At the end of the year, I typically write articles that offer wisdom and knowledge I’ve gleaned over the years to help readers improve their lives in the new year. Because isn’t that what we’re all trying to do? Become better?

This is the underlying motivation of all goals, whether you’re trying to lose weight, get promoted, work on your relationship, write a book, quit smoking, or improve your finances. And it’s activated by a potential in you that wants to come forth through the goals you set.

As we close out 2023, I’d like to help you connect to this potential because it’s the most powerful force for tapping into your grit when your motivation wanes or the going gets tough. Let’s explore how to achieve your goals by asking four essential questions!

Key Questions to Guide You on How to Achieve Your Goals

My hope is that 2024 won’t see you among the people who join the failed-resolution club within six months. If this feels true for you, I invite you to ask yourself the following four questions to craft a path to your goals that’s grounded in something much larger than the goal itself.

1. What’s Possible?

Write down your goals on a piece of paper. For each goal, allow yourself to dream the full extent of what’s possible.

If you’re resistant for fear of being disappointed, or if you think dreaming is for little children, give your thinking mind a break. Dreams ignite hope, and hope is different from having expectations. Higher hopes and lower expectations make for resilience.

As you dream of what’s possible, notice the excitement and energy vibrate through your body. If none of the possibilities moves something within you, dig around your goal:

  • Why do you want the raise?
  • What would it mean for your life, or that of your loved ones?
  • Why do you want to improve your relationship with your adult child?
  • How would your life expand as a result?

If you’re still not feeling giddy with excitement, you may need to dig even deeper. Instead of improving your relationship with your partner, maybe what you really want is to tend to yourself. Instead of working toward a more senior position at your organization, maybe what you truly long for is a career as an author, or a year off to have fun, relax, or engage in creative pursuits.

2. What’s Ready?

Of these dreams, choose the one that feels most alive and vibrant. This isn’t easy because we often want everything to change all at once. The good news is that when you tap into “ripe” potential, it benefits all areas of your life.

Last year, I had to choose between my goal of looking after my health and that of launching my book by a certain date. My health took precedence, and I’ll never regret that decision. Even though the launch was delayed a few months, it was so much more joyful and powerful because I wasn’t tired and burned out through it.

If the longing that feels most alive isn’t practical—you can’t possibly take a year off when you have mouths to feed—think of ways you can incorporate it into your everyday life:

  • Can you start including more weekend getaways?
  • Can you start writing that book instead of working extra hours toward a promotion?
  • Can you start honoring your guilty pleasures without judging yourself so harshly?

Let that become your goal.

3. Who’s the Person?

Now, connect to the you that is present when you wonder how to achieve your goals:

  • Who are you when your dreams have come true?
  • How are you showing up? How do you relate to yourself?
  • How do you make others feel?
  • How do you face challenges and setbacks?
  • How do you relate to life and its many blessings?

This is the most authentic and resourceful you. The you who’s undaunted by the criticisms and expectations of others. And this is the identity that you need to start embodying, because authenticity and possibility go hand in hand. As the great humanistic psychologist Carl Rogers said, the real you paves the way to your ideal life.

In every action or thought related to pursuing your goal, bring this identity to mind:

  • What would this authentic identity say?
  • How would they respond?
  • What would they think about this situation, and how would they approach it?

If this exercise feels weird, it’s because most of us give too much airtime to the inner critic and the noise of the world telling us what to do. This is why we compare ourselves to others and lose hope or beat ourselves up when we hit the inevitable bumps along the way.

The more you connect to your wisdom, the more you’ll be able to give yourself the grace you deserve, find creative detours when you face setbacks, and honor the need for joy and ease along the way.

4. What’s the Path?

Connecting to your true identity will chart the path you need to take to reach your goals. A client recently shared how she was trying to reach her fitness goal by going to the gym every morning at 6 a.m. The identity work helped her realize that she hated the gym and always had—and she wasn’t a morning person, either. She was forcing this path on herself because her inner critic told her she was lazy otherwise.

Think of the most joyful path to your goal:

  • Is there an easier way of doing what you’re trying to accomplish?
  • Have you set unreasonable expectations?

With your true identity and exciting possibilities in mind, think of the structures and routines that will help you achieve your goal:

Taking this inside-out approach to goal achievement allows you to feel grounded in potential and supported by something much bigger than yourself. Paths may open up, opportunities may appear out of nowhere, and you may find help where you least expected it.

As the writer Paulo Coelho writes in The Alchemist, “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” I wish you a joyful path in embracing this new journey on how to achieve your most heartfelt goals in 2024 and beyond!

A version of this article originally appeared on Happify.

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