How To Get Things Worth Doing Done

personal development Jan 17, 2024
Scott Perry Promoting a Blog Post Goal Setting and Achievement

The Situation

What’s your vision for your life or business’s next chapter? Where are you starting from? What are you trying to achieve? What’s your plan for getting there?

These can be daunting and overwhelming questions, and the data shows that the odds are stacked against our success in achieving our aspirations.

What’s your track record with setting and achieving goals?

So often, we conspire against our own desires when it comes to making real progress in what we say matters to us.

Why is that?

Here are some of the reasons I see, based on my experience and work with hundreds of clients.

  • Lack of clarity and specificity - How do you establish a plan for “Get healthier” or “Be more successful?” How would you know if you succeeded?

  • Arbitrary timelines - What’s the point of starting a new regime on the first of the year or month? 

  • Rigid regimes - Willpower and motivation crumble when they collide with unrealistic expectations and life’s inevitable curveballs.

The list of challenges and excuses goes on—procrastination, lack of motivation, absence of accountability, insufficient support, fear of failure, etc.

But the biggest challenge is that in order to achieve goals, you need to set goals that are specific, realistic, planned, tracked, and supported. That’s really hard to do at the beginning because you have no experience or data to establish these guidelines.

Establishing guidelines without data or experience to draw from is one reason so many struggle to achieve goals using otherwise sensible goal-setting concepts like S.M.A.R.T goals (goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound).

What to do?

Sustainable goal setting and achievement rely on micro-stepping1 into specific and realistic expectations, a clear and stepwise strategy, honest and diligent tracking, and establishing a support network and contingency plan.

But to better explain how to do all of this, I first have to tell you a bit about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is an idea in psychology proposed by American psychologist Abraham Maslow in his 1943 paper A Theory of Human Motivation. This hierarchy is a powerful and persistent framework that explains human growth, societal evolution, and business management. It’s also a tool used in education, healthcare, and personal development.

Although Maslow never configured his hierarchy into a pyramid, the image below is a typical representation.

Interesting, but how does this help us understand how to establish and progress in meaningful aims and aspirations?2

Here are some takeaways that will map onto a goal-setting and achievement framework based on Maslow’s Hierarchy.

  • Sequential progress - chasing psychological needs like love and belonging or respect and recognition before you’ve acquired the basic needs of food, water, and security is a fool’s errand. Status and friends won’t do you much good if you’re starving to death or immobilized by dehydration.

  • The law of diminishing returns - the further up the pyramid, the more time and effort are required to get results. Securing food and shelter is relatively easy compared to the complications involved in cultivating intimate relationships or personal excellence.

  • Ascension is optional - after acquiring your basic needs, who’s to say that continued ascension up the pyramid is “better?” Some of the happiest individuals and societies are quite content without chasing wealth, reputation, or optimized personal performance.

If you’re tracking with these insights, let’s look at how we can layer them onto a goal-setting and achievement process that provides greater, more consistent, and sustainable results.

I’ll also provide some tools and concepts to expedite your success.


The Goal Achievement Pyramid

Here’s how Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs maps to goal setting and achievement.

Let’s walk through the pyramid from the bottom up to reveal how sufficiency, stability, structure, surprise, and sophistication can help you establish and achieve goals sustainably and with less stress.

To help illustrate the process, I’ll use a personal fitness goal and a business revenue goal as examples as we work our way through the pyramid.

Again, setting clear, measurable, realistic, meaningful, and scheduled goals is essential to their achievement. But it’s a real challenge to establish these parameters before you have data.

Mapping your goal-setting and achievement process onto Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs helps you microstep into a practice that provides the data you need to assess as you get results.

With that in mind, let’s begin at the beginning.


What got you where you are won’t get you where you want to be. You need to see, be, and do things differently to get different results.

But how do you establish what is different enough, and how do you develop the new habits that lead to the changes in behavior that get you closer to the results you want?

The bottom of the goal-setting and achievement pyramid helps establish what is enough. What are the minimum requirements to start getting and sustaining results?

For a fitness goal, this could involve establishing a level of daily caloric intake and exercise activity. But what is enough?

It helps first to track your current daily caloric intake and exercise activity. If, for instance, you establish that you take in over 3000 calories and walk less than half a mile daily, can you maintain a diet of 2500 calories and a schedule of half-mile walks four times each week?

Let’s say you maintain your daily 2500 calories five out of seven days and walk a half mile three out of the established four days a week. You’re good. Right? It’s time to move on to the next step. Isn’t it?


Right here, in the beginning, is when most goal-setting and achievement journeys fail before they even start. At the sufficiency level, you can’t settle for good enough being enough. Enough has to be established and maintained.

Think about it. Would that be good enough for you if the lights in your house or your laptop only turned on 70-75% of the time you flipped the switch? Of course not. Yet, we settle for far less than 70% effectiveness in our personal behavior all the time.

The big takeaway is that the least reliable component in your goal-setting and achievement system is the human in control. To master your goals, you have to master yourself.


Once you’ve established the parameters of what enough behavior modification is required to start to get results, the next step is to prove sustainability. Can you maintain enough over time?

In our fitness example, this means answering the question, “Can I consistently maintain a 2500 daily calorie diet and four half-mile walks weekly?” If so, fantastic, move on. If not, what can you consistently maintain? If it’s a diet of 2700 calories and a three-half mile walk every week, cool. Do that. 

Enough is enough. Progress is progress. Establish what you can do. Do that. Then you can move on.

Let’s say your goal is to increase your monthly business revenue, and because you’re a freelancer, your revenue is reflected by the number of gigs you get every month, and you get those gigs through discovery calls.

The first step is establishing the number of calls it takes to get the gigs you have to achieve the monthly revenue you currently earn. For this example, say it takes nine calls to get three gigs, making you $3K/month.

Now you can establish sufficiency and stability. Based on your 33% close rate, you could establish and maintain a new schedule of 12 discovery calls every month, which should net you one new client and an increase in monthly revenue of $1K.

Or you could improve your close rate on the nine discovery calls you currently take each month to close an additional call every month to add that same $1K to your monthly bottom line.

You get to choose and experiment with what behavioral change you need to make. Play your game.3

Once you’ve established the number of calls or calls closed that is sufficient to get better monthly revenue numbers, establish stability and maintain this practice over time. Then, and only then, is it time to move on.


It’s important to note that you are already winning if you establish sufficiency and stability in a practice that is getting you closer to your goals. Change and results are happening. Huzzah!

At the structure level, you maintain this progress by establishing a regimen that becomes a progress multiplier by prioritizing and locking these habits into a schedule.

For your fitness goal, this could be establishing a daily window for when you do and do not eat or setting mealtimes and snacks for specific times of the day.

To increase monthly revenue, you can play with and establish the best days or times to schedule discovery calls.

As with earlier steps, the essential thing is to experiment with scheduling and then lock it in. 

Scheduled activities reflect that they are priorities and help eliminate vacillating and equivocation.

When friends and family ask you how you made your progress, you can now confidently respond (with a shrug for emphasis), “That’s what I do.”

You are what you repeatedly do. But what about playing and having some fun?

I’m glad you asked.


All work and no play is no way to live. We’re hardwired to delight in playful experimentation and surprise.

Once you’ve established what a sufficient change in behavior is, demonstrated stability in maintaining it, and prioritized it through scheduling, introducing some novelty can help you both optimize your system and build in some slack.

What if you introduced a “cheat day” on the weekend into your diet schedule? Maybe permit yourself to partake of a glass of wine or a slice of cheesecake? Perhaps you replace a walk day with a weight training day?

What if you added a day where you only did cold calling or only called leads who had previously said, “No thanks?” or perhaps you want to try out paid advertising to acquire leads?

Whatever you play with, try it and pay attention to what happens.

If it sets you back or interrupts your progress, take a step back, re-establish sufficiency, stability, and scheduled activities to return to your baseline, and then tweak, iterate, or try something else.

This is really important. The thing about the goal-setting and achievement pyramid is that it works in both directions.

You can try moving up when you’ve demonstrated commitment, consistency, and competence at any level. If it works out and feels good, establish commitment, consistency, and competence.

And if it doesn’t work out or feel good, drop down and re-establish commitment, consistency, and competence at the previous level.

For most of us, fulfilling the requirements of the bottom layers of the goal-setting and achievement pyramid is all the success we need or want to feel accomplished and a sense of well-being.

If you’re dancing between the schedule and surprise levels, you’re already well ahead of 95% of those who embark on a goal-setting and achievement adventure. Again, there’s no harm in staying where you’re already happy.

But if you want to maximize your results, there’s one more layer to which you can ascend.


Notice that the top of the pyramid has very little surface area compared to the layers below. The diminishing surface area of each ascending layer reflects the diminished returns of your time and effort invested as you move up.

Sure, diminished returns are still returns, but it’s worth discussing with yourself if it’s worth it to you to keep ascending.

At the sophistication level, you are getting into the micro and minutiae.

In fitness, this might be establishing more rigid parameters around the nutrients you take in or isolating muscle groups you exercise.

Around your monthly revenue, this might involve introducing a webinar or sales call setters.

You’re breathing rarefied air at the sophistication level, which may or may not be for you. Again, remember that there is no shame in moving back down to a level where you’ve established sustainable results and a level of satisfaction and well-being that you’re happy with.


Goal-setting and achievement are tricky business. For instance, the most popular time for goal setting is around New Year’s Day. By March, almost everyone has given up on the goal set for the new year.

Why? Because humans are programmed and conditioned to act like humans. We’re hardwired to settle for what is, blame circumstances and others for it, and rationalize and justify our failure to commit and complete our aspirations.

What to do?

By mapping our goal-setting and achievement strategy onto an established process that makes sense and works, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, you eliminate the enemies of success: ambiguous aims, arbitrary timelines, and rigid regimens.

The resulting Goal-Setting and Achievement Pyramid provides a structure that is easy to visualize and implement, meets you where you are, and helps you micro-step4 to where you want to be.

Understanding what defines success at each level and the ability to move up and down the pyramid as needed encourages resilience and resolve.

Self-awareness and self-efficacy are baked into the system, facilitating sustaining current achievements as you strive toward whatever level of self-actualization works for you.

Ready to make real progress in aspirations that matter to you? Start working through the Goal-Setting and Achievement today!

2 h/t to Nic Peterson, whose presentation of these ideas inspired my own. You can find a further refinement of his approach in this article.

4 Life 2.0

Scott Perry, Chief Difference-Maker at Creative on Purpose

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