80% of all strategic plans sit on shelves after their creation, never to be used. People drop pretty much that same percentage of New Year’s resolutions by week two of a new year. Here’s the problem: we can focus all we want on a vision, mission, etc. and write out well-thought out steps to achieving our dream goal. But the hard truth is all that work and investment will mean absolutely nothing if we don’t address first things first. That is, getting rid of the very roadblocks to our success — bad habits.

The science to achieving what you want and who you want to be is not so much learning the art of goal setting and great planning. It has much more to do with dropping the habits that are holding you back right now. Bad habits are the routine thinking and things we do both consciously and unconsciously that sabotage achieving our goal. They are the reason now — and if you don’t address this core reason — three months, one year, five years down the road you are bewildered, frustrated, wondering why you’re not where you want to be.

1. Stop procrastinating

“The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping old ones” (John Maynard Keynes).

Procrastination is a no-brainer. But the habit is, again, not so much in the actual non-action than the thinking around the actions you need to take to getting to where you want to be. Procrastination has different sources, but the big ones are around thinking small and so creating glass ceilings that continue to keep you small.

You look at others achieving their dreams, get into comparison thinking, think of all the reasons you’re at a disadvantage in that comparison, think of all the things you need first to get going, focus on the things that are missing, and all the reasons you can’t move forward unless such and such is in place.

Remove yourself from all that mind chatter. Visualize yourself stepping out of your own head and body and as a bigger version of you looking back at yourself and all that thinking and thinking. Extend compassion and forgiveness to that you who has been keeping herself small. Tell her you see (or hear) the words in her head she’s repeated over and over. Tell those thoughts they’re done their work of protecting you. And change those thoughts by, for example, changing ‘I’m not business savvy enough’ to ‘I am learning to be super business savvy’. Switch them! Say bye-bye to untrue thoughts by replacing them with words that enable healthy and productive thinking around your goals.

2. Stop focusing on the future

“Remember then: there is only one time that is important — Now. It is the most important time because it is the only time when we have any power” (Leo Tolstoy).

Ironically, it’s the focus on action and your very goal that’s been paralyzing you. Breathe. Take your focus off the goal itself, the steps to getting there, and back to your breath. The habit of living in the future to the neglect of being present will not get you ahead. To get ahead you will have to learn to keep your eye on the goal and live life now, being fully present in the… now.

When you bring yourself back to the now, you become so much more aware. Getting to your goal doesn’t happen by following a strict strategy or strategic plan gurus and mentors lay before you because they achieved their dream goal a certain way. Your circumstance, strengths, essentially who you are, will determine that you do things a bit differently to that ‘guru’s’ path.

Yes, there are tried and proven steps to achieving goals, but no two people are the same. You won’t be able to do things the very same way another person did. Bring yourself to the now, breathe and look for opportunities in the now that present themselves. They become clear to you when you step out of hustling your way into the future and breathe.

3. Stop racing after multiple goals

“Getting rid of the things in your life that are not adding value will allow you to take the time and focus you have put on those things and place it on the things that are adding value” (Kathy Stanton).

Anyone who has achieved their big dream goal will tell you that they had to develop laser sharp focus. Often high achievers want to do it all at once. Rid yourself of the thought now that you must do it all.

Some things are wonderful to have and do, but for the next months or few years they have to go. Maybe they were never truly in alignment with your ultimate dream goal and to live true abundance, joy, meaning and impact.

Ask yourself, is doing such and such going to support my dream goal or is it a distraction for a purpose that in fact takes me away from my ultimate purpose and goal. Remember, we can have quite a few great goals but to put in the energy, time and investment will mean a distraction from the big one. We can’t do it all at once. We are human. Drop the habit of trying to achieve this, that and the other because they’re all great, and focus on the one big goal and what truly matters in life.

4. Stop perfectionism

“However, don’t let perfectionism become an excuse for never getting started” (Marilu Henner).

Perfectionism keeps you frozen. It’s rooted in fear of not achieving your goal or doing things well enough. Perfectionists get easily distracted in the detail and lose sight of the big picture. Details are important but they become your Achilles heal when you allow them to hinder the real progress you need to be making.

Fear of getting it wrong will creep up continuously. Tell fear where to go. Literally. Breathe and take that step forward, regardless. If you make a mistake, forgive yourself, learn and take another step forward. It’s okay to stumble and fall. Every great entrepreneur and anyone who achieved something incredible made quite a few mistakes to get to their ultimate dream goal.

Looping back to #2, breathe and bring yourself into the present. When you do, you allow yourself to innovate and begin to enjoy the process. When you focus on perfection, you are blind to innovation, are at risk of beginning to hate the whole goal and what you’re doing to get to it, and sabotage ever seeing light at the end of the tunnel.

5. Stop being in your head

“Don’t think too much. You’ll create a problem that wasn’t even there in the first place” (Unknown).

Stop being in your head all the time, thinking, planning, re-doing the plan, etc. etc. I’ll loop back to #2 over and over because it’s so critical to breathe. Getting to that ultimate dream goal is about learning the art of innovating, and that can only happen by breaking the pattern of thinking and being that keeps you small. It’s an unconscious pattern of thinking that creates an illusion of comfort and predictability.

Innovation happens with impulses, insights, sensing where the energy lies for you to embrace and work with, and always in present time. Once you have an ‘impulse’ (idea, insight, guidance) to do something, get up and do it! Do some type of action, even if it’s super tiny, that is in your goal’s alignment.

If you wait, then you allow fear, worry, and doubt to creep in. They always do to keep you small, not intentionally to keep you small, but that’s what they serve to do. When you act on that impulse, you begin to trust yourself more, dare yourself more and actually do more to get to where you want to be. You create the habit of acting on your guidance and ideas, and that’s precisely what we need to achieve big goals.

6. Stop stuffing the schedule

“So rather than trying to do too many things at once, switch over to a mindset of focusing on just one thing while you are working” (Timo Kiander).

We’re looping back to # 3 where we not only get distracted by things we thought were important but by tiny things too. Whenever we’re about to take that one step forward, our brain scans the environment for something else. Now that you’re aware of this, nip it! Nip the habit by preparing for focus. Before you take the step towards your goal, shut off your phone, close all other tabs on your computer. Don’t lie to yourself that you’ll just answer a list of emails to get them out of the way. Shut out all those tiny distractions before you begin, and not by beginning them!

Your dream goal doesn’t get stuffed into your schedule. Clear your schedule to make the energy and time. Productivity doesn’t really happen with trying to do all the tiny things at the same time. Multitasking is not for the big goal. It distracts from the critical ability to focus and be present.

Your dream goal is not subject to other people’s schedules and preferences. You want to truly achieve that big thing? Not only prepare to focus and clear your schedule — start to practice saying ‘No’. Achieving big goals is learning to be a leader of your destiny and life. Put your goal and the things that truly matter in life ahead. When someone asks you for a favor or your time, weigh in on how that might distract from what matters before you say ‘Yes’.

7. Stop focusing on the past

“Stop living in the past. The only thing we should do about what happened yesterday is to learn from it. Yesterday, good or bad, is history. Tomorrow is a dream, a hope, a passion. Don’t let your history destroy your dream” (Edwin Mamerto).

You are growing into a bigger version of yourself in order to achieve that big goal. You grow into the level of being, acting and thinking that supports the energy of your goal.

When you focus on who you’ve been in the past, your failures and what others have claimed as your limits, you freeze. Forgive yourself, and forgive others. Free yourself from their chains and your own chains. Truly, truly find it in your heart to forgive. Set aside time to meditate on forgiving transgressions and mistakes. You are doing yourself and your ability to do great things the chance you need and deserve.

You are growing, learning, and so worthy of your amazing goal. If you have a dream in your heart, I fully believe it is planted in your heart because it is yours to be and to have. Now you have to step out of the old energy that’s held you stuck and step into and breathe the larger version of you. Stop the habit of reliving the past over and over. Make a decision to close that chapter through forgiveness. And move on!

Originally published at medium.com