Setting goals can be overwhelming. Your to-do, to-be, to-study lists are miles long, and everything feels like an urgent priority. And while it’s important to find your purpose, map out your SMART goals, and give them HEART, there’s one final tool you need to help you find your true North to achieve your goals: your compass.
When it comes to making day-to-day progress, it can be easy to get lost. You get busy, last minute tasks are dumped on your plate, and stress in general can drain your energy and motivation. But when you have a compass, it’s easier to stay on track. Whenever you feel stuck or need to figure out how to move forward, you can use these reminders as a framework to stay on your path and find your True NORTH.
The first step to staying on track is ensuring you feed you body and brain. This isn’t just about good nutrition, though that is important. It’s also about making sure you take time to refill your cup so you have the mental energy and cognitive resources to achieve your goals.
For physical nourishment, you want to focus on eating a brain-healthy diet, staying hydrated, and getting plenty of exercise. Wherever possible, try to get plenty of natural sunlight by spending some time outdoors. Nature is a great place to recenter yourself and find spiritual nourishment at the same time.
In addition to taking care of your physical self, schedule time for rest and recovery. Part of this is working on getting quality sleep every night, but this is also about finding downtime during the day. Journaling, meditation, deep breathing, and spending time doing the things you truly love with the people you love are all essential to maintaining your path and finding the momentum to move forward.
O — Ownership
It might seem like setting a goal and working towards it is already taking ownership of your destiny, but this is a mindset that takes focus and practice. Every day you want to sit down and review your day. Look at what you succeeded at, but if you didn’t make as much progress as you wanted, it’s important to not just look at why, but own it.
Maybe you didn’t work on a project because traffic was bad or a call took too long. It can be easy to blame those things, but taking ownership means finding ways to accept personal responsibility for those obstacles. You can’t control traffic, but you can control when you leave for an appointment or how much time you gave yourself for that particular task when you sat down to plan your day.
Being realistic with your time will ensure that you’re able to realistically plan your tasks so that you aren’t overwhelmed, or worse, fall behind and end up frustrated that you’re not making progress on your scheduled timeline. Whenever possible, take ownership of your setbacks, obstacles, and failures because it’s only in looking at the things you can control that you will be able to find your clear path forward.
R — Resilience
Speaking of obstacles and setbacks, you have to know that they’re going to happen. No matter how much you plan or how hard you work, you’re going to hit roadblocks, challenges, and sometimes, even failures. But embracing that adversity will actually help you move past them faster and stronger.
One way to build resiliency is to change your mindset around progress and momentum. There is no one right way to succeed, and a failure in one area might lead to opportunities somewhere else. But you can only see those opportunities if you embrace the unknown and are able to bounce back from curveballs.
You can practice resilience by evaluating your challenges through the lens of finding a path forward. Never look your goals as a straight line. You’re going to need to be aware of possible detours, closed roads, and u-turns. Sometimes you’re going to have to build a bridge or backtrack to find a different way, but all of that is progress and momentum. Remember, it doesn’t matter how twisty or obscured your road gets because you have a compass to guide you through.
T — Thoughtfulness
The last thing you want when looking at a map is to find it cluttered with too many possible routes, icons, or pitstops. You want a clear guide so you can spot trouble spots and plan accordingly without getting distracted. That requires mental clarity and focus.
Thoughtfulness is another way to think about mindfulness. And mindfulness is the practice of being present and in the moment, without letting your thoughts run the show. Your brain has an average of 60,000 thoughts per day. That’s a lot of noise that can take you off task, raise doubt, trigger anxiety, and have you running around trying to accomplish task after task after task.
The difference between letting your thoughts drive your actions is that you end up being busy, but not productive. And only one of those leads to momentum in achieving your goals. Take time to practice clearing those unnecessary, and often unwanted, thoughts every day. Make sure you’re writing your goal down every day with focused action steps that you want to achieve every day. When you find yourself drifting off task or overwhelmed with busy-work, spend a few minutes clearing the noise in your head to find peace and clarity. This will help you follow your compass down your true path forward.
H — Habits
When it comes to goals, habits create consistency. And consistency is your superpower. There are a lot of ways you can create habits, but one of the most effective is to make them tiny and celebrate those small wins. This is the strategy presented in our latest book club book, Tiny Habits by Dr. B.J. Fogg.
If your goal is to run a marathon, your tiny habit would be putting on your running shoes. Every time you do that, you celebrate, which makes you feel successful. A marathon—and any goal, for that matter—is hard. To do the hard things, feeling good is not just important, it’s essential. It might not seem like just putting on your running shoes creates the daily habit of running, but when you do that, you set yourself up for success and are more likely to take a step outside of your home, leading to another and another.
This tiny action also helps cement the importance of running daily, even on the days you don’t feel good or can’t actually run. You never lose track of your goal because you engage in one small step every single day. It keeps it front of mind, helps you feel good (celebration) every time you think about your goal, and prompts you to continue engaging in that habit day after day.
Good habits keep your map open and your compass primed, ensuring that your journey is always a priority in your mind. Not only does that help you take steps every day to achieve your goal, but it makes your goal not just something you’re working towards, but something you are.
Remember, you have the power to shape your destiny, and science has your back. Follow these steps to keep your compass in your pocket to ensure you are constantly and consistently aligned with your true North. Your goals are within reach, and you’ve got what it takes to reach them. Keep feeding your mind with knowledge, embracing challenges, and building positive habits, and success will become your reality.
To learn more about how to start tiny when it comes to habits, watch this video: