How to achieve long-term goals in a stress-free way

How to achieve long-term goals

Before I tell you how to achieve long-term goals, you have to understand one thing about me: I have absolutely no willpower. I have never, ever succeeded in forcing myself to do anything. No diet, no workout plan has ever lasted more than two days for me.

All the tips I will give you in this post are focused on what works for me when it comes to reaching goals. And that is actually bringing myself to want to do things, instead of having to do them.

  1. Finding the right reason to achieve long-term goals

Let’s be honest, “imagine how good I will feel in a year” is never going to work. A year is so far away and I personally always seem to care more about right now.

There are people out there, my boyfriend for example, who can restrain themselves to achieve goals. But it’s not something that I personally am able to do. If I can’t be happy right now, I lose sight of the bigger picture. Which basically explains why I never stuck to a diet.

For people like us to achieve long-term goals, we have to focus on short-term benefits.

Let me give you an example. If you start working out with the sole purpose of getting in shape, you’ll soon be faced with the thought “well, screw that, I’ll never achieve that anyway”. And this will cause you to give up on your goal.

I’ve been wanting to do yoga for so long to get in shape. But I was just never motivated enough to keep going. Relaxing after work was far more compelling.

If, however, I focus on short-term benefits, in this case how yoga makes me feel after every practice, the whole situation looks far easier. Suddenly, reaching this goal isn’t so daunting anymore.

I have been doing yoga every single day for the past months. The only way I can do this is if I don’t think about tomorrow’s practice or the day after that, but solely focus on today. I tell myself that no matter how much I don’t want to get on the mat right now, I know I will be feeling a lot more relaxed afterwards. I know that it’ll definitely be worth it.

Focusing on how you will feel right after the thing that you don’t want to do – even thinking that you won’t feel bloated if you eat rice instead of cheese fries – can help your brain shift and accept that this goal you have is not a punishment, but actually a treat for your body.

“And what if there are no short-term benefits?” you might say. Well, it might just be the wrong goal. Meeting goals isn’t supposed to be a horrible experience!

If you’re trying to force yourself to go to the gym, but you absolutely hate the whole experience, abandon it and find something that makes you feel good.

The first reason why I love yoga is that I hate sweating. I want to wash my hair once a week only and I can’t do that if I do cardio. So, I chose yoga instead, and don’t even have to shower after my practice.

  1. Don’t stress about failing your goal

Just like achieving your goal should feel like a treat, you shouldn’t punish yourself for failing.

If your long-term goal is to start cleaning your whole house every week (I’ve been there), and you failed to do it more than once, ask yourself if your goal is even achievable. Maybe spending 4 hours cleaning is not something you see yourself doing every week, no matter how much you love a clean home. If that’s the case, then you’ll probably never stick to it anyway.

Then, reformulate your goal.

If you want a clean house, determine exactly what has to be done for you to achieve this goal. Maybe it’s cleaning the bathroom, kitchen and hoovering. Then why don’t you set aside half an hour on one day to clean the kitchen, half an hour on another day to clean the bathroom, and invest in a hoover robot? And then once in a while, you’ll make time to deep-clean the areas that don’t bother you as much.

Just think about the minimum you have to do to reach your long-term goals. Figure out every possible way to make it easier for you (in my yoga example it was working out from home, for example). Then determine the least stressful and most realistic way to actually achieve it.

If it doesn’t work, then rethink your plan and find ways to make it even less stressful. You have to be your own friend, not your enemy!

  1. Reaching goals starts in the present moment

Let’s be honest: if you tell yourself that you’ll have to do something for the rest of your life, you won’t feel good about it. The rest of your life seems like a very long time. Even thinking about maintaining my goal through all the changes in my life makes me feel stressed and anxious.

And the truth is: there is nothing you’ll have to do for the rest of your life. Something you’re set on doing now might not align with you in a couple of years, and that’s absolutely okay!

What works for me is telling myself that I’ll pursue goals as long as I want to. And if I decide to switch it up after a while – that’s okay, too. You don’t have to stick to something just because you decided once that you want it. That just doesn’t make any sense.

My dad used to tell me this story about a boy who asked his mom to take down the teddy bear wallpaper in his room. His mom was saying: “But you wanted it so much, you spent months begging me for this wallpaper! How can you change your mind on something you wanted so badly?” And the boy was saying: “But mommy, that was thirty years ago and I just don’t want teddy bears in my room anymore!”

While this is probably just some odd Russian joke (I honestly have no idea where this story is from), it just illustrates how ridiculous it is to be hung up on something you once decided if it doesn’t make sense for you anymore.

  1. Celebrate the small victories

This year, I set myself the goal to sell my unwanted clothes online to make some money.

Just so you know: I have never managed to make money online. What worked for other people never worked for me, and so I didn’t know if I would succeed. But I did my research, gave it my best shot, and actually made some sales.

And when I say sales, I mean like, 7. I made a little less than 100€. It’s not much, but it liberated space in my closet and made someone else happy!

And so I patted myself on the back, thinking that even if I didn’t sell any of the other 60 items I had put up, I was still proud of myself for actually succeeding in making sales.

Do you see what I mean? No matter how small your victory seems, no matter how far you still want to go, it is so important to stop yourself and celebrate the small victories. This is what will give you confidence and the desire to go further, believing that you are able to achieve your long-term goals.

  1. If you start making excuses, your goal is probably not working for you

“I can’t do this today” is a thought that clearly indicates a problem with your goal. If you want to achieve long-term goals, you need to find what works for you in every situation.

I’ve been there multiple times, mostly with food and exercising. I would set myself a goal to start eating fruit and veggies instead of rice, potatoes, and unhealthy snacks. But then my next IBS flare-up would come along and I had to stop.

As you probably see right away, it makes absolutely no sense to set goals that you can’t meet. Too much fruit or veggies triggers my IBS, and that’s not something I can change.

Same goes for the yoga classes I took a while ago. My yoga teacher stressed me out because she always pointed out how bad I was. And whenever I wasn’t feeling great, I was dreading going there. I didn’t feel comfortable in those classes and it was only a matter of time before I gave them up.

Working out at home works a lot better for me. I do it at my own pace, stop when I need to and don’t have to worry about looking ridiculous. This way, I even want to exercise when I feel unwell because I can always choose what works for me.

The bottom line is, if you start making excuses, then your goal probably doesn’t align with your lifestyle. You need to find a way to make yourself feel good in order to meet long-term goals!

If you liked this post, please share it with your friends 🙂

32 Replies to “How to achieve long-term goals in a stress-free way”

  1. I agree that you have to celebrate the small victories. That helps me feel as if I have done something right. I keep a brief list of things to accomplish each day. There is nothing more rewarding than being able to check items off that list as the day progresses. If I am really humming, I look to the next day and get a few things done on that list. This way when I get to the end of a week that has seemed to fly past, I don’t have to scratch my head about what good I have done toward my goal. Instead, I can consult my list and pay myself on the back. It helps me to stay on track, celebrate that I am doing SOMETHING right, and helps me plan for the next week. Thanks for sharing a topic that is especially relevant for those of us running our own enterprises.

    1. I love that idea! It’s so easy to feel like time is passing and you’re not getting anything done, so it’s a great idea to keep reminders that you actually do get things done. And after all, it’s the little things that we do consistently that make the biggest difference in the long run!

  2. I also really agree with the power of celebrating all the small victories. We often are quick to punish ourselves, and seldom do we praise ourselves. Even if progress does feel insignificant in the moment, it all leads up the end goal. Be proud of what you can accomplish, and keep working towards the goal slow and steady. Don’t be afraid to give yourself permission to take a little “me” time, too. It can help re-energize you!

    1. That’s so true! It can be hard to enjoy “me”-time when you feel like you should be working all the time to achieve your goals. But it’s so important in order to stay productive and motivated!

  3. I highly agree with everything you said. I think everything can be achieved with a positive attitude in mind 🙂

    1. That’s a great mindset. 🙂 And it’s true – as long as you believe that something is possible, you’ll find a way to make it work!

  4. Love the part about celebrating the small victories. That’s what keeps me motivated and gives me confidence that I can achieve much more 🙂

    1. Me too! After all, it’s the little things that make the biggest difference in the long run. 🙂

  5. I love this post! Long term goals are scary but also at the same time I feel like I have plenty of time. So I slack off and then completely fall off the bandwagon. I like how you said to keep smaller goals I can have success with and celebrate my small victories!

    1. Thank you 🙂 I get what you mean, I have that tendency, too! It’s important to remember that long-term goals are a process that you need to work on consistently.

  6. This is a great post! I love point 1 and 3. Knowing your ‘why’ can help you achieve long-term goals so much more easily and celebrating small victories keeps me motivated to work more towards my end goal.
    Thank you for sharing!

    1. Thanks! 🙂 Knowing why you’re working for something so important because whenever you feel like you don’t want to do it anymore, you can remind yourself why you need to keep going! I can’t keep up anything if I don’t have a good reason. 🙂

  7. Great advice, we normally focus on failures but fail to celebrate small victories.

    1. Yes! Isn’t it strange how we notice all the bad things but don’t pay enough attention to our victories?

  8. You are nicely mentioned that how we can achieve our long term goal without stress. Because stress is one of the factor which affect badly to your concentration, working stamina and your health and finally create obstacles in your ways.

    1. I totally agree! Being stressed is the worst…

  9. Wow! I so enjoyed reading this post because you are so right when you say “bringing myself to want to do things, instead having to do them.” We should want to firstly do the things (our goals) to beable to do them, else it becomes a chore and sooner or later we fail at keeping up to it. I am also going to share this on my Facebook page as it is in line with the things I write and share about.

    Lots of love and keep shinning!

    1. Thanks for your sweet comment! I actually love reading your posts as well. 🙂

  10. I think celebrating the small victories is so important. We often forget about how far we have come.

    1. So true! It’s good to take a minute once in a while to acknowledge how far you’ve really come.

  11. I am definitely saving this post so I can look back on it when I am struggling with my goals. Sometimes I make my goals so big that it becomes daunting. I love that you said the goal is a treat, not a punishment. What a great way to look at it!

    1. Thank you! It’s great to strive for big goals but I prefer to focus on the little milestones one at a time so it’s less daunting! Good luck with your goals. 🙂

  12. Hi Karina, not stressing about failing your goals is so important. Thanks for pointing that out. I sometimes need to be reminded of that. Not trying is basically already failing. So, why not fail better, improve more, and become better? 🙂 great post!

    1. Thanks. 🙂 And I totally agree! You can’t achieve anything if you don’t try.

  13. I completely agree with all the points you have mentioned. Celebrating small victories is the most important among them I believe. It gives you the boost of confidence at a proper time.

    1. Thanks, and yes that’s so true!

  14. I am SO much like in you in that I also can’t force myself to do things I don’t want to do. I think you’ve made some incredible tips on how to actually achieve that. Personally, I’ve been working on celebrating small victories more! It’s still a work in progress, but I’m trying! And letting go of goals that no longer align with my mission and make me feel good. Ugh, now that’s a hard one!

    Keep up the wonderful work!

    1. Thank you!! I’m glad I’m not the only one, haha! But seriously, achieving goals just works better when you enjoy the process. Good luck with all of your goals! 🙂

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