How To Tell If You’re Moving Closer or Further From Your Goals

Take a minute to reflect on the major decisions you’ve made in your life and ask if they are moving you closer to your goals.

Regardless of your age and experience, I’m sure you can recall the huge moments in your life.

These are things that have molded you into the person you are today.

I’m sure you also realize that if you were to have made a different decision during those big moments, your life would not be the same right now.

But what if I told you it’s not just the big stuff that matters?

That even the small decisions you make daily accumulate over time to define the essence of your entire being?

Move closer to your goals by examining a few things:

  • making moves
  • making assumptions
  • facing criticism
  • seeking perfection

Moving closer to your goals comes from the small stuff

You may have heard of the butterfly effect, which hypothesizes that even the smallest change in the past could have resulted in a drastically different present or future.

I will not get into the whole mathematics of chaos theory or anything like that (thank God).

However, I want to talk about how our choices and decisions can dramatically affect the people we become tomorrow.

An idea struck after watching a video on Everyday Power.

The narrator credits Abraham Maslow, who states that every decision we make in life has a positive or negative effect on ourselves and our world.

We can think of these decisions as either being “plus one” or “minus one.”

They either help move us closer to our goals or hold us back.

How the “plus one” “minus one” theory equates to making moves

I recently wrote a piece for CareerAddict in which I discussed some of the “minus one” actions many of us take.

Sometimes we do it without even realizing it.

These everyday moves build over time, pushing us farther and farther away from our goals.

Although I want to identify these negative actions, I thought it would be a good idea to use this space to focus on the “plus one” actions we take that will ultimately move us closer to our goals.

Making Moves

Minus One: Waiting for “When it’s right”

I imagine you have at least one major dream for what you want your life to be.

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Unfortunately, many of us stop at the “dream” stage.

We make excuses for not wanting to start working toward our dream right now.

You know the kind: “I had a long week of work,” or “I’m feeling kind of sick today,” or “It’s raining out. Tomorrow will be nice, and I’ll be more motivated.”

Every time you decide against moving forward, you’re not just standing still—you’re moving backward.

Plus One: Just Do It

I hate to use the old Nike cliché, but if you have a dream, there is no better time to work toward it than right now.

Even if you’re tired or sick, do something that will get you closer to attaining your goals.

The weather is nasty?

So what?

Are you going to let water falling from the sky stop you from getting where you want to be in life?

I know you’d much rather curl up on the couch and throw on some Netflix.

However, how will that benefit the future “you?”

It won’t.

Do something that will add to your life in even the minutest way.

These little “plus ones” will add up over time, and you’ll thank yourself when your efforts pay off.

Making Assumptions

Minus One: Assuming the Best or the Worst

In his song True Reflections, Boyd Tinsley of the Dave Matthews Band sings, “You think your life is like a movie / Where it all works out in the end.”

Newsflash: It’s nothing like a movie at all.

Your life won’t simply run its course and “work out” for you if you have put no effort into improving your situation.

This goes along with the last “minus one,” in that every moment you excuse yourself from moving forward in life—while thinking there will always be time “tomorrow”—is time lost that you’ll never get back.

Assuming that nothing will ever go your way can be just as bad for your overall being.

When you neglect to put effort into a task because you assume you’ll fail anyway, you’re letting your own mind impede your goals.

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Ironically, though our minds are capable of great things, we can also let our thoughts hinder our ability to take steps in the right direction.

Plus One: Having Realistic Expectations

Let me be clear: I’m not saying that if you always put 100% into everything you do, you will undoubtedly achieve your goals.

Unfortunately, that’s not how it works.

However, if you have realistic expectations about certain outcomes, you’ll be able to see the progress you’ve made for what it is, even if you fall short of your goal.

You’ll find many more “plus one” experiences even in failure than you will by not even trying at all.

Facing Criticism

Minus One: Letting positive comments go to your head, and negative comments get you down

Throughout your life, there will always be those skills in which you excel and those which… well, aren’t your strong suit.

And throughout your life, you will be praised for your best performances and admonished for your missteps.

In either case, how you react to these criticisms defines your being over your lifetime.

If you live life thinking you’re simply the best at something and allow your inflated ego to make you lazy, you’ll never reach your true potential.

If you take negative criticism to heart and think you’ll never succeed at a certain skill, you’ll have repeatedly set yourself up for failure throughout your life.

Plus One: Using positive and negative comments as learning experiences

However, if you take your ego out of the equation, you’ll start taking criticism of how it is meant to be taken: as a means to improve.

Of course, it feels good to receive a compliment, but instead of allowing your emotions to take over, focus on what the compliment means: You have talent, so make sure you keep up the hard work.

Don’t rest on your laurels, or you’ll fall behind someone else more willing to put in the effort necessary to succeed.

Similarly, while it definitely hurts your heart to receive negative commentary on your work, don’t take the words personally.

Instead, realize that someone else pinpointed your shortcomings so that you don’t have to.

Rather than getting down on yourself, focus on improving the area of your performance they commented on.

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Now, you can wow ‘em the next time around.

Seeking Perfection

Minus One: Playing Life on “Easy Mode”

This ties in with everything we’ve spoken of so far.

So often, we wait for when we’re absolutely certain we’ll succeed to even take a step in the right direction.

We apply to the college we know we’ll get accepted into.

Then we sign up for the classes we know we’ll pass with minimal effort.

Next, we take the job we know we’ll be good at, even if it isn’t what we really want to do with our lives.

And we do all this because we want to be assured that we’ll succeed every step of the way.

But are we really living?

As the heading implies, this is the equivalent of playing a video game in “easy mode.”

Sure, we could go through the motions and complete the obstacles in front of us.

Setting the low bar means we never fully experience what we should have.

Plus One: Being the Best “You” that You Can Be

The most successful people in the world know there’s no such thing as perfection, at least in human form.

They acknowledge, even embrace, their shortcomings and use them as a springboard toward self-improvement.

They never look for the easy way out; they continuously challenge themselves by purposely placing themselves in increasingly difficult situations.

Playing life in “easy mode” might mean not facing any “minus one’s.”

However, you also won’t face any “plus one’s” either.

By seeking opportunities to challenge yourself every chance you get, you may experience your fair share of setbacks.

Yet, you’ll ultimately end up much further ahead in the long run.

Start moving closer to your goals today

What actions or decisions are your plus one, minus ones?

Making a daily routine will help you identify the things moving you closer to your goals or holding you back.

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Please share your thoughts with us in the comment section below.

Matt started taking his writing seriously in April 2015. Six months later, his portfolio had expanded to over 200 published articles that have been shared by over 150,000 readers, resulting in a healthy addiction to writing. He's always looking for new ideas and topics to read and write about, so catch up with him on Twitter @mattducz.
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