Seven Essential Strategies for Accomplishing Big Dreams

Do you realize we are much more likely to come to the end of our days with a longer list of regrets than achievements? Over the course of our days, big dreams and long-term goals commonly get pushed aside and resurrect themselves as regrets.

Charles Hummel wrote “Tyranny of the Urgent.” The tyranny of the urgent simply says we live in constant tension between the urgent and the important.

“We have left undone those things which we ought to have done; and we have done those things which we ought not to have done.”

Our tendency or propensity is to allow what is urgent to push aside the actions essential for accomplishing big dreams. It must be why Mark Twain said,

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you did not do than by the ones you did.”

The achievement and pursuit of long-term goals and progress is vital to good health and aging. John Goddard was one of the first great examples of long-term goal achievement.

Goddard got started on his big dream list when he was 15. He overheard one of his parents’ friends talking about how he regretted not pursuing his dreams and ambition. Goddard was so struck by the experience that he made a commitment to live with no regrets.

So, at the age of 15, John Goddard sat down and made a list of 127 things he wanted to do during his lifetime. Goddard’s died just shy of his 89th birthday. He accomplished 109 of his original 127 dreams, setting numerous records along the way.

“The most productive and rewarding years of your life are the ones that remain – it is up to you.”

Here are seven essential strategies for accomplishing long-term goals.

  1. Clarify and define your goal. Things we place out into the future are vague. Vague will not move you to action. Edwin Lock and Gary Latham are two eminent research psychologists in the field of organizational behavior and goal achievement. Based on more than 1,000 research studies, they found that highly defined and clarified goals result in superior achievement versus goals that are vague.
  2. Set goals that stretch and challenge you. Again, Locke and Latham found that performance and achievement rises when goals are difficult and challenging. Write them in first-person, pre-possession form – read more about why this is so important.
  3. Define why you want to achieve the goal. Researchers talk about the “Expectancy Value Theory” of motivation which reflects your assessment of how likely you are to be successful and how much you think you will benefit. Achieving long-term goals is challenging and becomes nearly impossible if you do not compose a list of the benefits you will accrue from its achievement.
  4. Expect and welcome challenges. Gabriele Oettingen (Ph.D., NYU) is one of the top researchers in the field of achievement. Her research concludes that while successful goal achievers have confidence they will succeed, they also expect difficulties and challenges along the way.
    • Oettingen’s research concludes goal achievement improves by employing “mental contrasting” – imagining and seeing yourself attaining a goal and reflecting on the obstacles and difficulties that will stand in your way.
    • Why does this work? Because when you expect resistance you are predisposed to persist, celebrate progress, and focus on the process which are critical to achieving long-term goals.
  5. Break it down into smaller actions, assignments, and projects.
    • Here is a checklist of questions to help break your goal down.
      • What skills do you need to acquire or improve?
      • What knowledge do you need?
      • What obstacles do you need to address?
      • What resources do you need? Money? Assets?
  6. Block out time on your calendar. You can’t do everything at once, but you can do something. You would be amazed at how much progress you would make if you invested as little as 15 minutes a day towards one of your big, important, long-term goals.
  7. Seek regular feedback. Gail Matthews, Ph.D., Dominican University, found that the simple act of sharing your goal progress with a friend, once a week, increase goal achievement by as much as 63%. Feedback is vitally important to sustaining progress towards long-term goals.
    • This works because your brain works to reduce discrepancies. A discrepancy defines the gap between where you currently are in relation to actually achieving your goal. Your brain naturally wants to act on the discrepancy.
    • Feedback is critical because in the absence of feedback there is no discrepancy to detect, so nothing happens.

Five years from now, you shouldn’t be satisfied if your life is pretty much the same as it is today because no one has your unique talents and abilities to fulfill a great purpose you were designed to fulfill.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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3 thoughts on “Seven Essential Strategies for Accomplishing Big Dreams

  1. Great article as usual Jim! I have printed it out and will work on writing my goals down (in first person form) so I can see them everyday!
    thanks and take care-

    • My pleasure Jane – our thinking primes every action we take. I have found this to be incredibly effective and look forward to hearing about how it impacts your journey. Thanks for reading and sharing our work.