Misty Copeland was the middle child of six. Her parents divorced, and her mother remarried and divorced two more times. Eventually, Misty and her family were living in a motel. Misty was a quiet, nervous child when she was first introduced to ballet at an after school program. She quickly learned that she had a “ballerina’s body.” Soon, she was referred to as a prodigy. While still a teenager, she set her sights on becoming a principal ballerina with the prestigious American Ballet Theatre (ABT). But there were obstacles. No black woman had ever been a principal dancer in the world-renowned ABT or any other major ballet company in the world. Misty’s ballet teacher and Misty’s mother engaged in a court battle to determine who would manage Misty’s career.
Despite all the commotion, Misty continued to excel. She participated in a summer program at the ABT while she was still in high school and was invited to join the company. Once she began dancing professionally, she injured her back and eventually had surgery on her leg. Despite all these obstacles, Misty was promoted to soloist and then became the ABT’s first black principal ballerina. With every imaginable hurdle, Misty achieved her goal. Misty tells her story in her memoir, Life in Motion.
What about you? What’s that goal that you said you were going to achieve? Here are some strategies to get you to your goal.
1. Set up interim rewards and reward progress. If your goal is to complete a book, create several smaller goals, such as outlining the book, creating the table of contents, taking a workshop or hiring a coach. As you reach each of these smaller goals, give yourself a little reward. If your goal is to start saving $50 per payday, reward yourself when you’ve consistently been saving $10 per payday because that’s progress. Keep your rewards consistent with your goals. If your goal is to save money, consider a reward that doesn’t cost anything like a movie night at home or a trip to a nearby beach or park.
2. Establish habit goals. Let’s return to the example of writing a book. If you’re planning to write a 200-page book, and you want to complete the book in a year, you have to write 15-20 pages a month. If you establish the habit goal of writing five pages a week, that habit will propel you towards your goal of completing your book in a year. With the goal of saving money, consider what habit you could establish to help you save money. Could you establish the habit of only spending money on necessities the second week of every month? Decide what will work with your particular situation.
3. Broadcast your goals. Tell people you trust what you want to accomplish. Ask them to check in with you. If your goal is to complete and publish your book this year, knowing that someone is asking you about it once a week will help you to stay on track.
4. Prepare for setbacks. Family emergencies happen. Cars break down. Consider the things that could derail your progress and plan accordingly. For instance, if your goal is to save $50 per payday, but you have to replace the engine in your car, simply adjust your goal. Maybe you’ll have to settle for saving $25 a payday until you’ve taken care of your car repair bill. The most powerful weapon in your goal attainment arsenal is planning. Take time to sit and think through the inevitable challenges and find a solution.
5. Give yourself grace. You will make mistakes. You will have days when you don’t work towards your goals. Forgive yourself and get going the next day. If you spend days or weeks off course, you’ll lose momentum. You can begin again every single day.
What’s the most effective tool you use to consistently work towards your goals?