Go on and take a second right now to bring to mind the image of the life you see yourself living. Or, if you’re not sure about your goals yet – take a couple minutes, maybe even draw your life as you would like it to be.  Once you have defined your goals, whether they are New Year’s resolutions, like losing weight, or career-oriented goals, like getting better at time management, we really can plan for success to make that someday-dream into reality once and for all. 

I put together a list of steps you can follow to accomplish your goals and take your dreams from raw vision to successful completion.

The 5 Steps

Step 1: Well Done!

This is the easiest step of all. All you have to do is congratulate yourself! Congratulate yourself for getting off the couch of procrastination and beginning the process. You have just separated yourself from the majority of people roaming this earth who just wait for things to “get better.” 

By taking just this single step you are joining a mere 16%(!) of the population who say they have goals. A rare group, indeed. But, don’t stop there. Make a promise to yourself right now, right here, that whatever goal you set out to do, you will write it down (just 4% of the population), you will keep it somewhere you can see it (just 1%!), and you will congratulate yourself and give yourself the recognition you deserve for going down a path toward ultimate achievement.

Step 2: Identify the Goal

At first, let’s pick the easier ones, the “low-hanging fruit,” if you will. Find a short-term goal you know you can achieve in a few months or less. It could be a nagging bill, a small weight loss goal, or saving up for a new big-screen TV. It could be something like achieving a milestone at work, or increasing your pay, or adding new clients.

No matter what goal you pick, it should be specific. Don’t just draw a dog, draw a German Shepherd. It also should be something that will have a dramatic effect and stir a positive emotion in you. Pick something that will make you proud! Pick something that will reduce stress. Pick something that will bring you happiness.

Small victories beget larger ones. Your confidence will grow as you begin to see how much control you actually have over who you are and who you ultimately want to be. So, focus now on just one small, attainable goal. Got it? Good. It’s now time for us to go a bit deeper into breaking the goal down.

Step 3: Build Certainty

This can be the most challenging step in reaching your personal goals. It takes some careful and honest planning. The key is to build in a certainty that you will, in fact, succeed. That is why being honest with yourself is so critical here.

You will be chopping your goal into many small pieces or time frames. Each piece has to be something you can accomplish week in and week out with certainty, so be careful and be real with yourself when determining the amount of energy, attention, or money you are willing to commit to it.

Believe me, this planning process is where success or failure happens. Don’t get hung up on the number of pieces, or steps you build in the process. Just focus on taking one step at a time. Again, it will never matter how long the path is, just that you have designed it correctly. The path must have a beginning, and an end, with a clear number of steps carefully laid out by you, and no way to get off or turn back once you have started walking down it.

Here’s a common example, say your goal is to lose fifty pounds. It’s not enough to say “I want to lose 50 pounds.” That’s a long-term goal. You can’t do it even in a couple of months. The right action plan is to break that goal down. You’re much more likely to reach your long-term goal if you instead plan on losing one pound a week for fifty weeks and then make it automatic (don’t worry, we’ll discuss the automatic part in the next step).

To elaborate, it’s said that one pound is equivalent to 3,500 calories. Okay, so that means you have to reduce 3,500 calories or burn 3,500 calories in a week. What does that mean for your goal path? That means reducing your calories by just five hundred calories a day (that’s typically equivalent to two snacks or two glasses of wine) or running, walking, or doing some form of exercise in order to burn the five hundred calories. Your ultimate goal is to lose fifty pounds in fifty weeks. Your weekly goal is to lose one pound. Your daily goal is to cut back or burn five hundred calories. Your hourly goal is to make choices that support that ultimate goal. 

See how this works? Once you make the choice, you know what you need to do to achieve that goal, and then you simply execute. Day-by-day, week-by-week, and before you know it, fifty weeks will vaporize in front of you.

Step 4: Set It, Don’t Sweat It

Part of the beauty of designing path plans and designing your life in this way is the “set it, don’t sweat it” way in which we can reach your goals. Keep in mind this is meant to be an automatic process, one that happens week in and week out, with or without your constant awareness. The objective is to make your goals automatic because successful people are often people who have turned their goals into a series of habits.

Step 4 is all about the walk. This is where you physically sign up for that class and commit to its completion. This is where you join that gym and set up your workout routine with the trainer—days, times, calories in, calories out, pounds lost, everything. This is where you go to your payroll office with a blank check in hand and set up an automatic deposit of your wages into a savings account that you purposefully restrict your own access to, even in emergencies. Do I make myself clear here? You will hit your goal, come hell or high water, and the best part is, it will automatically.

Congratulations again. You are now in a club that only one out of a hundred people join!

Step 5: Time to Share

At this point, we need to talk about creating an insurance policy that will guarantee that you won’t back down or step off the path. We need to create some solid defense against life’s unexpected obstacles, the minor pitfalls, or daily distractions—yes, all those little monsters that try to get us off our well-designed path.

That old adage, “there is power in numbers” still holds true today. And it is at the very heart of our next and final step in bulletproof path-planning. Chances are you’ll go to the gym if your training partner is waiting for you.

All you have to do is find someone (probably a friend or family member) who cares about you and believes in you and your potential and then share your goals with them. You want to choose someone who encourages you, supports you, wants to see you succeed. When setting a goal, you want to be sure you have someone to share your accomplishments and achievements with. You want someone who will walk the walk with you. You want them to be as committed to your success as you are.

Path partners will bring a multitude of benefits to the path walker and nearly always help to ensure success. The first and most obvious is support for the commitment you have made. Your mind will kick into an entirely new gear once you have publicly stated your desire to another. Many times, your own belief in what you are about to do will increase, as will your confidence in its execution. Your path partner will be there to check in on your progress, walk the path with you, pick you up if you stumble, encourage you when you need it, and strengthen your resolve.

With a plan for success, anything is possible. If you’re serious about accomplishing your dreams, take the time to write your path-plan below!

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Ken Rusk is a blue-collar entrepreneur who has started several successful endeavors and mentored hundreds of young people in their pursuit of a satisfying career and fulfilling life.

Discover how Ken’s approach to life and work can help you set and achieve your goals – all while avoiding the nearly inescapable trap of college debt. Pre-order his new book, Blue Collar Cool: How to Earn Without the College Burn today!