We must set goals if we want to achieve something, that’s the widely accepted belief. The assumption is that goals give us something to focus on, and presumably if we remain focused, we will reach that goal. Life is rarely that simple. Things come up, more pressing things, difficult things, painful things, or just a ton of things. During those times, that goal we set seems impossibly far away from becoming reality. Or that goal is something we still have plenty of time to work toward later after we take this short detour. Staying focussed on that goal seems pointless, or at least it’s not a priority right now. That goal has lost its ability to motivate and is now pointless.

What if we used goals in a different way. Rather than one goal far off in the distance, goals should be a tool we use continuously throughout the day to motivated us when the going gets rough or we feel like we want to quit.

For instance: It’s Sunday, and I set a goal to train five times this week. Each morning of that week I set a goal to train that day. The goal is more imminent, and I am clear on my responsibility that day. Then Wednesday comes along, and I get a flat tire on the way to the gym. I am tempted to fix the tire then blow off the workout. BEFORE I start to justify my decision to skip a workout and blow my goal to train that day I set a new goal. No matter how long it takes me to fix that tire, I am going to workout that day.

So I get to the gym two hours later than normal and start to train. I am doing treadmill interval sprints, and I am tempted to cut the workout a little short tonight. I consider doing only 10 minutes of intervals rather than the planned 20 because of the delay fixing my tire. Before I start to justify that decision, I stop that negative thought process and set a new goal to complete 20 minutes of intervals no matter what.

As I am running my 30-second sprint intervals, I reach the 20-second mark and want to quit. My legs are on fire, it’s late, I had a flat tire…but before I start to convince myself to quit, I stop justifying and set a 10-second goal to finish this interval.

At 25 seconds my lungs and legs are on fire, I feel like I am going to fall off the treadmill before I start to justify quitting I set another goal to run five more seconds. But it’s super uncomfortable, I quickly set another goal to run one more second, then one more second, until my intervals are done.

Goals are best used as tools to motivate us past discomfort, distraction or justification. The length of the goal is directly related to the level of discomfort. If the discomfort is very high, the length of the goal must be short. Just enough to motivate you past the challenge by making it feel possible. That’s how goals stop being wishes and become powerful tools to motivate us through challenges.

Success breeds more success and by setting goals constantly, then achieving them, you can celebrate accomplishments and success all day long. That makes you more confident and mentally stronger which makes those goals easier to reach the next day, and so on.

Set your long term wish goals then use your working goals all day long to keep you motivated, strong, and constantly stacking up the confidence-building wins. In a matter of days, winning becomes your habit, your confidence, and your mental strength become unshakable. Before you know it, your long term goals become your reality.