Goals are important, no doubt about it. They tell you where you’re going and give you a destination. But goals alone will not help you succeed.

You may create small wins along the way, but unless you have the motivation, support and a clear plan based on your core beliefs and broken down into manageable steps to reach your goal, you’re going to get lost.

Zig Ziglar has seven steps to set and reach goals.

“You can choose to set goals and realize your potential or you can choose not to set them.”

Gonna lose weight.
Gonna leave my job.
Gonna write a book.

You’re not doing any of these things until you actually start doing them.

But HOW do you get started?

Before writing The Writer’s Roadmap, my book that guides you to create your ideal writing life, I read and listened to many experts who share how to rewire the brain for success. From Zig Ziglar to Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich. I read Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit and Mel Robbin’s Five Second Rule and I’ve incorporated these ideas into my book.

Over and over, I heard the message that goals alone cannot set guidelines for what you’re willing to do, give and sacrifice to get to your destination. Goals alone say nothing about your journey to reach them.

You need practical methods to create a plan to begin your journey and keep you on the path until you reach your goals.

What do you need to start working toward your goals?

Between my reading and working one-on-one with writers in workshops and classrooms and at retreats, I realized there are five things that go beyond goals that we all need in order to create the lives we want to live.

1. You need to know who you are and your core values.

Since I’m a writing coach, I’ll use the example of becoming a published author. There are many paths to get there. You choose what you write, where you write, how much time you spend writing and how you publish. You choose your audience, your genre and your writing community, too.

Each path represents how many hours you’re willing to work a day, how much time you leave for family, and how you have fun and take care of your body.

You can be a famous writer writing romance novels or thrillers, producing a new book or more every year. You can write literary fiction and each book takes 5 or more years to write. You can choose an array of endless options, but you can’t have everything.

Choosing a path that most reflects your values means you’ll enjoy your work more. That’s not to say you won’t have shitty moments, but when you work with integrity, you built a writing life you can truly live with.

2. You need a plan.

The next step of reaching your goals is to create a plan to get to your destination and then make it happen. This is the reason I wrote The Writer’s Roadmap: Paving the Way To Your Ideal Writing Life, so if you’re looking to go deeper with your own planning, you can purchase your own copy and work through the exercises. Find the print book here. And the e-book here.

In the Writer’s Roadmap, I break this plan into four parts:

Create a clear picture of what your ideal life looks like. This includes everything you’ve dreamed of doing but don’t because you’re afraid of rejection and failure.

Lay out the kinds of projects you want to do. The choices are endless. Write a book, publish in magazines, start a copywriting company, write a column, blog, build your writing platform, teach, write poetry, public speaking… You must decide what you want to include and what doesn’t fit.

This process allows you to dream and imagine what your life will look like when you’re living your ideal writing life, but you won’t work on all these projects at one time. Instead, you prioritize your projects and work on them no more than three at a  time.

Once you’ve chosen your top three, you’ll move onto the third part of creating your writing plan.

Break each project into a to-do list to accomplish each project.  There are many ways to break a larger project idea into parts, and if you already know what you want, follow your instinct. If you’re looking for a guideline, Zig Ziglar offers these steps to make your projects happen:

  • Write them down.
  • Put a date on it.
  • Identify your obstacles.
  • Identify the people or groups you need to work with.
  • Figure out what you need to know.
  • Develop a plan of action.
  • Write down what’s in it for you.

Create guidelines to measure your methods and make sure you’re moving closer to your goal. Then you do more of what works and less of what doesn’t. Sounds simple, but this is a step many people skip.

3. You need a community.

Once you have your plan in place, you’ll need a community to support you as you develop that plan. You’ll find the encouragement and inspiration to keep going, especially when you feel stuck and stupid because you don’t know how to [whatever it is you don’t know how to do.]  You learn how to learn, and you turn to mentors to guide you.

A community also allows you to brainstorm ideas and receive feedback so you can hone your ideas and learn from other people’s experience. It’s a shortcut to reaching your goals because you don’t have to muddle through as much trial and error.

Can you do it on your own? Sure, but it’s not as fast, fun or precise.

4. You need to set boundaries and say no.

There will always be things in life we don’t really want to do but we have no choice to do them anyway. There are dishes to wash, apologies to offer, bills to pay or going to bed early when we’d rather stay up late reading.

But there are plenty of things we do out of obligation that we can happily cut from our lives. This can include volunteer work, activities related to your kids or your partner, or hobbies you once loved but are no longer worth your time.

I discuss this in The Writer’s Roadmap and ask you to list all the things in your life that no longer serve you, all the things you no longer want to do. This doesn’t mean you get to stop doing all of them, but following these guidelines will help you lighten your load.

Why are you doing these things? Are they part of your to-do list out of obligation? Out of guilt? Habit? Or some other reason entirely.

Be honest with yourself.

If you’re not receiving payment, enjoyment or any other benefit, it’s time to cut these things out.  That means setting boundaries.

You can rid yourself of some of these unwanted to-dos with a simple e-mail or phone call. Others may require a sit down to say to say “No, I won’t be doing that anymore.”

Once you’ve highlighted everything you plan to cut out, set aside some time to make those calls and have those talks. The second they’re off your to-do list, you’ll have more time and space for what you really want.

Will saying no and setting boundaries upset people? Sometimes, most definitely, but you’ll find most people understand and will even admire your desire to set limits so you can focus on what’s important to you. 

5. You must learn to believe in yourself.

Whenever I work one-on-one with someone, I start by telling them one thing: Trust your own instincts first.

Whatever feedback you get, you have the final say with your decisions and your life. No one else knows you as well as you do.  Problem is, it’s too easy to second guess yourself, and if you don’t believe in yourself and trust your instincts, you will follow ideas and advice that won’t work for you.  

Belief in yourself requires consistent practice. It’s ok if you doubt — we all do — but you must recognize when your doubt gets in the way and keeps you from acting in your own best interests.  When doubts arise, turn to your plan and follow the specifics of what you’ve already created.

Do these things and you’re well on the way to overcome roadblocks.

A quick review.

Take care of yourself first, and learn to believe in you.
Trust your instincts.
Put a system in place to hold yourself accountable.
Develop a plan.
Educate yourself.
Find a community to restore your balance when you falter on any of the above.

Follow these guidelines, and you’ll find yourself reaching your goals faster and more effortlessly than ever before. There will always be challenges, but you will learn to accept them and overcome them.

So start with a goal, begin with you. Who are you? What do you want? What do you need? Where do you want to go?

Then build.