How to Reach Your Goals
Experts describe strategies for setting goals -- and making sure you achieve them.
The Art of Saying 'No'
Another reason many people don't reach their goals is that they just can't
say no -- to everyone else. "Many of us, especially women, put other things
and people first," says Susan Newman, PhD, a social psychologist at Rutgers
University and author of The Book of NO: 250 Ways to Say It-and Mean It and
Stop People-Pleasing Forever. We're unable to refuse when asked for our
time, our talent, our expertise, or merely our presence.
"Saying yes is a habit we're not even aware of," says Newman.
"Think 'no' before you think 'yes' (not the other way around). By adding
the word 'no' to your vocabulary, you open up vistas of time, not only to work
toward a goal but also to think about how to reach it," Newman says.
"In short, you put boundaries in place and establish priorities in the
correct order [for you]."
If you haven't mastered the art of saying "no" and you think that's
derailing your efforts to reach your goals, Newman suggests taking these
- Make a list of how many times a day you say 'yes.' "You'll be
startled," says Newman.
- Pay attention to how you parcel out your time. "For most of us, it just
disappears. … Who's monopolizing the time you could otherwise spend on reaching
- Set priorities. Who has first dibs on you and your time?
- Look at your limitations. When do you start to lose your stamina?
"Don't keep pushing until you run out of steam and collapse
altogether," Newman advises.
- Let go of control. You don't have to do it all yourself. "If you're
doing everything else, there's no time for you to get back to your
There are two tricks to properly setting your goals, says University of
Alabama at Birmingham clinical psychologist Joshua Klapow, PhD. Klapow is
co-author of Stop Telling Me What-Tell Me How: The Simple Answer to Better
First, turn goals into specific behaviors, says Klapow. "To say that you
are going to exercise doesn't tell you which exercise to do, for how long and
how frequently. If you don't know what to do, you are less likely to do the
behavior. Be specific. Saying that you plan to walk five minutes a day -- and
increase the time by one minute each week until you are walking 30 minutes per
day -- is better than just saying that you plan to exercise."