Have you ever had an ambition or desire that you simply couldn’t see yourself achieving? A goal that, given your past behavior doesn’t seem likely to be obtained? Becoming fit and healthy when you are already significantly overweight and have failed all your past dieting attempts. Becoming rich when you are deep in debt and have no prospects for increasing your income. Having a loving relationship when you have always been alone.
Small pieces of success are easy when they are already built on a foundation of past success. Earning 20% more sales in one year is relatively easy when you are already a fantastic salesperson. Building success from scratch can be much more difficult. Permanently losing weight when you have always struggled with health can often seem impossible.
Most people don’t realize that the best approach to achieving goals in an area where you are already successful is quite different then one you are starting from scratch. Because of this they often fail to make improvement. With a new approach to goal-setting you can make dramatic change even in an area of your life where you believed change was impossible.
Start With Habits
Success is like creating a building. You wouldn’t start building if you didn’t first lay the foundation. Yet many people try to do exactly this in their lives. They see someone who owns a skyscraper adding on a small addition and wonder why they can’t even get started. Without a foundation their building collapses.
What is the foundation of success? Habits. Successful people have successful habits. Healthy people have habits of eating well and exercising often. Rich people have habits of being productive, managing their money well and investing properly. Attractive people have social habits of how they deal with others and think about themselves.
When most people start making a change in their life, they set a lot of result-oriented goals. Objectives like “Earning $2000 by the end of the month” or “Losing twenty pounds by the 25th”. Setting goals like this is great, but if you are just starting out you will probably fail all but the easiest of them. Without the proper base of successful habits, your results will be hit or miss.
Instead when you are first starting out in an area, start with action-oriented goals. These goals will help you install the correct ways of thinking and acting so that you can later focus more on results. Goals like, “Exercising an hour every day for the next thirty days,” are far more likely to be successful.
When you have already build up some success in an area, that is the time to start using more results-oriented goals. Because once you’ve built the foundation of successful habits, you only need to make slight adjustments to have a huge impact in your results. But if you start out with only results-oriented goals success will be much like throwing darts at a target blindfolded.
The hardest part of achieving success in any area is building up momentum. Once you’ve built up momentum, it can almost be harder to not succeed. Your habits and actions are so perfectly coordinated that only minor corrections and inputs of willpower are necessary to create success.
If you are stuck in a rut in any area of your life, this is the time to examine your habits and rework the foundation. Check out my Habitual Mastery  series for more information on changing and installing habits.
The world isn’t capricious or compassionate. If you don’t think you are the kind of person that can achieve the goals you desire, you are probably right. So change that person. Build the proper foundation of habits. Become the person that can achieve goals that are impossible.