How to Accomplish Goals the ‘Introvert Way’

An introvert setting goals

When it comes to accomplishing your goals, your quiet introvert persistence will be heard through your success. 

As an introvert, planning my goals is the part of the goal-setting process that I enjoy the most. The planning itself becomes a fun project that I’m excited about. In true introvert fashion, I find myself making lists, charting out the steps, and writing down every little detail that I can think of.

Many introverts prefer to take this thinking-and-planning approach when setting goals. This is helpful because having everything about the goal written out is a good way to envision it, and then make it a reality. It not only helps prepare you by serving as a roadmap, but it also helps keep you on track with your goals.

According to the American Psychological Association, writing about your goals can help in improving your performance and coming up with solutions. That’s what Cheryl Travers, Ph.D., a professor at the School of Business and Economics at Loughborough University, asked her students to do. She found that her students performed significantly better when they kept diaries to reflect on the progress of their goals. She said that “by writing about successes and failures and thinking about strategies to overcome difficulties, students gained confidence in themselves and developed academic self-efficacy.”

Following Through With Your Goals

Just as important as the planning step is following through with your goals. It takes a conscious effort to work on your goals consistently. One thing that helps is to keep yourself accountable.

In this article, Arthur C. Brooks discusses a 2001 study in which researchers found that extroverts are more likely to accomplish their goals because they tend to tell more people about them, keeping them accountable. In turn, this leads to a higher level of happiness. He also said, “[we] tend to act according to the commitments we have articulated to others.”

For us introverts, sharing our goals with just anybody might not be as ideal or comfortable. I, for one, haven’t always been vocal with others about my goals. I tend to want them to be a “me thing,” and I like having the option to share my success with accomplishing them (or hide my “failed attempts”). In my mind, telling others makes it “real” and leads to being asked about it in conversation. In the beginning stages of working on a goal, however — whether it’s job-related or personal — I’m not always in sharing mode just yet, especially if I feel that I’ll be judged.

One way we introverts can practice keeping ourselves accountable is by sharing our goals with people we’re close with. When it’s a close friend, someone who “gets” us — rather than a coworker or even a stranger at a coffee shop — we introverts may feel more comfortable. As a result, we are more likely to openly talk about it without fear of judgment from the other person. It’s also nice to have a choice in when, and how, much information we share. Sharing your goals with a close friend will not only keep you accountable, but it will also be something to connect over, whether it’s talking about it and planning together, or working on a shared goal to reach together.

‘Progress Over Perfection’

In her book, Progress Over Perfection, Emma Norris compares perfectionism to a “mountain that has no peak.” It’s like setting yourself up for failure because even when you’re progressing toward your goal, you never feel like you’ve done enough. She also writes about how the idea of perfection is subjective and different to everybody. For that reason, it doesn’t make sense to aim toward perfection in the first place.

To combat perfectionism, Norris encourages readers to make a list of five people they look up to and write down why they value those people. A lot of times, it’s not because they’re “perfect”; instead, it’s the little imperfections that make them who they are. It’s important to keep that in mind and have that same compassion toward yourself when you feel you need to be “perfect.”

6 Tips for Setting Goals as an Introvert

1. Have a dedicated space where you can reflect on your goals.

Having a safe, comfortable space to sit with your thoughts and plan or write down your goals is helpful. Somewhere with minimal distractions is ideal so you can focus and reflect on your goals more efficiently.

I usually prefer somewhere outdoors, whether it’s sitting in the backyard with my laptop or taking a notebook to a botanical garden. It depends where you feel most comfortable and focused. You can also set up an “introvert zen zone” or sanctuary in an area of your house (and let others know it’s a space just for you).

2. Give yourself time to reflect on your progress.

It’s important to acknowledge the steps you’ve accomplished so far and give yourself credit for them. Rewarding yourself in healthy ways for certain milestones you reach can help keep you motivated to keep pushing forward.

Examples of healthy rewards for yourself could be taking some time to do something you enjoy, whether it’s going to your favorite park or coffee shop, watching one of your favorite movies, or going to the spa.

3. Do what’s needed to help you feel recharged.

For introverts who need solitude to feel re-energized, it’s important to make sure you have enough alone time, especially when working on something important. People often try to go “all in” and don’t give themselves breaks. But not allowing yourself to recharge is not a good idea in the long run in terms of efficiency and consistency with your goals.

Allowing yourself time to reflect quietly — and on your own terms — is key to helping you feel recharged and ready to accomplish your goals. This may mean going for a walk, taking a nap, meditating, or whatever your alone time go-tos are.

4. Set boundaries and say “no” more often.

As introverts, we often have a hard time saying “no” to people, even if we don’t feel it’s in our best interest (like attending an event we don’t want to go to). By constantly saying “yes” and not considering our own needs, it often leads to less time and energy to do the things we want to do for ourselves.

This is where setting healthy boundaries comes into play. Doing so allows us to be our best selves, not only within our own lives, but also for those we care about. In her Introvert, Dear article, Leah Stallone explains the concept of setting boundaries as “taking ownership of your introvert needs and finding balance between ‘you’ time and ‘people’ time.” She gives examples of ways to do so, such as explaining your needs to the people you are spending time with or monitoring what gives you energy and what feels draining to you.

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5. Focus on one or two goals at a time.

Creativity goes hand-in-hand with being an introvert, and we often have many ideas in our head that we want to work on all at once. One way to complete each project is to focus on one or two at a time rather than trying to split our focus between many projects. That way, we can put more effort and energy into doing our best for each goal or project, one step at a time, rather than doing just “okay” in all of them.

6. Take a break — but at the right time.

According to Berkeley’s Greater Good Magazine, the best time to stop working and to take a break is when you know what you’re going to do next — but you decide to continue it later. Ernest Hemingway strongly believed in this technique, too, and urged other writers to “always stop when you know what is going to happen next.” This causes your mind to subconsciously work on it while you’re taking a break and allows for more creativity and less stress.

Remember to Adjust Your Plans as Needed

Observing how others successfully work on, and accomplish, their goals is something that can help in your process, too. If you find yourself stuck and not progressing at the pace that you’d like, being receptive to new ideas and ways of doing things can be a great solution.

It’s not about completely changing your goal-setting habits; it’s finding what works best for you as an introvert. Whether it’s through adjusting your approach or pushing toward your goals with determination, your quiet persistence will be heard through your success.

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