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Achieving your goals in business and life

24 July 2017

Owain Service and Rory Gallagher of the UK and Australian Behavioural Insights Teams in their book “Think Small: The Surprisingly Simple Ways to Reach Big Goals” distil a number of research papers into 7 practical steps to achieve your personal or business goals.

 Below are the summarised steps.


Choose the right goals

You should start by asking yourself what goals you really want to achieve and focus on those that are most likely to improve your wellbeing.

Focus on the five factors to improve your wellbeing

                                                              i.      Strengthen your social relationships

                                                             ii.      Getting healthy and active

                                                            iii.      Learning something new

                                                           iv.      Being curious; or

                                                             v.      Giving to others

Focus on a single goal and set a clear target and deadline.

You should now focus on one objective (rather than your long list of New Year’s resolutions), and set yourself a clear target and deadline for achieving it.

Break your goal down into manageable steps.

You’ll find it much easier to reach your ultimate objective if you identify the small steps along the way to achieving it.


Keep it simple

You should create simple, clear rules that reduce the mental effort required to stick to your goal and let you know when you are transgressing form your objective.

Create and actionable plan

You’ll find that being able to state how, when and where you’re going to take actions needed to achieve each of these steps will make it more likely you’ll follow through.

Turn the plan into habits

By repeating the same actions in response to the same cues, you’ll be able to create habits that make it much easier to achieve your goal.


Make a commitment

The first step is to make your pledge, and to ensure that this is clearly linked to your headline goal and the small steps you have created to help you achieve it.

Write it down and make it public.

You’re more likely to stay true to your commitment if you write it down and make it public.

Appoint a commitment referee.

A referee will help you stay true to your core objective. The ideal person is someone you trust but who will not be afraid to mete our penalties if you fail.


Put something meaningful at stake

Link achieving your ultimate goal to a significant reward, and make it binding and enforceable.

Use small rewards to build good habits

Motivate yourself or others along the way by using smaller incentives linked to specific steps needed to achieve the overarching goal.

Beware of backfire effects

Financial incentives can ‘crowd out’ your intrinsic motivations, so be careful that rewards (or penalties) don’t undermine good intentions. You can do this by using different types of non-financial rewards.


Ask for help

You are more likely to achieve your goal if you get someone to help you. You may be surprised at how willing others will be to support you.

Tap into your social networks

The networks we are embedded within have a profound effect on our behaviour. There are lots of ways you can draw on them to help you achieve your goals.

Use group power

Band together with a large group of people trying to achieve the same goal, and you’re likely to achieve more, faster, than you can by yourself.


Know where you stand in relation to your goal

You need to be able to draw on information that shows where you are in relation to your goal.

Make it timely, specific, actionable and focused on effort

Ideally you want feedback that is personal to you, clear about what you need to keep doing or do differently and given as close to event as possible.

Compare your performance with others

If you can, you should also find out how well you are doing in comparison with others. In some situations, this can be the most powerful feedback of all.


Practice with focus and effort

If you goal requires you to improve your performance over time, you should remember that the quality of practice is as important as the amount of time you spend doing it.

Test and learn

Once you’ve broken your goal down into discrete steps, you can improve your performance through experimentation – by testing the small changes, to see what works and what doesn’t.

Reflect and celebrate success

Take some time to reflect on what has worked well (and not so well), and make sure you celebrate what you have achieved before moving on to the next goal.