Whether you’re a young entrepreneur, or pursuing a professional career, there’s a method to achieving success. Without a strategy for achieving the success you want, you’ll simply be treading water and watching others pass you by. Developing an actionable plan is essential and it can ensure you achieve your dreams sooner, rather than later. These steps will help you develop and implement a plan of action that can soon have you enjoying the spoils of victory.

Develop a Plan

This isn’t setting specific short-term goals. That will come later. Before you can set goals for yourself, you have to first determine what you want to do and how you’ll get to that point. To simply say that you want to go into business for yourself, or that you want to move up into a managerial position in your company isn’t enough. You have to develop a plan of action that will move you towards your ultimate outcome.

Think more specifically about what you want and really consider what it will take to get you there. Will you have to go back to school, or take a headwind seminar? What type of support will you need? How will you obtain the necessary experience? By thinking about these points, you’ll get a better grasp on what it will take for you to make your way toward success. Additionally, never feel too rigidly glued to the plan you develop. If you’re unwilling to bend and alter your plan, as you move forward, you’ll never be able to move past your inevitable failures.

Get in the Right Headspace

Now, that you have a plan, it’s time to get your hands dirty, right? Wrong. First, you’ll need to deal with your own emotional and psychological barriers to success. Many people fail, because they let their own inner thoughts control them and sabotage their efforts. For instance, it’s time to get control over your depressive episodes, which may be one of the most difficult things you’ll have to do. Instead of letting feelings of inadequacy, or of thoughts of being victimized, inhibit your ambition, you will have to turn those thoughts around. Take responsibility of your feelings and determine to accept accountability for the way you act and react to life events.

Once you feel as though your emotional state has been managed, you’re able to fully commit to your project. It’s vital that you completely commit to achieving success, because it won’t come easy. There will be challenges and you’ll make plenty of mistakes along the way, so you must be prepared to persevere, especially on those days, when all you really want to do is give up. You’ll have to force yourself to stay the course, which means having that voice in the back of your head reminding you that you’ve dedicated yourself toward achieving success.

Set Your Goals

Now, you can finally begin setting your goals. This is a more complex process than you may think and it begins with selecting goals that excite you and those that will help you stay motivated in your pursuit of whatever success you’re working toward. You’re less likely to devote the time and energy it takes to accomplish a goal, if you can see no value in attaining the outcome. So, select goals that will help you move closer toward your success and those that will hold your interest to some degree.

Additionally, your goals should be time-sensitive. If you don’t feel any sense of urgency, you’re less likely to stay dedicated to the goals you choose to pursue. In a nutshell, your goals need to be interesting to you, productive in helping you attain success, and inspire you with a sense of urgency. Since you should also limit how many goals you take on at once, how do you select the ideal goals that will help you succeed? By following the S.M.A.R.T. Goals principle.

What Are S.M.A.R.T. Goals?

By following the S.M.A.R.T. Goals principle, you can ensure you’re implementing a strong plan of action that will help to ensure your success. Each letter stands for a trait your chosen goal must possess.

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time-Sensitive

Specific

One problem many people run into is that their goals are often vague, or undefined. They may select getting a promotion as a goal, where they should be defining the actions they will take to get that promotion. For instance, one goal might be to ask a supervisor for tips on how to improve your performance and implement those suggestions.

Measurable

There must be some way to measure your progress. In the previous example, perhaps you can view your last employee evaluation to determine what score or grade you received. If you were rated with the equivalent of 80%, for example, perhaps your next goal should be to bring that up to 90% by your next evaluation.

Attainable

We often fail to meet our goals, because they can be too unrealistic. Deciding you want to lose 20 pounds in a week isn’t really an attainable goal, even though it is specific and measurable. Instead, decide to lose just two pounds per week. That’s a more attainable goal and one that will still help you work towards losing 20 pounds total.

Relevant

When you’re working toward an outcome, setting goals that won’t move you closer to that result is just a waste of your time. For instance, if your plan is to start your own business, throwing all of your efforts into securing a promotion with your current employer is really a waste of your resources. Your time is better spent working out a business plan, considering how you’ll finance your business, or looking for ways to improve your credit.

Time-Sensitive

Finally, each goal should be restricted by time boundaries, so you’ll feel that sense of urgency. If your goal is to improve your credit, add a time limit to achieving that goal. For instance, determine to raise your credit score by 50 points within the next six months. Setting a limit will keep you motivated and on schedule towards achieving your ultimate goal, or outcome.

Remember That You’ll Always Need Financing

Whether starting a business of your own is a dream, or securing a promotion is what you’re working toward, you’re always going to need cash readily available. This will help you reinvest in your career, or business, so starting a practice of saving early is important. Even if you can just put $10 away from each pay period, that money will add up over time. This will ensure you have funds to buy new business software, hire a business attorney, take a training course, or pay for a professional membership.

Establishing savings can help you secure financing from others, as well. Everyone from family members to angel investors will want to know what you’ve done to commit to your business idea or career goal. If you can show that you’ve saved as much as you were able, this will go a long way towards helping you obtain outside support. People are more likely to believe in your dream, when you can back it up with a cash investment to show the faith you have in yourself.

Bio:  Jeremy is a tech and business writer from Simi Valley, CA. He’s worked for Adobe, Google, and himself. He lives for success stories, and hopes to be one someday.