Reverse Engineering Your Success


Have a big goal that you aren’t making any progress on? Setting lofty goals can be overwhelming and it can be hard to know where to start. Sometimes our goals are so big that we’re scared to even set them because they seem unattainable. Using reverse engineering as a framework can help us think differently about our goals and propel us toward the success that we’re looking for. 

Reverse engineering a goal simply means to think about the end goal and then break it apart into several attainable pieces. Unlike typical goal setting strategies, which just tell you to work toward your goal, reverse engineering essentially tells you to work backward by starting with your goal and looking at the steps it will take to reach it, in reverse. Here’s how to reverse engineer your success in three steps

1.Figure out your end goal

The first step in reverse engineering your success is to figure out your end goal. What are you hoping to accomplish? This could be related to any area of your life: your career, health, finances, etc. For example, you may want to be the VP of marketing at a Fortune 500 company or you may want to retire by age 45. Whatever the goal is, it’s important to outline it clearly. Once you have a clear goal in mind, you can work backward to determine how to achieve it. 

2. Do your research:

What will it take to achieve your goal? If your goal is to become a VP of marketing, then you should know what skills and experiences are required to get to that position. Go on a job board and type in the desired position to see the qualifications. If your goal is to retire by 45, then think about how much money you will need to save to live comfortably after early retirement. Once you have solid information on how to achieve your goals, you’ll be that much closer to achieving them. 

Another part of doing your research is finding people who’ve already achieved your goal. Try to find as many people as you can who’ve already done what you want to accomplish. Having a real-life example to talk to, read about, or learn from accomplishes several things. It helps you see that what you want to achieve is possible, it helps you to more clearly see the different paths you can take to achieve your goal, and you’ll learn from others’ mistakes so you don’t repeat them. The research phase is a critical part of reverse engineering your goal, so be diligent. 

3. Make your plan:

If your goal requires a lot of steps to achieve, it can seem like an insurmountable challenge. However, breaking larger goals into smaller, more attainable goals is a good way to stay motivated and achieve success. If your goal is to become a VP of marketing, a smaller goal may be to get your first direct report or handle a budget for a project, so that you’re ready to be responsible for the budget of a whole department. By setting milestones, you’ll be able to get the satisfaction of checking off multiple goals along the way and, most importantly, you won’t feel stuck as you make your way toward your larger goal. 

It’s normal to feel stuck and overwhelmed by a goal. Sometimes looking at the goal differently will give you clarity on how to achieve it. Defining your goal, conducting research, and making a plan that starts from the end goal is a good way to make progress toward your dreams and stay motivated along the way.