A 4-Step Plan for Dopamine-Powered Goals You’ll Actually Achieve

Many years ago I watched a video showing Frank Kern walking through his perfect day exercise.

I remember him describing the bathroom and shower in his house that he’d written about in detail years earlier, and attributing much of his success to the intentions he created through this process.

NB: I also found the whole 2 hour speech here, which you may want to bookmark for when you have some time to watch.

Since then I have been a firm advocate of the perfect day system & now is the time of year I sit down to write a letter to myself for the same time the following year as if the year has already passed.

I describe where I am, who I’m with, what I’m doing, how the year has gone, events that have happened and I detail specifically my finances, my work and health circumstances and anything else that’s a priority for me that year.

I have found without doubt, the years I do this versus the years I don’t are infinitely more intentional and as such more successful.

Once I’ve written my perfect day letter I pick my theme for the year and move on to setting specific and measurable goals which I turn into weekly and daily actions.

Here’s where I, along with 99% of the population get it wrong however.

Here’s why so many resolutions are broken so fast after New Year.

The goal setting and planning is the dopamine inducing part of the process.

Imagining ourselves in our ideal scenario, earning what we dream about, living where we dream about, looking how we dream about. This is all the stuff that gets the happy cells juiced and makes us feel as great as we do eating a bar of chocolate.

The action taking, over a consistent period is where it gets hard, which is why I added a second dopamine inducing exercise every single week through this past year & boy does it make a difference!

Let’s walk through my process, so you can make 2024 the year you achieve all your goals & dreams!

Please feel free to use the simple google doc I use to do this exercise. You can click and copy to your own drive and then amend as suits you. I do this in conjunction with the Your Lifestyle Business Planner we launched in 2023.

The Dopamine Based Goal Setting Plan Spreadsheet

1. The Perfect Day Exercise

Start by writing a letter to yourself on this day next year as if the year has already happened.

Here’s how;

  1. Find an inspiring space to sit with a pen & paper or your computer with the wifi turned off and all browsers closed. If possible turn your phone off also so you can truly give yourself the time, space and imagination to do this distraction free. (My happy place is the beach and so that’s where I usually sit to this exercise)
  2. Think about your goals and dreams and imagine you have fast-forwarded by precisely 12 months. It’s whatever date it is today 1 year from now.
  3. Pick an ideal scenario (perhaps you’re sitting on a beach in Fiji, living closer to your family, or spending your days working from your local coffee shop, whatever works for you) and ask yourself the following questions;
  •  Where are you?
  •  Who are you with?
  •  What are you doing?
  •  What are you reflecting on?
  •  How did your year go?
  •  What are you proud of?
  •  What did you learn?
  •  What did you achieve?
  •  What breakthroughs did you have?
  •  How has your life changed?
  •  How are your finances?
  • Are you doing what you love, every day? If so, how do you spend your days?
  •  What are you looking forward to in the next year?

Be specific! Place yourself there in your mind and imagine everything in colour, as if it’s already happened through the year.

  • Don’t just say “I improved my health”, say, “I attended F45 training 5 days a week for 12 months and am fitter and stronger than I have been for years”.
  • Don’t just say “I finally launched my own business” say “I started an Etsy store selling silver customizable jewelry, am selling 500 units a month and generating a profit of $5000/month”
  • Don’t just say “I’m travelling the world”, list out some of the places you’ve visited, sights you’ve seen and experiences you’ve had.

The more specific you can get about the details that are important to you, the more emotion you can attach to the outcome which helps to create the motivation needed to get there.

NB: You won’t know everything that’s going to happen to you obviously. For example we ‘think’ we’ll be in Australia this time next year, but I’m not 100% certain, so for my letter this year I left out the precise details of where we are (probably on a beach somewhere), and focused on my most important goals this year such as my health and business.

Remember no-one else has to see this and there is no hard and fast rules. This is your vision just for you, so feel free to dream as big as you want to.

Your Theme or Word for the Year

Once you’ve finished your letter, there will likely be a ‘theme’ that will jump out at you for the year. Mine for this year is ‘energy and time’. It’s clear these are two big areas I want to master in the year ahead.

If it helps to encapsulate your vision and keep your mind focused on the direction you’re heading, set your own theme for the year and write it up somewhere you see it every day!

2. The Goal Setting Plan

So with your perfect day in hand, it’s time to turn dreams into actionable realities. 

1. List Your Yearly Goals: 

Start by turning your vision for where you want to be this time next year, into clear measurable targets. 

Examples;

  • Goal 1 – I can bench press my own bodyweight
  • Goal 2 – I am generating $5000 in profit from my ecommerce business
  • Goal 3 – I’ve travelled to 10 new countries in Asia

These are your guiding stars.

Make your goals specific and measurable.

Instead of ‘financially free’ write down exactly what you need to be generating each month to make that a reality. If your goals seem too big for one year, split them over two and write down a more realistic number for this time next year.

Your goals need to be both measurable and uncomfortably achievable.

Try not to set too many. The reason I don’t split my year into categories such as health, business, finance, relationships etc, is that it fast becomes overwhelming!

Clearly we want to improve in as many areas of our lives as possible at all times, but as an old mentor used to say to me ‘if you try to catch two rabbits, you’ll likely lose them both‘.

The chances are you’re already juggling, and as Bill Gates said – ‘Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.’ So give yourself a break and just pick 1 – 3 of your most important goals to focus on in any one year. Momentum will carry you further than enthusiasm.

2. Set Intermediate Milestones: 

Now you know where you want to at the 12 month point, break down your yearly goals into smaller milestones. 

I used to break it down into 4 quarters, but rarely do I get to Q4 and things are on track. The chances of them being on track by Q2 are pretty slim to be honest (I’m a tad optimistic), so these days I’ll create some measurable goals for the 6 month mark, but focus much more on where I want to be in 3 months.

By bringing the goals a bit closer, you’re firstly breaking down what might seem big and insurmountable to smaller and more achievable. Plus it allows you to direct your focus to the immediate future rather than a year down the line. 

3. Monthly Focus: 

Lastly, zoom in on what you need to achieve in the first month. 

The chances are you’ve front loaded some of your goals (we all do it), and given yourself a lot to do in the next month!

Remember you have a year, so this is the time to spread your goals out a bit and plan what you realistically think you can achieve in a month.

You’ll do this exercise every month, setting goals for the month ahead based on what you did and didn’t get done in the month just past, so create a system that makes sense for you and that you’re happy to repeat each month.

3. The Action Setting Plan

Unfortunately goals without a plan to action them are just dreams. We know the what. Now we need the how.

1. List The Actions You Need to Take to Achieve Each Goal

So with your goals in hand, you need to identify the actions you need to take to achieve them. This is where it can start to get overwhelming so I urge you to keep it as simple as possible.

For example one of my goals is to publish a book this year. In the past I’ve made my weekly actions so big I’ve just procrastinated to the point of never getting started.

This year my action is simple – write 1500 words a week.

1500 words is maybe an hour of my time, two at the most. That’s now a realistic goal. It’s also measurable, clear and simple.

NB: I’m not worried about the layout process, book covers, publishing etc, at this stage as the most important part is to get the book written, so you don’t need to focus on every single detail. List the actions needed to make things happen and get the ball rolling. Believe me other actions will pop up as you go.

2. Break Your Actions Down by Week

Once you’ve identified the actions needed to achieve your goals, it’s time to get granular. 

Divide your Month 1 goals into weekly tasks. 

Personally I don’t go beyond Month 1 as I always overestimate what I can achieve, and I need more flexibility in my life than I allow in the planning stage! (I’m getting better, but it’s a journey).

And for all of us, sometimes what we say we’re going to do and what we actually do are two different things, as life gets in the way or we realise that we focused on the wrong area, or we just simply made a bad plan.

So for me, rather than waste time creating a granular schedule of tasks for the year, I need to ensure my goal setting has worked, that I’m working on the right priorities and that I’m getting things done before I start planning my next month.

If I’m working on my planned actions and achieve my month 1 goals (or come close), I know I’m on the right track and can then start planning the next month or even further ahead if I feel it’s beneficial. It’s inevitable that some of my goals will change, get deferred to later in the year, or dropped altogether.

4. The Weekly Dopamine Inducing Review

So this is where the magic happens.

This is what 99% of people don’t do and yet this is what will keep you on track and help you to achieve your goals.

Set a day/time every week to review your last 7 days activities.

  • What went well?
  • What didn’t go so well?
  • What got in the way of your goals/actions?
  • What do you need to change/improve this week to ensure momentum?
  • What are your most important goals/tasks for the week ahead?

This isn’t just a 10 minute cursory glance. Really take the time to review the past week and plan the next. Make this a non negotiable appointment with yourself every week.

NB: I do it at 6am on a Monday morning. I used to have it set for a Sunday evening, but it got moved too often due to family plans. I’m rarely doing anything else at 6am on a Monday morning. Pick a time when you know you can commit.

Doing this will not only keep your goal setting dopamine flowing every week, and ensure your main goals are front and center at all times, but will also reveal any flaws in your plans quickly, helping you to pivot where necessary.

If you want to use the simple sheet I created to go through this exercise you can click and copy to your own drive here and amend as you please;

The Dopamine Based Goal Setting Plan Spreadsheet

Final Thoughts 

So hopefully now you have a super clear vision of where you want to be a year from now, a theme for the year and clear goals broken down into the specific tasks for the next month.

Plus the magic ingredient of a weekly review system to keep you motivated, focused and on track.

Remember, the key is to keep it simple and adaptable. 

Life is unpredictable and circumstances change. 

This system isn’t just about achieving your goals, it’s about enjoying the journey and learning and growing along the way.

I hope this has helped.

Have a great year! 🙂

About the author

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