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The Ultimate 3-Step Formula To Nail Your Goals

Written by: Anna Nordengren, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


It’s that time of the year again setting your goals and intentions for the year to come. Some of us love it, whilst others find it a daunting and overwhelming task. With this powerful 3-step formula you will nail your goals, and it will be easy and fun too.

Goal-setting is a matter of survival

Did you know that evolution made us humans into goal finders? Yes, not only are we motivated and directed by goals, our ability to set goals for ourselves helped us satisfy our needs, thus increasing the likelihood of our own survival. So if you think goal-setting is something invented by vicious Finance departments, it’s time to rethink.

Goal-setting is part of our biology, and when you treat it as such, it will become easy, fun, and transformative. Yes, not only will you have fun setting your goals for the year to come, but you will also catapult your results.

Your goals are NOT about your future

It’s a common belief that goals are about the future. Maybe you worry that setting a goal will keep you from staying present and enjoying life here and now. But I’d say it’s quite the contrary ‒ your goal will start to transform your life experience today:

  • your goal gives you a sense of meaning in what you do

  • your goal helps you set your priorities every day

  • your goal supercharges your decision-making skills

  • your goal enables efficient cooperation with others

  • your goal helps you recognize an opportunity when you see it

Invite your brain to the game

If you have ever been into goal-setting before, you’ve probably heard about SMART goals. This acronym (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound) may have its legitimate role in a corporate context, but for you to accomplish the extraordinary, it’s time to redefine smart goals let’s invite your brain to the game!

Your brain loves goals and once you set goals in line with how it operates, your brain will work on your goals while you are asleep or busy doing something else.

Today neuroscience offers powerful insights into how your brain works, and this includes how you can supercharge your goals and your performance by adhering to the insights about your brain (“The Leading Brain”, F. Fabritius). Your brain is complex, and so is the world we live in, but applying this powerful 3-step formula will help you nail your goals:

Step 1 - Fire up Your Motivation by Defining Your Purpose

When food was scarce on the savanna, saving energy was crucial. Therefore the brains of our ancestors developed strategies to keep them from using unnecessary energy. One of these strategies was habits. By “automating” behaviour the brain could save energy. Even laziness was developed as a tool to save energy in the name of survival.

The same processes exist in the human brain today. But in order to achieve a new goal, you will probably have to take new actions, which will involve using energy in some form. You need to convince your brain that the effort will be worthwhile. Once your brain understands why this goal and your actions are important, it will become more helpful.

Connect your purpose to emotions

But there are more reasons why you should spend some time defining the purpose of your goal. Because when you do, you can also tap into the feeling of achieving your goal. You can feel your why, which lets you tap into the reward system of your brain. Your brain knows there will be a pleasant reward waiting once the goal is achieved. This process also works on a subconscious level, so your brain will work towards your goal, even when you are not aware of it.

Align your goal with your higher purpose and watch the magic happen

If you choose to take the process one step further you can define your higher purpose before you start working on your goals. This will let you plant your goal in fertile soil. In his book “Flow The psychology of optimal experience”, M. Csikszentmihalyi wrote about how a sense of meaning, purpose, makes us happier. The goal gives us a sense of meaning, but a sense of meaning also helps us stick to our goal.

In Eastern philosophy, we find the concepts of dharma and ikigai. Author D. Chopra defines dharma as “a purpose in life ... a unique gift or special talent to give to others. And when we blend this unique talent with service to others, we experience the ecstasy and exultation of our own spirit, which is the ultimate goal”. Ikigai is a similar Japanese concept describing your “reason for being” or bliss.

With a clearly defined purpose and an emotionally anchored goal, you have built a solid foundation for your goal-setting.

Step 2 - Focus on Your Wildly Important BHAG

Your goal helps you focus, by organizing processes in your brain in an orderly way. Csikszentmihalyi describes how this even enables us to tap into the hyper-productive psychological state of flow. But it also works the other way around when you are able to focus you will achieve your goal more easily.

You can think of your brain as a goal-seeking missile. Once you have programmed it, it will look for ways to reach your goal. However, if you work with too many goals, the missile “gets confused” and you are less likely to hit the target.

Focus on the wildly important

In their book “The 4 Disciplines of Execution”, McChesney, Covey, and Huling write about how important initiatives drown in the “whirlwind” of everyday urgencies. They refer to goals in a corporate context, but the same goes for both personal goals and goals in a small business. They advise focusing on the “Wildly Important” when you set your goals. So when you work on your goals, pick 2-4 really important goals you want to work towards.

Dare to dream big

Dare to dream big when you set your goal. In fact, a goal that scares you a bit will trigger processes and neurochemicals in your brain that will help you focus. And with focus, you are more likely to achieve your goal. This is why you shouldn’t be afraid to go after a BHAG (a Big Hairy Audacious Goal) as presented by J. Collins in his book Built to Last”. In order to allow yourself to dream big, also allow yourself enough time to achieve your big goal.

So what is your wildly important goal? It’s your own priorities that decide what is wildly important to you. Your goals can relate to relationships, career, health, or whatever area of your life or business you want to improve.

Step 3 - Break Down Your BHAG into Small, Daily Steps

Now you have allowed yourself to dream big and focus on what is really important to you. However, this big dream of yours may trigger a threat response from the amygdala in your brain. Your brain will come up with reasons why you shouldn’t go after that big dream of yours. Its job is to keep you alive, and venturing into the unknown is not safe. Now you need to be smart and play by the rules of your brain:

The trick is to break down your wildly important BHAG into smaller chunks, so your brain will not recognize it as a threat.

Furthermore, by breaking down your big goal into smaller subgoals, there will be rewards along the way that will help you stay on track. Every time you reach one of your subgoals the reward system in your brain will give you a flush of dopamine, and this will help you stay motivated.

And don’t you worry, one little step a day will get you there sooner than you think.

The 5-4-3-2-1 Method

I use a model for breaking down goals described in the book “The Bullet Journal Method” by R. Carroll. Once you have defined your purpose and decided on your 3-4 wildly important goals, you use this simple, but extremely powerful way to break down your goal:

  • Where do you want to be in 5 years?

  • What will you have accomplished in 4 months?

  • What have you done in 3 weeks?

  • What have you done in 2 days?

  • What first step will you have taken towards your goal within 1 (one) hour?

This will turn your BHAG into digestible chunks that will get you moving already within one hour. And didn’t I tell you that your goals are about the present, what happens today, not about the final destination?

Now you are all set to nail your goals:

Step 1 - Fire up Your Motivation by Defining Your Purpose

Step 2 - Focus on Your Wildly Important BHAG

Step 3 - Break Down Your BHAG into Small, Daily Steps

Follow this powerful 3-step formula and notice how your reality starts to change today!

Follow me on LinkedIn, Facebook, and visit my website for more on leadership and personal development. I also invite you to download my FREE Mindful Productivity Activator.


Anna Nordengren, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Anna Nordengren is a dedicated business professional with 25 years of experience in leadership, marketing and business consulting. She is also an ICF Coach, an NLP Practitioner, and a Certified Yoga Teacher. After a personal crisis, where she dived deep into her own personal development, she made it her mission is to bring all her experience and insights to inspire and help people make changes they are longing for to reach their goals, both in life and in business. “Life is short, don't waste a day being in a situation where you are not happy without trying to change it”. Her academic background is an MSc in Business and Economics with an international degree from Lund University in Sweden, and an Executive MBA from the same University.



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