I'm sure you have goals--we all do--but how many do you accomplish? Studies show only 8 percent of people achieve their goals, but it doesn't have to be that way. Whether your goals are personal or professional, the steps to achieving them are the same. And, when you understand the brain tricks anything is possible.

My husband and I recently accomplished a big goal: visiting all 50 states together. On the final trip, I spent some time reflecting on the behavioral science of goals--why we were able to make this one stick and how those lessons apply to any goal. Here are those three tips:

1. Ignore the herd

Humans are a herding species by nature, which makes us want to do what everyone else does. However, if you want to achieve something new and different (often the case when setting goals in life and business) you can't be like everyone else. 

Your brain is wired to listen to naysayers and make you want to question everything, but more often than not you should fight this urge. For our goal of visiting all 50 states together, we needed to define what warranted checking a state off the list. Over the years it wasn't uncommon for someone hearing of our goal to say, "Well, that doesn't count! I would only count a state if..."

Our herding brains were naturally inclined to revisit the goal--Did we define it wrong? Do all those states actually count? Should we revisit before moving forward? Instead of worrying about anyone else's definition of success, we were confident in ours, which allowed us to move forward. 

Herding businesses don't stand out. Some of our favorite stories from the journey include the wacky (but successful) businesses: the Precious Moments Museum in Missouri or Piggly Wiggly supermarkets. If those entrepreneurs had followed the herd, they wouldn't have stood out and might not have stayed around. 

If everyone else doesn't get your idea, it doesn't mean it's wrong. If you know it's right, keep going.

2. Don't be a victim to time discounting

Have you ever said you would start your new productivity regimen (or diet or exercise plan or...) "on Monday" and failed to follow through?  This is due to a concept called time discounting--humans are bad at predicting what we will want or do in the future, and many of us see our future selves as a completely different person

That means, goals are easy to set because your brain is putting them in place for someone else to accomplish. Future Melina is awesome and does all sorts of amazing things. I can commit her to bring productive 100 percent of the time--a task she accomplishes while running marathons and eating nothing but lettuce and dry chicken.

It is easier to continue pushing the tasks needed to achieve a goal back on Future Melina, which is why tomorrow always looks like the right day to start. 

Most people will never visit all 50 states because it is a goal that lives with their future self. To achieve it, we had to prioritize and assign tasks to ourselves that weren't in the "someday" category. 

In your goals--whether they are personal or in your business--follow this plan:

  • Limit to no more than three at a time. If you are trying to achieve too much, it will all be in the "someday" category that never gets done.
  • Break the goal into the smallest possible tasks. If you want to increase your social media following, instead of thinking about the ultimate goal focus on adding one a day. Then it can become a habit with a steady flow of positive influence. 
  • Make those tiny tasks a priority. You can't go to sleep until you engage with enough people to get that follower. What can you do right now to increase followers? Not tomorrow--today.

3. Make sensory reminders

The subconscious brain relies on the senses, and it is constantly scanning the world for clues on what is important--what it should focus on. Once you have your goals limited to no more than three, you can make them omnipresent in your life. There should be sensory reminders and clues for your brain everywhere: vision boards, audio reminders on your phone, a keyboard that buzzes when you try to open social media at the wrong time of day.

Using a scratchable map helped us see clusters emerge ("If we fly into Salt Lake City and drive to Yellowstone we can knock off four states in one trip!") and seeing it on the wall was a constant reminder of our goal. 

If it isn't important enough to shout from the rooftops (remember, don't worry about the herd) it might be the wrong goal. Live and breathe this thing--and you'll get there. 

What's your goal? I'd love to hear it.