The target number strategy for achieving goals

If you have a goal that feels a little vague or uninspiring, try setting a target number to it. I used this strategy last year to build a meditation habit, and not only did I achieve my goal, I kept the habit going well beyond the target number.

I’ve written before about my love of wine, and the benefits I discovered when I gave it up for a month. But despite all the benefits, I still found myself slipping back into old habits. So this year, one of my goals is to reduce my alcohol intake. 

I know that I feel much more energetic, mentally switched on, and productive when I don’t drink at all. But I was still finding it hard to commit to a reduction. I guess because I’ve tried making ‘rules’ for myself before (such as, only two drinking days per week), but then haven’t stuck to them, for a variety of reasons.

So I had to think about other ways I could make this goal achievable, have fun with it, and gain the benefits all at once.

Set yourself a target number

Rather than having a vague “reduce this” goal, I wanted something I could really measure. Having to do something every single week (eg. A certain number of alcohol-free days per week) means I can’t actually achieve the goal until the end of the year, and even if I mess up only one week, I’ve ‘failed’ the goal. This didn’t feel motivating to me.

So instead, I’ve set myself a target number. This year, I’m going to have at least 200 alcohol free days. And I’m excited about it! Because now I have a target I’m aiming to achieve, rather than just depriving myself of something I enjoy. And I have all the flexibility I want.

Here are the reasons I know this strategy will work for me (and might work for you, too)…

The number is achievable, but challenging and meaningful – 200 days in the whole year is less than 4 days per week. But it’s also more than half of the year. Play around with your number until it feels a little bit scary but still achievable.

I can achieve it sooner than the end of the year if I want. If I decide to do 200 days in a whole streak (unlikely, George), then I can tick this goal off and be done with it. Give yourself options to speed up or slow down your progress depending on what else may be going on in your life.

Giving myself a gold star for each day that I’m alcohol-free feels more like I’m moving toward something, rather than missing out on something. Focus on what you are gaining or moving toward if you’re giving something up. If the ‘something’ feels too vague or un-measurable, focusing on the number can help until you start feeling the other benefits.

Apply this strategy to other goals

The best thing about this target number strategy is that you can apply it to just about anything. What goals have you set yourself this year? Are they measurable? Do you feel confident about achieving them?

Here are some other examples of how you could apply the target number strategy:

GoalTarget Number Strategy
Read moreRead 12 books
Eat healthierPack my own lunch 100 times
Exercise moreGo to the gym 50 times
Get a new jobApply for 30 jobs

What other ways can you think of to apply the target number strategy to achieve your goals?

I’d love to hear from you.

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