeatedly over a period of time.

You might not notice but in an entire day; there are a number of little things you do as a part of a habit. Ex. Brushing teeth as soon as you get up, your breakfast or morning coffee etc. According to ScienceDaily; Studies show that about 40 percent of people’s daily activities are performed each day in almost the same situations.

Our brain works on a trigger reward based system. When a situation presents itself, the brain analyses the situation and acts in a certain way in response to the same. The outcome of our actions largely determine the possibility to act in the exact same manner when the same situation presents itself.

Ex. You are bored and someone told you about Netflix. Watching Netflix makes you feel good and you do it again whenever you feel bored. You do this repeatedly and gradually; this becomes a part of your habit. So; each time you are bored your brain directs you to watch Netflix as an automatic behaviour.

The feeling of happiness after watching Netflix gives you an incentive to watch it again and again whenever you are bored thus making it a habit. Exercising is a good habit. Good habits demand effort and do not give a feeling of instant happiness.

As is the case with good habits; it takes time to see any visible changes thus giving you less incentive to continue doing it day after day in absence of any reward. Reward can be anything. Ex. Money, happiness, good food, feeling of cleanliness etc.

To sum it up, rewards drive our actions and repeated actions lead to formation of new habits. Therefore, bad habits are relatively easily formed and take time and effort to get rid of.

New Habits don’t just happen overnight

Not only is it challenging to break free from long term habits, but it also isn’t any easier to develop new ones.

There has been a lot of research to identify how long it takes to form a habit. Several psychologists and advice columns have suggested that 21 days is the magic number you need to do look out for to develop a habit. Although, this number varies from person to person.

As explained in the recent research conducted by Phillipa Lally and her team; the time taken by participants (in the research conducted) to reach an automaticity of a behaviour varies from 18 to 254 days. Thus, the study highlights that it can take a very long time for individuals to automate a certain behaviour for it to become a habit.


As human beings, we are always looking for the simplest and quickest ways of getting things done. Rapid advancement in technology is proof of that. Millions of companies are constantly competing with each other to develop solutions focussed on maximizing output with reduced time and efforts.

Unfortunately, it takes time and effort to develop good habits. Also, as explained in the first point; you can hardly see any visible changes in the initial days. In such cases, it is easy to lack motivation and slide back to your regular lives.

Vague or improper goal setting

Goal: ‘I will meditate every day from tomorrow onwards’.

You must be wondering what’s wrong with this? Well, you have an intent to meditate but this goal statement isn’t specific. You are not sending clear instructions to your brain.

Goal: ‘I will meditate from 7.00am to 7.15 am every day in my room ‘.

Now, the above goal gives a clear and detailed picture that this is the time when you have to sit and meditate in your room. Our brain is designed to address specifics and details.

For example, when your boss asks you to complete an assignment, you require all the details – like what is the deadline, what are the specifics of the deal, what all needs to be done, etc. You can’t perform with missing details.

Setting too High Expectations

Most often people set too high expectations for them. You do not set realistic goals for yourself. You see a friend or a neighbour going for a run every morning. He goes to the gym as well and eats healthy. This motivates you to follow the footsteps of your neighbour and you set extremely high target for yourself without thinking objectively what is it that you can do..

Unfortunately, people get intimidated by other people and set unrealistic goals for themselves and ultimately fail.

6 Pro Tips to Achieve your Goals

Be patient and calm

It takes time to make shifts in routine or lifestyle. Leaving bad habits or adopting new ones isn’t easy. So, stick through the process. Another way of thinking that helped me personally:

My binge eating or outside habits were not formed in a day. It was when I started ordering food repetitively twice or thrice every week; only then I was able to see the increase in my weight.

Likewise, you can’t expect to see changes in a week. So, just be patient and calm. Endure the process and practice self-restraint. You will see the results over a course of time for sure.

Take Baby Steps Initially

You have a set goal for yourself. The best way to achieve goals is to break them up into small achievables and work on them step by step instead of taking it all at once.

This is a very systematic approach to achieving goals that might seem overwhelming initially. But once you have set small targets for yourself, it becomes easier for you to accomplish them one at a time.

Ex. You decide to lose 5 kgs of weight in a month. You understand you need to go to the gym, stop binge eating, stop ordering outside greasy food, make major shifts to your food habits.

Well, you can’t do all of this at the same time therefore; take up tasks bit by bit. You could start with going to gym and later move towards a healthy diet. Once you have shifted to a healthy eating habit, you could limit binge eating and so on.

Detail oriented Goal setting

Set specific and clear goals for your brain to execute. This has been discussed above in the section ‘Vague and Improper Goal setting’ with an example.

Coupling new habits with existing ones

You have an existing habit in place. When trying to develop a new one, all you need to do is twin in together a habit you have been doing for years.

Ex. You decide to meditate every day.

Say to yourself,’ I will meditate for 15 mins right after I brush my teeth or I will meditate right after I have my coffee.’ This technique is particularly useful as it is easy to remember and gives a sense of direction to your mind.

Write it down

When I need to stick with a schedule or a new goal, I simply write it down every day. It really helps as when you write it down every morning, you are reaffirming yourself that this is what you need to do. That way you are less likely to stray away.

Ex. I noticed that while I work at home, I tend to watch Netflix and find it hard to switch off the TV and get back to work. Since there isn’t anyone supervising me, I lose self-control and discipline.

Therefore, I made a routine for myself and every morning looked at it to remind myself the things needed to be accomplished during the day. Initially, I deviated from the routine and watched TV, however very soon I began to feel self-guilt as a result of my actions and switched off the TV in like 10 or 15 mins.

Gradually, I was able to break off this bad habit of mine.

10 mins Rule

Let’s accept it. Good habits are boring! They require effort, discipline and self-control. Nevertheless, they are much more rewarding and worthwhile in the long run. I read this 10-minute rule in one of the books ‘Atomic Habits’ by James Clear and found this extremely effective. Start with a new habit only for 10 mins. Go to the gym only for 10 mins. Practice meditation, go for a walk or read a book only for 10 mins.

As per the rule; you practice a new habit every day only for 10 mins, not a minute less or more than that. You won’t feel the burden or compulsion weighing on you and you will happily stick to the habit. You do this regularly and one day you’d think, ‘Well I have been coming to the gym all this while, why not stay a bit longer than 10 mins.’

The above tips are shared based on my past experiences and have worked like a charm for me. I am certain these will prove to be useful for you too. For more useful tips on habits and goal setting; I recommend you to check the content on the blog by James Clear. I am sure that you will find several useful advices to attain a happy and successful life.

Cite this paper

What to Do to Follow through on Goals in Life. (2021, Feb 23). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/what-to-do-to-follow-through-on-goals-in-life/

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