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10 Ways To Reach Your Goals In Life & Love

Only 8 percent of people succeed at reaching their goals. Find out how you can be one of them.

Inspiration

Goal-setting is at its highest point around the first of the year. But all too often, the grind of our everyday routines distract us from reaching the finish line. Before we know it, days turn into months, in what seems like the blink of an eye, and we end up putting our dreams on hold until the countdown of a new year. According to a study by the University of Scranton and published in December in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, 92 percent of people who set goals as New Year's resolutions fail to achieve them. I've been guilty of this myself, in the past, so I know just how frustrating it can be. But instead of staying stagnant and continuing to let my dreams fall by the wayside, I wanted to know the secrets of the 8 percent of those who do achieve their goals. I did some research on the habits of successful people and this is what I found.

1.Real change begins with a shift in mindset.

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As a communication researcher, I love seeing what I call "the mindset movement". What most people refer to as a shift in mindset is actually derived from a combination of theories known as cognitive reframing, or looking differently at a person, situation, or relationship and intrapersonal communication or self-talk. Most people apply these concepts in the form of an affirmation, a short statement that offers encouragement and support. Using affirmations to replace negative thoughts with positivity is a great way to rearrange your thoughts. Changes in your mindset, even small ones, can be used over time to help you cope with problems, embrace change, and move you in the direction towards reaching your goals.

2.Get clear about what you want. 

When setting a goal, it's important to understand what exactly you're working towards. For example, if you're looking to improve your love life, ask yourself some key questions like: Am I looking for a committed relationship or do I want companionship, instead? Am I ready for a long-term relationship or a close friendship? When you don't really know what you're looking for, then you may not recognize it once it shows up. Oftentimes, it's easier to identify what we don't want but we're unclear about what we do want. This is why it's important to seek clarity. Eliminate vagueness.

3.Make a plan & write it down.

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I didn't always understand the importance of having a written plan but now I see it as a way to organize my ideas, and it serves as a tangible representation of my thoughts. I've also learned that it helps to have physical evidence of your goal. Vision boards, checklists, or daily planners work well for personal ideas. And business plans are usually required for aspiring entrepreneurs. While I've used this strategy in my romantic life by making a "bucket list" of what I want in a future partner, this idea can be extended to specify your goals, whether it's getting into shape, meditating, or writing a book.

The key to a great plan is to be specific, so try creating a plan that specifies when, where and how often you plan to work on your goal. Instead of just saying, "I want to work out," you could write something like, "I plan to work out at the gym for 30 minutes on Tuesday and Thursday of next week." Once you have it on your calendar, or somewhere you can see it, it's no longer an idea but something you are responsible for checking off your list.

4.Save money to fund your dream.

Whether it's a dream vacation or starting a new business venture, your goal will likely require some kind of cash flow. I like to use what I call the trade technique where you trade the money that you would usually spend on one monthly expense, for another. For example, if you are someone who subscribes to a monthly subscription box, manicures, or haircare, you'll use the money from those expenses to go towards your "vacation fund". It's not easy, but it's worth it knowing that your money is going towards something more valuable than acrylics.

5.Find a coach, mentor, or accountability partner.

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These days, you can find a person for everything from financial advising to career planning. I, myself, work as a Breakup Coach so I recognize the value of having a checks and balances system in place. Not only do coaches hold you accountable and provide support, but we also seek to help our clients maximize their potential with positive feedback and practical strategies to reach their desired results.

6.Set small goals.

Experts suggest when you have a long-term goal, like writing a book, that it's best to break down your goals into more short-term ones. For example, if you want to be a writer, set a weekly goal for a certain number of words you'd like to write. This does two things: first, it creates a sense of immediate gratification because you've completed something you set out to do. Second, it coincides with the bigger picture of writing your book and gets you one step closer to your goal.

7.Celebrate success, no matter how small.

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It's helpful to acknowledge the progress you're making towards your goals. Celebrating your accomplishments can remind you of how far you've come and motivate you to continue on. You can do this by cutting a deal with yourself. Decide if you do 'X' by 'Y' then you'll reward yourself with 'Z'. Take time to reflect on what you accomplished. A win is a win.

8.Send yourself a reminder. 

Write yourself a letter (or an email) in the future and schedule it to send to yourself on a certain date. You can do this in one of two ways. First, you can write a letter to your future self to remind you of your goals and deadlines you set for yourself. It may even help you remember ideas that have slipped your mind. You can also write yourself a "love letter" just to check on yourself, love on yourself, and encourage yourself. Remember to be kind to your future self and remind yourself how proud you are of everything you have accomplished.

9.Take a break if you need to.

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Burnout is a real thing so taking time to reset or tweak your original plan may be necessary. Just be sure that if you take a break, you establish a timeline for getting back to work. When I was going through my breakup, I gave myself a designated amount of time to cry. I decided that I could cry for a day, a whole day if I needed to, but then I'd pick myself back up the following day and get back to my routine. That doesn't mean I didn't cry again after that day, likewise, you may need another time to step away and reset again, but the important thing is to not allow your break to become permanent.

10. Stay the course.

Consistency. In his book, Atomic Habits, James Clear explains the importance of consistency and describes how breakthrough moments can change the trajectory of our goals. The moments leading up to the breakthrough are what the author calls the "plateau of latent potential." Clear uses the analogy of an ice cube to illustrate how shifts in temperature from 29 to 31 degrees seem to do nothing in terms of melting. But with the increase of just one more degree (to 32 degrees), the ice cube begins to melt.

Just as we can't see the inner workings of molecules in an ice cube, it's important to remember that while we may not always see the process working, that doesn't mean it's not. If you get a chance to read his book, I think you'll find it's packed with tips for successfully creating habits.

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When I was ten, my Sunday school teacher put on a brief performance in class that included some of the boys standing in front of the classroom while she stood in front of them holding a heart shaped box of chocolate. One by one, she tells each boy to come and bite a piece of candy and then place the remainder back into the box. After the last boy, she gave the box of now mangled chocolate over to the other Sunday school teacher — who happened to be her real husband — who made a comically puzzled face. She told us that the lesson to be gleaned from this was that if you give your heart away to too many people, once you find “the one,” that your heart would be too damaged. The lesson wasn’t explicitly about sex but the implication was clearly present.

That memory came back to me after a flier went viral last week, advertising an abstinence event titled The Close Your Legs Tour with the specific target demo of teen girls came across my Twitter timeline. The event was met with derision online. Writer, artist, and professor Ashon Crawley said: “We have to refuse shame. it is not yours to hold. legs open or not.” Writer and theologian Candice Marie Benbow said on her Twitter: “Any event where 12-17-year-old girls are being told to ‘keep their legs closed’ is a space where purity culture is being reinforced.”

“Purity culture,” as Benbow referenced, is a culture that teaches primarily girls and women that their value is to be found in their ability to stay chaste and “pure”–as in, non-sexual–for both God and their future husbands.

I grew up in an explicitly evangelical house and church, where I was taught virginity was the best gift a girl can hold on to until she got married. I fortunately never wore a purity ring or had a ceremony where I promised my father I wouldn’t have pre-marital sex. I certainly never even thought of having my hymen examined and the certificate handed over to my father on my wedding day as “proof” that I kept my promise. But the culture was always present. A few years after that chocolate-flavored indoctrination, I was introduced to the fabled car anecdote. “Boys don’t like girls who have been test-driven,” as it goes.

And I believed it for a long time. That to be loved and to be desired by men, it was only right for me to deny myself my own basic human desires, in the hopes of one day meeting a man that would fill all of my fantasies — romantically and sexually. Even if it meant denying my queerness, or even if it meant ignoring how being the only Black and fat girl in a predominantly white Christian space often had me watch all the white girls have their first boyfriends while I didn’t. Something they don’t tell you about purity culture – and that it took me years to learn and unlearn myself – is that there are bodies that are deemed inherently sinful and vulgar. That purity is about the desire to see girls and women shrink themselves, make themselves meek for men.

Purity culture isn’t unlike rape culture which tells young girls in so many ways that their worth can only be found through their bodies. Whether it be through promiscuity or chastity, young girls are instructed on what to do with their bodies before they’ve had time to figure themselves out, separate from a patriarchal lens. That their needs are secondary to that of the men and boys in their lives.

It took me a while —after leaving the church and unlearning the toxic ideals around purity culture rooted in anti-Blackness, fatphobia, heteropatriarchy, and queerphobia — to embrace my body, my sexuality, and my queerness as something that was not only not sinful or dirty, but actually in line with the vision God has over my life. Our bodies don't stop being our temples depending on who we do or who we don’t let in, and our worth isn’t dependent on the width of our legs at any given point.

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