How to Accomplish Goals and Get More Done

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The Chimp Paradox" by Steve Peters. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Do you want to find out how to accomplish goals? How can preparation help you to do this? Why do you need to feel a sense of ownership over a project?

Setting goals and sticking to them is difficult for the best of us. This article will show you some practical steps for how to accomplish goals, based on the advice of Steve Peters in The Chimp Paradox.

Read on to find out how to accomplish goals successfully.

How to Accomplish Goals: Your Inner Chimp and Human

If you want to know how to accomplish goals, Steve Peters can help. In The Chimp Paradox, Peters argues that we are often controlled by an inner emotional Chimp, who ruins our plans by introducing fear, procrastination, and a lack of motivation. Handling this inner Chimp can be difficult, but it is possible. One of the ways to do this is to give control to your inner Human, who is much more rational. 

Discover how to set a goal and achieve it below:

The Importance of Preparation 

When finding out how to accomplish goals, preparation is important as it will greatly increase your chances of seeing a project through. To properly prepare your Chimp and Human for a project, think through four areas:

  • Commitment
  • Ownership
  • Accountability
  • Goals


Both your Chimp and your Human must commit to a project if you’re going to successfully stick with it. Commitment is more than motivation: Motivation is ruled by emotions (by your Chimp), but such emotions can be fleeting. Motivation alone won’t pull you through a project because as soon as you “don’t feel like” doing it, you’ll abandon it.

In contrast, commitment is following a plan even if you don’t feel like it, and comes from the Human part of your brain. In order to engage both your Chimp and Human in a solid commitment to your project, think through two aspects:

  1. What will you need for your project? This list will include things that are essential (for example, if you intend to start a jogging program, you’ll need running shoes) and things that are desirable (for example, it would be nice to have a running partner, although you could jog without one, so it’s not essential). 
  2. What challenges might you face? These include difficulties you can’t change (for example, if you want to get in shape, you’ll have to exercise), things you can change (for example, if you want to go on a vacation but have a tight budget, you can choose to visit an affordable destination), and things that might trip you up (for example, if you want to lose weight, you shouldn’t keep junk food in the house). 

Once you’ve explored these aspects of your project, you’ll be mentally prepared for setbacks and challenges, and you’ll therefore be more likely to stick with your project. 


To enhance your commitment to a project and find out how to accomplish goals, you need to feel some type of ownership of it. When you feel ownership, both your Chimp and your Human are enticed to work harder because the success becomes personal—it becomes a reflection of your identity. For example, imagine you work in a retail store, and the owner of the store suddenly transfers ownership of the store to you. Even if you were a conscientious worker before, you’re likely to work much harder once you have an ownership stake in the store’s success.

Having ownership in a project can mean different things:

  • You came up with the project yourself.
  • You made a significant contribution to the design of the project.
  • The project suits you perfectly in some way that enhances your life (for example, if you sign up to help build homes in a poor country, you won’t have come up with the idea or designed the program, but you may still feel ownership if you feel the project reflects your identity)


To succeed in a project, you must take responsibility for its completion, which means being disciplined and holding yourself accountable for each step along the way. A sense of discipline will help you with how to accomplish goals. This is where projects often fail: It’s easier to plan how you’re going to approach a problem than it is to actually execute that plan.

To prevent your Chimp from shirking its responsibilities when it loses its emotion-based inspiration, establish benchmarks of progress that will hold you accountable, such as deadlines or checkpoints for partial completion. You can also engage another person to report to—you’re much more likely to stick with a project if you keep someone else updated on your progress.

Be realistic in your accountability checks so you don’t set yourself up for failure, which will activate your Chimp. Don’t expect to accomplish enormous chunks of your project in short amounts of time or you’ll just end up discouraged. 


The fourth aspect of preparing for success is setting proper goals. Setting proper goals is essential for understanding how to accomplish goals. Set goals that are ambitious enough to excite you but not so unrealistic that you set yourself up for failure. If you strive for goals that are unreachable, you’ll feel deflated and unmotivated when you don’t achieve them, and your Chimp will encourage you to give up entirely. 

Goals are different from dreams. Dreams are things you wish for but don’t have full control over because there are outside influences involved, such as other people or lucky timing. Goals are things you can aim for and do have full control over. Your goals can help you work toward your dreams. However, if you mistakenly see your dreams as your goals, you won’t feel in control of your situation. You’ll perceive this lack of control as a threat, and your Chimp will awaken. 

For example, if your dream is to win a race, you don’t have full control over that because you can’t control your competition—other people will be training for the race too, and may be faster than you simply because they have, for example, longer legs. However, you can set realistic goals that can help you possibly achieve your dream, such as getting in shape and eating well. If you see winning as your goal, your Chimp will be upset if you lose. However, if you see training well and doing your best as your goals, your Chimp won’t be upset if you lose the race, because you’ve still been successful in your personal goals.

Rewards and Punishments

If you want to know how to set a goal and achieve it, you have to know about rewards and punishments. You’re much more likely to be successful if you have a diverse set of “carrots,” that is, rewards, that you use to encourage yourself. Both your Human and your Chimp will respond more positively to rewards than to punishments. Rewards excite your inner Human and Chimp, while punishments—even if they are temporarily effective—produce anxiety and resentment. 

Therefore, fill out your Moon of Carrots with a variety of rewards that will keep you working toward success, including:

  • Prizes: Rewarding yourself with small prizes for accomplishments can motivate your Chimp and your Human to reach for the next milestone. Prizes can be small and superficial, like a special latte or movie tickets.
  • Celebrations: Reflecting on the work you’ve done and celebrating it will satisfy your Chimp’s need for praise. Keep a visual record of your progress to remind your Chimp how well you’re doing—for example, post your schedule on the wall and check off each task as you accomplish it. 
  • Recognition: Seek validation from other people to satisfy your Chimp’s need for social recognition. Without recognition, your Chimp might start to feel resentful and unhappy.

Be aware of “sticks” (punishments) that you might encounter and that can derail your commitment to your project. Such sticks are typically negative thoughts, such as feelings of guilt, regret, and blame. Your Chimp gravitates toward such negative thinking because it gets caught up in emotions. When you find yourself beating yourself up for a setback, recognize this as a form of self-punishment and adjust your thoughts—your situation won’t improve through negative thinking. Instead, activate your inner Human to direct your thoughts to ways you can either change your circumstances or learn to accept them.

The above advice will teach you how to set a goal and achieve it. 

How to Accomplish Goals and Get More Done

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Steve Peters's "The Chimp Paradox" at Shortform .

Here's what you'll find in our full The Chimp Paradox summary :

  • Why we struggle to control our urges, succumb to temptation, and sabotage our own success
  • How to manage your inner chimp to become happier, more balanced, and successful
  • Why your psychological world is like a solar system with 7 planets

Elizabeth Shaw

Elizabeth graduated from Newcastle University with a degree in English Literature. Growing up, she enjoyed reading fairy tales, Beatrix Potter stories, and The Wind in the Willows. As of today, her all-time favorite book is Wuthering Heights, with Jane Eyre as a close second. Elizabeth has branched out to non-fiction since graduating and particularly enjoys books relating to mindfulness, self-improvement, history, and philosophy.

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