The Most Effective Ways to Stick to Your Goals (3/3)

It’s no secret that I set goals and I’m big advocate of you doing so as well. I wrote a series on goal-setting and starting in November and I used my blog to create public accountability for my personal goals just last week.

It hadn’t occurred to me to talk about struggle of how to stick to your goals day-in and day-out, but that’s what I’m going to dive into today. Please take into account, this is what works best for me. You may need a little more or a little less, it depends on you. My objective today is to share what I do, how I do it, and to get you think about how you can accomplish your goals.

Your Personal Journey

Goals are personal, and everyone has aspirations for different things in their lives. That being said, the path to accomplishing your personal goals is a personal journey. It has to be something you are passionate about and you have to want it. There will be sacrifice and there will be times when it’s much easier to give up. But if it’s truly worth that pain and anguish, the taste of victory when you cross it off your list will be one of the sweetest things you’ve tasted in your life.

If you do not feel alive when you talk about accomplishing your goals, they may not be that important to you. If you don’t get a little bit nervous when you tell someone about them, you probably aren’t setting the bar high enough for yourself. If these feelings don’t ring a bell, take a look at these two posts about goal setting to help get this journey started in the right direction.

What organizational skills do you need to reach goals?

With any goals I set, I think about them in terms of ‘the big picture’ first and then I work my way down to the details. We all have grandiose pictures of ourselves on top of mountains with ice forming on our faces screaming at the world below, “I DID IT!” But very rarely do we think about the baby steps it takes to get to that summit.

After a specific goal is set with a deadline, I begin to work backwards. Let’s take my goal of finishing a marathon for example. I was injured in the weeks leading up to the event and by the time I was healthy enough to start training, I only had 8 weeks to prepare. With the help of my girlfriend and my brother, I was able to put together a training schedule that tied up 12-15 hours of every week leading up to the race.

This is extreme for most goals in terms of time, but the important thing is that I had a plan. I had a plan that required me to work towards that goal just a little bit each day. When we set our goals, if we only plan on ‘getting around to them’ once a week or once a month, we don’t really want to get them done. On the other hand, if we put a little bit of effort towards them each day (like running/cross-training/stretching each day) a couple things happen.

  1. We are constantly reminded of them and they stay in front of us like a carrot
  2. We are less likely to give up on them because we have dedicated something ‘every day’ to them, instead of 1/2 a lazy Sunday

How do you stay motivated? Especially for long-term goals?

I have talked about public accountability before, but I can’t stress it enough for me. I don’t like to let the people around me down and I do not lie to people. So when something comes out of my mouth am going to stick by it. But maybe you don’t operate like that, maybe you don’t want the world to know. Just tell a few people that you know will keep you accountable.

Maybe it’s a parent or a best friend or someone you know won’t let you get away with cheating, that will call you out. I have lots of friends like that and I actively seek them out when I’m looking to take on something huge, it helps when they’re there to encourage me and not let me give up. If you don’t know anyone, contact me and I’ll keep you accountable. I know how powerful it is to have someone push you and I’m more than willing to help!

Motivation is also intrinsic. But, we all need reminders of why we started. I love the Expo Marker on the mirror trick, other people will use visuals as well. My friend Markus used to write something motivational on his ceiling so when he laid in bed he’d see it and know that he couldn’t just lay there any be lazy. Some people that are aiming to lose weight put their worst picture or their starting picture on the refrigerator so they see it each time they go to eat. Whatever your visual is, find one. Then take it and put it in a place where you know you cannot avoid it:stick to your goals

  • your car
  • your refrigerator
  • your bathroom mirror
  • your lock screen on your phone
  • your desktop/laptop background

And then the hardest part comes – DO NOT COMPROMISE! Remind yourself of why you started. Remind yourself how inspired you felt when you wrote that goal down. Remind yourself of how bad you felt when you wanted to turn things around. Remind yourself of how good it felt the last time you accomplished a goal.

Find that intrinsic motivation and dig deep. Anything worth accomplishing is not going to be easy, you’ll have to develop some mental strength, but you can do it! The more you push through, the more confidence you build and it’s a snowball effect. Keep setting goals and pushing on to the next big thing. 

How do you maintain balance without a goal taking over your life?

This part is tough, especially for those of us that are ambitious achievers and those of us that are competitive, we don’t like to put other things ahead of our goals. I’m all of those, so I know how difficult it can be. First off, set your priorities before you take the journey towards these goals. Try to think about what you’re willing to sacrifice (food, a movie night, etc.) and what you aren’t willing to sacrifice (time with family, your health, etc.) Know that your goals don’t define you, that they’re only part of you. An accomplished goal won’t make or break you, but the journey will help shape your character. 

Second, give yourself a realistic time frame. This starts in the goal setting phase, but works into how we plan out our goals. If I were to run another marathon, I’d give myself more than 8 weeks to train because of how rushed and overwhelmed I felt while training for the last one. If I had 12 or 16 weeks, I wouldn’t have had to been so pressured to forgo as much as I did in the weeks leading up the race.

Finally, try to give yourself varying experiences for your goals. If you only set financial goals, you’ll become obsessed with money. If you only set physical goals, you’ll spend all your time at the gym and neglect your friends and family. Set different goals for different phases of your life and you’ll be happier and more eager to attack the next goals instead of burning out on work or the gym.

The idea for this post came from a good friend, Becca Cook, that gave me some great feedback the last time I talked about goals and goal setting. When I asked for feedback on what my readers would enjoy, she immediately asked me more about long-term goals. Thank you for the inspiration Becca, hope this helps you to accomplish some of those outstanding goals!


I’m serious about the accountability thing, I will help push you! What are some of your goals? How can you apply some of these principles to your life or organization?

Thanks for reading, have a great day!

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  • M

    What do you got on quitting something? I quit drinking a while back and am very proud of myself for that… however I’ve used smoking mj as a crutch more and more since alcohol is not on the table and I’ve come to realise that is no longer serving my best interest as well. It makes me lazy and not want to socialize. but this is proving tougher to quit than alcohol was. Id love to hear your insight!

    • Mike McCann

      This is something I will also be tackling over the coming weeks, “When it’s good to quit” is a hard concept for each of us. Ultimately it’s your choice, but we need to make sure we’re not just flaking out. There’s a difference in pushing through adversity and knowing when to cut our losses. In your case, I think a lot of it comes down to your habits. Check out The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg. It’s a great read and may help give you some insight into what you’re struggling with. Thanks for commenting, I appreciate the support!