Goal Setting,  Perfectionism,  Purpose

A Four Step System To Achieve Your Goals When Everything Is A Priority

Have you ever stared, motionless, at your foot long to-do list frozen with uncertainty about where to start? Well intentioned friends and family might tell you: “You just need to prioritize!” as if this was the secret to getting it all done. But where do you start when everything on the list is important and/or urgent? I used to find this statement really frustrating - because everything I put on my list served a purpose, and I wasn’t sure how to prioritize. This left me scattered, unfocused and overwhelmed - less than ideal when you are striving to achieve some major goals and boost your productivity!

However things changed earlier this month, I was lucky to attend several seminars as a part of the World Business and Executive Coaching 8th Annual Summit. One of the seminars was given by Jim Harshaw, who promised to introduce a system that would help individuals to be focused and clear when everything in their lives seems like a priority. This resonated with me because I often find myself overwhelmed by a really long to do list and multiple competing goals.

At first I was skeptical, but I stuck around because I’ve been in that spot many many times. Jim delivered - his four step process quickly revealed a unique and meaningful path that leads to focus, consistency and ultimately success.

While I didn’t immediately think Jim was a perfectionist, his tale of overcoming obstacles and failures on his pathway to success resonated with me (a self proclaimed recovering perfectionist). I think his four step system is a great way to approach goals - and particularly useful for perfectionists. Today I want to share with you my big takeaways from that seminar, and give you the information Jim shared with us so you can level up your own life.

Jim is an executive coach, who’s also had careers as a high performance athlete and college wrestling coach. He has a podcast, called Success Through Failure, and has done several TedX Talks, including “Why I Teach My Children To Fail”. This guy knows failure, and how to make it work for you - his four step system promises to bring clarity and balance to your life all while helping you to get the right things done. Sounds great right?

Jim’s Four Step System


Step 1: Identify Core Values



Jim started us off with the notion that a lack of focus, clarity and balance comes from being out of sync with your core values. I think this is especially true for perfectionists - as we tend to be driven by external motivators such as accomplishment, praise, accolades and notoriety.

Jim suggests that by connecting with your core values - hard work becomes inspired work and you start operating at your maximum optimization.

If you aren’t sure what your core values are - or what core values even are - don’t worry! I have two exercises you can do to figure out exactly what matters most to you.

Start by downloading my free worksheet of core values by clicking the image below. It summarizes the majority of core values people identify with. Review the list of values and highlight all that speak to you. You will probably have a lot - and that is okay! Next group them together to see if they form any themes. Jim’s themes were: Faith, Family, Fitness and Fun. He included things like healthy eating, mindfulness, exercise and self care in the “fitness” category to keep things concise.

If you are struggling to identify which values speak to you - you can try two things:

Option 1:

Write out your ideal day from start to end. The below questions can help you get started:

  • When do you wake up?
  • What is the first thing you do?
  • What space are you waking up in?
  • What are your physical surroundings like and what is your emotional state like?
  • Work your way through your whole day, identifying all the details you can.
  • What car you drive, where you work, who you interact with and what those interactions are like.

Then go back over what you have created as an objective outsider. Looking at what is documented - what would you say are the core values of the author?

Option 2:

Life coaches often ask you to identify what you would want to be said at your funeral. Think about if your best friend or spouse gave a eulogy. Don’t focus on what they would say - focus on what you would WANT them say. Then go back as that objective observer and see what values might be hiding there.

Step 2: Create Aligned Goals

Step #2 in Jim’s process is to create documented goals that align with your core values. This helps you to stay true to what you value most - and keeps you away from distracting external influences.

Goals that are aligned with your unique set of core values become more meaningful. You aren’t just trying to keep up with the Jones by making enough money to buy the latest car - you’re saving to purchase the red Mustang you’ve dreamed of driving since you were 10 because you love excitement and thrill. Suddenly motivation becomes internal and consistent, as you are fuelled by positive energy and a deeper sense of purpose.

The great thing about having goals that align with your core values is the effect this has on failure. This is particularly relevant for perfectionists who avoid failure at all costs! When you fail, your values don’t change - you continue to pursue success according to your core values. You might not hit your goal on the first try, but you will desire what you are striving for - regardless of your personal shortcomings. In fact - you might even want it more.

The documented aspect of this step is really important. Jim stated that goals that are written down increase the chance of success by 42%. That’s huge! Documenting a goal means you’ve put it out in the universe… and that takes a certain level of commitment. I think if you take anything away from this post - its documenting your goals!

Looking for a great resource to help you set some goals? Here’s a free workbook to help you set monthly goals, just click on the image below for an instant download:

Step #3: Create an Environment of Excellence

I love creating environments that foster and grow personal success  in my coaching practice, so this step really spoke to me. Jim suggests you surround yourself with the right people, filtering out the wrong influences and bringing in the right influences to create an environment that will foster your success while focus and consistency become the by-product.

Factors of an Environment of Excellence include:

    1. Teammates
    2. Accountability
    3. Coaches
    4. Idea sources such as books, podcasts, media that grow your focus
    5. Self talk and mantras
    6. Diet and exercise
    7. Visualization
    8. A grounding activity such as journalling, meditating or conscious retreat/planning time


Take a moment to examine what your environment currently looks like. Does it promote (or even idolize) your perfectionist tendencies? Would you be happy being the average of the five people you spend the most time with? Take a good hard look at your idea sources (such as the media outlets your regularly visit) your physical area, network of friends and internal voice before you move onto step #4.

Step #4 Follow Through

At the end of the seminar Jim stated “you have to have a plan to be consistent” and I couldn’t agree more. Plan what you need to do - and then take it a step further and plan how you are actually going to do it!

This plan must include consistency. You need a plan that ensures you consistently take action and stick to the plan when life starts pulling at you again. Take a look at the factors that might have derailed your goals in the past. What were triggers for you? What did you learn from giving up or pushing through? How can you transfer those learning experiences and apply them to future experiences. Put a plan together - identifying the biggest challenges you face and how you plan to overcome them.

If you’re looking for a guide to help you make a plan to stay consistent - this monthly goal planning workbook is perfect! It will help you identify what your goals are, and also what your biggest challenges might be. Putting a plan in place to overcome those challenges will greatly increase your chances of success. Download your free four page workbook by clicking on the image below:

Another critical element of Jim’s 4 step plan was implementing a productive pause at the right interval. He suggests you include this in the planning stage.

Jim’s definition of a productive pause is “a short period of focused reflection that leads to clarity of action and piece of mind”.  He’s studied countless examples of highly successful people who started at rock bottom - and the productive pause was a behaviour pattern he identified in all of them.

Examples of a productive pause include:

  • Meditation
  • Journalling
  • Working with a coach
  • Planning
  • Retreat to plan the year

So figure out how you can include these elements daily, weekly, monthly and yearly into your plan so you can stay focused and consistent while pursuing your goals.

Jim left us with a parting exercise that I wanted to share with everyone here as I felt it was really valuable. He directed us to write down the three areas of our lives that we would most like to improve. I’m taking this thought away with me - and look forward to sitting down with a cup of tea over the weekend and thinking long and hard about this question. I hope you will too!

A big thanks to WBECS for putting on this amazing coaching summit each year, and to JIm for sharing his amazing system with us! If you want to learn more about Jim you can find his website at: http://jimharshawjr.com/


  • Annie

    I just happened upon this post and your blog for the first time. Thank you for sharing. I am preparing for the New Year by revisiting goals and looking into what went well, what didn’t, and how I can do celebrate the accomplishments and change where I lacked. This past year involved a lot of lack and way too much reaction instead of action.

    Thank you for the tools to do different and better!

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