By Eric Barker
June 15, 2015
Barker is the author of Barking Up The Wrong Tree

Goal setting is one of the four techniques the military used to increase Navy SEAL passing rates from 25% to 33%. Studies have also shown it makes you happier.

So what are five steps to achieving your goals?

1) Shut Up

Keep them secret. Talking about big goals rewards yourself ahead of time and makes you less likely to follow through.

Via Daniel Coyle’s excellent book The Little Book of Talent: 52 Tips for Improving Your Skills:

Do NOT fantasize about achieving your goal. That’s eating dessert first and saps motivation. Thinking about what you have to do to prepare for a challenge was more likely to lead to success than imagining the victory.

2) Make working on your goals fun

People are happier when their goals are aligned, meaning their short term goals lead to the achievement of their long term goals.

So make it fun in the short term and you’ll likely achieve more (and be happier) in the long term.

Via Jonathan Haidt’s The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom:

3) Join AA

Okay, you don’t actually have to join Alcoholics Anonymous but you can definitely learn something from them: Alcoholics focus on staying sober one day at a time and celebrate these “small wins”.

Research has shown that paying attention to “small wins” can help you make progress in many areas of your life.

Via Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries:

Track your accomplishments on a chart. Do anything so that you can see progress because nothing motivates you more than seeing progress.

4) Don’t know what your goals are? Think about your funeral.

9 minutes in to his famous Stanford commencement speech Steve Jobs explains the importance he placed on thinking about death during life:

Visualize your funeral and consider what you would want friends to describe as your legacy.

Via Richard Wiseman’s excellent book 59 Seconds: Change Your Life in Under a Minute:

Candy Chang gives an inspirational TED talk about a project that asked people to finish the sentence: “Before I die I want to…”

Initially, the research says, aim high. Set ambitious goals. (But later on down the road don’t be afraid to settle to be happy.)

5) Helping other achieve their goals can help you with yours

Undergrads who wrote letters of encouragement to “at-risk” middleschoolers advising them to persevere and that intelligence “is not a finite endowment but rather an expandabale capacity” became, themselves, happier and better in school for months afterward.

Truth is, there were no middleschoolers.

Via Situations Matter: Understanding How Context Transforms Your World:

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This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

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