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How to Actually Reach Your Goals (Really!)

  |  “How can you ever be successful if you don't have clarity about what you want to achieve in the long run?”

If you’re tired of making and then breaking your goals, then you’re almost certainly doing it wrong. Listen to today’s episode to find out why most resolutions/goals are never achieved, and what you can do instead.

​​The 10 Steps to Successfully Reach Your Goals: 

  1. Begin with a clear picture of the kind of person you want to be after 1 year
  2. Brainstorm some "wouldn't it be cool if..." aspirations
  3. Write them down
  4. Figure out the priority (which one do you want to act on now?)
  5. Rephrase the aspiration as a S.M.A.R.T. goal
  6. Think of potential obstacles to reaching that goal
  7. Create a plan for when you face the obstacle or challenge
  8. Think about the identity of the version of yourself who has reached this goal
  9. Adjust your environment and your thinking to match  that identity
  10. Choose your friends wisely-- you will become the average of the five people you spend the most time with.


  • A visualization exercise to help you get clarity about your goals
  • The little-known secrets to your goal setting success
  • The 10 steps to successfully reaching your goals
  • Key reasons why you have to develop strong self-awareness
  • Practical examples on how to set your goals correctly

     And so much more.


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– Steve Gardner, Founder

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In last week's podcast, I talked about my favorite definitions of success and failure. 

The fact that way most people see failure is what I see as one really critical element towards success. That's because I define failure as giving up what you want most for what you think you want. Today. 

And we talked about if you haven't listened to it yet, please go back and listen to last week's episode. 

Because we talked about how important it is, if this is the true definition of success and failure, that means that a lot of the choices that are easy at the moment today are going to lead to a harder life. 

Right? It's easy to sleep in and hit this news button. It's harder to get up and exercise.

But that easy choice is going to lead to a harder life; making the harder choice today is going to lead to an easier life in the future because as you develop skills, as you strengthen your body, you strengthen your mind, and your life gets easier and easier. 

You take advantage of more and more opportunities. It leads to greater and greater success than what you really want. 

On the other hand, making the easy choice today, hitting the snooze button and staying in bed or eating the food that you really shouldn't be eating if you want to stay healthy or being lazy and procrastinating instead of focusing or getting organized ahead of time, and keeping your priorities where they should be.

Now, that's really important to understand and really powerful because it leads to some barriers to success. How on earth could you possibly ever be successful? If you don't have clarity about what you want in the long run? Today, we are going to get you that clarity. It's a lot easier than you might suspect.


In order to do this, I'm going to take you through an abbreviated version of a visualization that I always do with my students. I know that sometimes listeners are traveling or even driving or exercising or something else. 

And they're not always in a position to stop and really visualize with me. Even if you want to finish the podcast before you have a chance, stop and close your eyes. I do want you to come back to this later at some point very soon.

Come back to this episode, and listen to this section again with your eyes closed, sitting and taking it seriously. So do an actual visualization with me. 

And then, after we do that, I want to give you the exact steps that you need to make this journey super clear for yourself. I'm just going to say you have the actual successful steps toward reaching goals. 

I know goals can be so frustrating because we set new year's resolutions every year. We often get so frustrated with ourselves when we let ourselves down and don't accomplish the new year's resolutions. 

We set goals sometimes at the beginning of the school year or during birthdays, or at the beginning of a new job or opportunity.

And oftentimes, we just forget about those goals, and we go on living the way we had been living before. I know that can be frustrating. I know that can be even more frustrating than having never set goals in the first place. 

And I know that many people choose to actually stop setting goals because there no good comes from them. They become so frustrated at the fact that they can't accomplish those goals. 

They always let themselves down. I'm going to give you the secrets. I'm going to tell you exactly what to do so that you reach my definition of success far faster than you ever dreamed possible. And goal setting starts to become fun. 


Most importantly, it actually leads to you becoming a better version of yourself. Let's get started. The next section of this podcast it's only gonna be a minute or so. I want you to find a place where you can sit down and close your eyes and just listen. 

Take a deep breath as you're closing your eyes, and begin to imagine yourself walking down the street. You look up, and in the far distance, you see someone about three or four blocks away from you walking towards you.

At first, you can't tell who it is. But as they continue to walk towards you, they get closer and closer. And you realize that it is you, but look closer and realize that person is so confident and so happy. 

Look at the way they're walking and look at the way they're smiling, just radiating confidence and radiating happiness.

As you look at that person, you realize that this is you, as you would like to be one year from today. So think about it. What have you done with your life over this past year? What helped you become so much more confident? 

What helped you become so much happier? 

What have you spent your time doing? 

What was your focus? 

Throughout this time? 

Remember, this is the person you'd like to be in a year. You've become that person. As you watch yourself, walk towards you. How did you use this time? Now, if you've done this sincerely, you have done a self-awareness exercise. 

Normally, we would extend this significantly, and we would have the version of you from a year from today. 

This best version of you, we would have them talk to you, and you would have a conversation. And during that visualization, you would get much deeper and more clarity into what helped you become that person. 

But doing this exercise and exercises like this, developing your self-awareness, is really important for two reasons.

1, right now, the age you are at is a critical time for the rest of your life. 

The decisions you make at this stage of your life will have a compound influence over the rest of your life. And number two, if you don't plan out your life, guess what? Someone else will do it for you. If you've ever been to an amusement park, you can choose whatever right you want. 

But once you've strapped in and the ride has begun, you don't get to choose how the ride goes. You don't get to choose where it's going to take you. You. 

You don't get to choose the experience you're going to have. This kind of self-awareness exercise is really important to help you gain clarity about who you want to become. Guess what?

On this path to successful goal setting, you have already accomplished the first. And I would say the most important step that is to visualize the kind of person you want to be and visualize yourself as the person you want to become.

Once you've done that, there are two schools of thought around goals. I think you should take advantage of both. 

The first is the smart goals; smart is an acronym that spells out specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound. Now, I always recommend that you exchange attainable for actionable because, in my mind, attainable and realistic are very, very similar.

 But I like the word actionable because, as you heard from my previous podcast, the one thing that sets successful people apart is a bias for action; make your goals something that you can act on. 

Those are smart goals, things you can measure, things that are actionable, realistic, time-bound, and also specific.

But there's another school of thought around goals. Wouldn't it be cool if the type of goals? Not worrying about how you're going to accomplish it, but worrying more about what you would love your life to become, worrying more about what you can see when you are the best version of yourself or when your life is at its best. 

I think that both of these exercises are equally valuable. So I recommend now that you've done this visualization. You've seen yourself as this most confident, happy version of yourself exactly one year from today. 

Think about it through this lens, wouldn't it? Be cool. 

I think about the things that you've become and write them down. Wouldn't it be cool if I was confident enough to fill in the blank? 

Wouldn't it be cool if I was so happy that I brought joy to every room that I entered and people knew me for how much joy I brought into their lives? 

Wouldn't it be cool if I had a reputation for being both confident and kind, et cetera et cetera?

So it is cool. If statements are not really goals in the sense of smart goals, they're more aspirations. 

And so I like to leave it at that these are just, wouldn't it? 

Be cool if these are aspirations for your best self, it's putting words to the fact that you do have an idea of what you would like to become, and you're not worried about how you're going to get there. You just recognize that this would be cool. It would be amazing if that were you.

Now I know that many of you are listening; as I said might be working out, or you might be driving a car or something else. It's impossible to stop and write down. 

But I want you to come back to this podcast and listen to it again when you can sit down, do the visualization, and you can write down. Wouldn't it be cool if it is absolutely critical all of the research out there? Agrees. 

It's very unusual for all the research to agree, but in this case, all the research agrees that writing down your aspirations really makes it much more likely for you to succeed with them.

Write down you're wouldn't it be cool? If what I recommend you do is one of two things, either turn into a bookmark.

Wouldn't it be cool? If and when all, wouldn't it be cool? 

If that's 5 or 50 or 1 hundred or more, write them down and create a bookmark with them so that you're seeing it accidentally. 

The other option is to make a poster and put it up in your house in your room somewhere that you're going to see it. When you're not thinking about your goals, but you just happen to see them, if you have a favorite notebook or a planner or something that you look at all the time, then absolutely you can put it there as well, but write them down.

So step one do the visualization in step two; wouldn't it be cool? If aspiration setting, step three, write it down in some place where you're going to see it on accident on a regular basis. Step four from that list wouldn't be cool. 

If figure out which one is the priority and which one is something you can start working on today? Sometimes those will be the same thing, sometimes not, but regardless, figure out the priority, highlighted in your mind or highlighted in some way. This is the one thing that would really make a difference for me. 

Hopefully, it's the thing you can start working on right away. If not, then find something else that is something you can start working on, right? 

Away use the energy of this goal-setting moment to begin making winds for yourself. Step four is to figure that one out figure out the priority, which one is first, and step five.

Now we come back to the smart. This is where you use smart specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and time-bound. Go ahead and turn that first priority into a smart goal or turn the one that you can take action on today into a smart goal.

If it is to be more healthy, then how can you make that specific? 


In order for me to be more healthy? I need to what? I need to run more, and I need to eat better; I need to sleep better. What is it for you? 

So maybe being more healthy for you is tied to being happier and more confident and that being sleep-deprived all the time is not good for your happiness level. So maybe you decide it's all about sleep. Instead of just being more healthy, now change that to getting 9 hours of sleep. 

Every night for the next month, and see how I feel. That's specific, 9 hours of sleep. 

For the next month. That's specific and time-bound. Is it measurable? 9 hours of sleep? Is it actionable? 

You either get in bed on time, or you don't. Is it really up to you? 

Okay, it should be. It has to be you guys, and sleep is so critical for your success.

Now, don't stop by just figuring out the priority and making it a smart goal. Next, in step six, you want to think about the obstacles to success, so getting 9 hours of sleep might feel easy at the moment that you're writing down your smart goal. 

It might be more difficult when you attempt to binge-watch net flicks or Disney plus. Step six is to think of the obstacles to success. 

What are the days or the obstacles or the moments that are going to make your goal difficult to achieve? What are the times when you think you might slip up? What are the times when you've slipped up before? 

When did you set this goal? You have to think ahead about those obstacles and those moments and create a plan for them. So think about those obstacles to success in steps six and step seven; what are you going to do to create a plan in your mind? 

What are you going to do when you face that obstacle when you are tempted to binge-watch? What do you do?

Or maybe make it even easier on yourself. You say, look, it's not just when I'm tempted to binge-watch on Disney plus, I have a hard time getting to bed in time to get my 9 hours before I need to wake up for school. 

And I always hit the snooze button because it's hard to wake up. And I just need to change that. So what is my plan for when I face obstacles? And maybe you decide, instead of setting one alarm, when it's time to wake up, I'm going to set the alarm for when it's time to go to bed for 1 hour. 

Before I need to sleep, I'll program my phone to set the alarm, a bedtime alarm. And that bedtime alarm is something I'm going to take seriously. Whatever that obstacle is, you need to have a plan of action that is actionable, and that will work so that when you face that obstacle and you're tempted to do something other than reaching your goal, do the thing that you decided to do, that you'll know what to do on step eight.

In order to make sure that you take that action, I need you to think about the identity of the version of yourself who has reached this goal. So in this case, if you wouldn't it be cool? 

If I was so much more confident and so much happier, you decided that in order to get there, you need to get 9 hours of sleep. Every single night or, maybe, it's six nights a week. What is the identity of that version of you who has reached this goal? 

Maybe you decide that getting 9 hours of sleep is going to make you vibrant and sharp and happy and joyful, all right. You decide to pick the word vibrant as the word that keys you into the identity of that person, which is step eight. 

Think of the word that represents the identity of this version of you, vibrant, confident, healthy, happy, successful, whatever that identity is. 

Step nine out of ten, adjust your environment. You're thinking about matching that identity now that you've decided that the best version of you one year from today you're going to be someone who is vibrant; then begin telling yourself now that you are vibrant, adjust your environment and your thinking to be more vibrant.

So what does that mean? Your environment might be an environment that allows you to be asleep at the hour that you need to be asleep. 

That probably means a place where your cell phone can go when it's time to go to bed so that you're not looking at the screen right before bed, which stimulates your brain and makes it impossible to fall asleep. 


So that might mean getting better curtains so that it's darker at night so that you can be completely dark in your room and fall asleep earlier.

And for sure, it's setting an alarm that tells you when it's time to go to bed and so on and so forth; decide what ways you can make your environment more supportive of this new identity and shift your mindset as well. 

So as you shift your environment, shift your internal environment, and start planting these seeds, you are this better version of yourself. 

You're already there, and you visualize it; you've seen it. You thought about how that person talks to themselves; go ahead and start talking to yourself in that way. Now, it's okay. If this feels awkward, if you start telling yourself I'm so vibrant, I'm glad I'm doing this because it's making me more vibrant, and thinking yourself can be pretty awkward at first.

Thank you for doing this thing that makes you more confident, makes you happier, and makes you more vibrant; thinking about yourself and thinking these thoughts intentionally is kind of awkward because it feels like they're not natural at first, but keep doing it. Even though it's awkward, super powerful. 

You'll be glad you did. 

And pretty soon, it won't feel awkward. It'll feel natural, just like the rest of your thoughts. 

Finally, in step ten, choose your friends wisely. I'll tell you one of the greatest long-term benefits of the Ivy League Challenge is the supportive community. 

The fact that everyone who has joined the community, everyone that's part of each cohort, is committed to being the best version of themselves means that they're supporting each other and helping each other. 

It is so important if you want to become this better version of yourself. It is so important that you pick your friends wisely and make sure that you are benefiting from a supportive community. 

You might have heard the adage that you become the average of the five people you spend the most time with.

So the five most important people in your life, the people you spend the most time with, generally dictate who you become; think carefully about who you are spending your time in your energy with, and choose wisely.

I talk about this in greater detail in a Guide that I've written called the five fatal flaws to avoid in middle school. 

If you want to be admitted to your dream university and this Guide is for middle school students and high school students. 

One of the five things that I emphasize and go into great detail about in that Guide is choosing your friends wisely. It is going to make a tremendous difference in your success later on. Now, if you'd like to read about all five of those fatal pitfalls, then good news. 

The Guide is completely Free. I've written it for you. Just look in the show notes for a link to a website where you can download that Guide.

Now, once again, I really want to emphasize how important it is that you decide now what kind of person you'd like to become if the definition of failure is giving up what you want most in life. For what you think you want today at this moment, success is the opposite. Learning how to overcome what you think you want today so that you can achieve what you truly want in the future.

Then the most important thing you can do is gain clarity about who you want to become. And these ten steps are the path to becoming that person.

I wanna tell you that these are the ten steps that really take you where you want to go. 

This is what helped me get admitted to Harvard University. This is what helped me become a business owner and a bestselling book author. 

And these are the steps that I have taught students who have been admitted to Harvard and Princeton and Berkeley, and other Top tier universities. 

And these are the steps that I have taught my students that help them become Guinness Book of World record holders and winners of speech company. Petitions.

And most importantly, this is how people have become happier. This is how people have become more confident. 

This is how you become the best version of yourself. It is the ultimate guide in creating the life that you want for yourself, how to set goals, and actually reach them. 


Don't just wander around the amusement park of life and just sit in long lines doing nothing, or just stay on the same ride until it's a small world. After all, drives you insane. This is your life. You can choose which ride you go on, but once you're strapped in, you don't get to choose where that ride takes. You. 

So take a minute to decide which rides in life you want to take. What do you want to do with your time and your energy so you are at your best to follow these ten steps to becoming that better version of yourself? 

Just like so many before, you have followed these ten steps and become happier, more confident, and more engaged in life. You can take the time, follow these ten steps and do it for yourself. You can do it too.