How to Reverse Engineer the Result You Want

Jenna Kutcher 

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May 15, 2019


reverse engineer your goals

You’ve got big goals you’re chasing and I love that about you. Going after your dreams and achieving big results is hard work, but it’s easy to get caught up in the hustle of everyday life and running a business. Our dreams can sometimes take a backseat and maybe you’ve given yourself the excuse that you just don’t have time to do that big thing that’s on your heart.

Or maybe it simply feels too big and you have no idea how to make it a reality or where to even start. I wholeheartedly believe that the ideas that both excite and frighten us are maybe the most important things worth pursuing. Let me warn you from the beginning that this is not going to be about general goal setting or how to be more productive and stick to your goals. This is all about figuring out that one thing you should be doing and then reverse engineering your way to achieve that result.

People get stuck on setting safe attainable goals and are focused on a generic result they want and so they start doing #allthethings without thinking about what they really want and what the actual steps would be to get very measurable and specific results. We look at being busy as a good thing, so we fill up our plates with tasks and items that aren’t actually moving us in any direction and then get frustrated when we aren’t getting results that matter.

What if instead we got laser focused on fewer bigger goals and created a plan around achieving those specific things? I’ve had a few big scary dreams that I’ve achieved in the last few years, like quitting my day job to start a business, impacting the masses by creating courses, and starting this podcast and retiring Drew so we could spend an entire month on sabbatical in Hawaii just to name a few. When I look back, I started small and have worked big. I’ve personally walked through the exact system I’m going to share with you with real results. I know how life changing it can be. Let’s talk about how to reverse engineer your goals.

The Big Scary Thing

Maybe you already know. Maybe it’s obvious, it’s all you can think about and you’re crystal clear on what your big goal is. Or maybe it’s not that simple and you just know that a change is needed in order to live your best life, but you’re not really sure yet what that is or how you’ll get there. Or maybe you’re in the camp of not dreaming big enough and are only making safe attainable goals, when in fact you are capable of allowing yourself to think outside the box and dream bigger.

The first thing I want you to do is journal. Write without judgment about your biggest dreams — beyond just the dreams, I want for you to imagine scenes for your life. Close your eyes and visualize what your ultimate dream life would look like. What does your best self look like? What is your perfect day? What is something you’ve always wanted to do? What are you passionate about or what excites you that maybe you never dared to pursue? Make sure to not criticize or judge these thoughts. Simply free flow write for now.

What are 3 future scenes you have for your life? Write them down, envision them, don’t leave out details or rush this process. Grab a journal, a cup of coffee, find a quiet space and take the time to let yourself dream without inhibition or judgement.

Narrow It Down

I am willing to bet all those things that used to be on your to-do list and past goals of yours are all actually really good things. On paper, you SHOULD be doing them. We can fall into these traps that come from a good place of wanting to make a change and being inspired to live differently that we try to overhaul too many areas at once. But what I want for you to understand is that when you want to do something really big, it requires you saying “no” to a lot. And it’s not easy.

One big lesson I’ve learned is that you have to scale back in order to scale up to bigger things, to that next level. The important thing to understand is that “no” isn’t necessarily a no forever — and the word no is anything but negative. When you can get clear on your scenes or visions, it will help you decipher what things might need to take the back seat for now… Not forever.

When I decided my big goal was to impact the masses with the best education online, I had to decide not only what to focus on that moved the needle on that specific goal, but also what I had to say “no” to. The yes list was rather short: focusing on the podcast, the content we were sharing, tying our content to paid offers that the people who needed extra help would be ready for and then making the best courses on the internet in the areas I excel at.

The “no” list included things like responding to every personal email or DM, traveling a ton to speak on stages, limiting the sponsorships I took on to a very targeted list and letting go of designing all the graphics for my business — just to name a few. It’s easy as a boss, especially when you grew your business from nothing, to want to take control of all the little things. I had to learn to let go of perfection, to ask for help, to let others take ownership over the things I built in order to free me up to do only the things I could do, the things that would ultimately get me closer to the scenes I was imagining for my life both personally and professionally.

Give yourself the grace to let other seemingly important things take a backseat knowing that this isn’t permanent and is just the reality in this season. Those things can be priorities in the future so don’t stress or feel like you’re neglecting something important.

Pick ONE scene of your life and create a list of things that will get you there, then create a list of things you will have to say “no” to that will hold you back from the best yeses. Highlight the the 2 most important action steps that you will start with whenever you sit down to work — these are the needle movers that will actually be tied to results. If you need to create a list of things you’ll need help with or things you need to get off of your plate to focus on those action items, do that now.

Make It a Priority and Commit

Did you know that just 15 minutes a day adds up to 90 hours over the course of a year? The “I don’t have time” excuse just doesn’t cut it. If it’s a priority, you will make time. Minutes devoted to your goal can add up quick.

What if you got up just 30 minutes earlier each day to focus on this big goal? What if you did just one thing a day that moved you closer to accomplishing your goal, just one small task each day? Where would you be a year from now? Make a daily commitment to yourself to move the needle forward each and every day even if it’s something small.

Block off the time you’re going to reserve for this on your calendar as if it were an appointment with someone else and do not break it, show yourself that you can keep a commitment to yourself — don’t break these promises, you are worthy of going after the life you desire.

Planning your days around the things that move you toward your goal and turning away things that are “shiny” or distractions will help you stay focused. When you have a clear end result, you can easily ask yourself “Is saying ‘yes’ to this going to get me closer to that goal?” Let that end result be the ruler you hold every opportunity up to. Refer back to that goal often as a center point and then ensure that everything you are doing is contributing to that big picture.

Ask yourself: what are 5 actions that will move me closer to that goal? Now schedule them over the next week or month and set reminders. Maybe it’s as simple as sending out an email to someone or as complex as watching a webinar training. Make time and carve it out (and if you really want to make sure you’ll stay on track, schedule double the time you THINK something will take!) I want you to finish each day crossing that item off and feeling accomplished, not defeated.

For me, I mapped out when I will take each module of the course I purchased, scheduled it into my calendar and linked it all up so that when that reminder goes off, I click the link to access that module and I can get to work. I’m removing all the chances for me to get distracted and ensuring that I have zero excuses for missing what I committed to.

Make it Smart

I’m willing to bet we’ve all heard of SMART goals. I bet you even buy into why it’s important and that it probably works. But I’m also willing to bet a majority of you haven’t actually made your goals SMART before. A lot of times we have too many non-specific goals and we never sit down to really work through and dissect a goal and how to make sure it’s not generic but something that we can actually work towards and know when we’ve reached it. Visions and goals are VERY different, so we want to take those visions, break down the goals to tackle to make the vision a reality, and then make them SMART.

So now that you have one or two big goals, it’s time to make this a part of the puzzle a priority and actually do the work to outline each of the important steps of a SMART goal. SMART is an acronym for a set of criteria to guide you in goal setting.

“S” stands for SPECIFIC
“M” stands for MEASURABLE
“A” stands for ATTAINABLE
“R” stands for RELEVANT
“T” stands for TIME-BOUND

Specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-bound.

Tune into the full episode with the player above for a full breakdown of applying the SMART goal method to your specific visions. Then, write S M A R T on a piece of paper and make sure your goal is a SMART one. Don’t be tempted to skip this step, but rather stick to the basics of this tried and true goal setting exercise. It will payoff.

Reverse Engineering

Now that our goal is SMART, it’s time to break it down into very specific tasks and activities that will help us accomplish it. Look at that end result you wrote down and ask yourself, “What is the clearest path to achieve it?”

Remove any fluff. Remove any unnecessary spots. Ask yourself, what 3 big steps would I need to take to achieve that goal? Write them down. Simplify the process as much as possible. Now take those 3 items and list out every single thing you need to do to accomplish them and cross them off your list. Instead of looking at the goal as a whole, look at these smaller steps and create action items to accomplish them.

As an example, when we wanted to spend a month in Hawaii we identified these major steps that needed to happen first:

  • Calculating cost and saving money (step 1)
  • Create a budget to support step 1
  • Find a place to stay and book it
  • Book our flights and rental car
  • Find a dog sitter for the month
  • Create 4 blog posts to publish while I am away
  • Write an autoresponder
  • Planning Drew’s exit strategy from his job so he could be free to travel


These are all steps that were necessary to make our first month long sabbatical happen and I put those tasks on a list and then scheduled them into our calendar. It was so simple to say “yes” this happened or “no” I didn’t get this done. Then I took each of those items and broke them down as specific as I possibly could until there was always a clear next step in the process for making this overall large goal happen.

You’re not done yet

You can’t just set a goal and expect it and the steps you’ve outlined to stay the same. Things will change in the process and it’s important to refine the system you’ve created. Look at what is driving the biggest results for you, shift and pivot your plan to continue to work towards that goal or to scale it.

A lot of times people achieve something and then they never really look back at what actually moved the needle the most, so evaluation is key. Put a reminder in your calendar to check in at a time that makes sense based on your goal. Maybe that’s right after you accomplished the goal, maybe it’s one month or 3 months from now and go through this process with fresh eyes. Look at what yielded the largest results for you. Usually 10% of our efforts yields 90% of our results so the sooner you evaluate, the sooner you can harness what is yielding the best results and focus your energy and efforts there to scale those results.

Where else can you apply this principle to your business? How can you systemize aspects of your business so that you can be result motivated? How can you hand off tasks that are distracting you from the bigger work to keep you focused on these bigger goals?

Facing Roadblocks

Just a fair warning: Doing big important things almost always is met with resistance and roadblocks. You may be met with feelings of not being enough or wondering why you ever set out to do something like this. You might be met with limiting beliefs or critics. It is far easier to stay status quo in our comfort zones than to make big changes.

Ask yourself these questions: What mindset issues or limitations might I have to deal with both for myself or those around me? Whether it’s self-inflicted or from someone we know and trust, this is bound to happen and being aware of it, recognizing it for what it is so that it doesn’t derail you is so important. Digging big goals usually brings out the best and worst in us as humans, so stay the course, make sure those scenes are vivid and strong enough for you to follow through, visit them often and transport yourself to those moments so that when they play in your head, they center you to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Remember — forward is forward! This is my charge to you: visualize those scenes, make them important enough that you commit to taking action, set promises that you keep to yourself to prove that you are worthy of investing in, and keep inching your way forward. When you can see that end result vividly and know the steps that you need to take in order to reach it, it will help make sure you’re working in the right direction — so that a year from now, you won’t wish you have started, you might already have arrived and be tackling your next big goal. Now go reverse engineer your goals goal diggers!

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  1. […] post is 100% inspired by a recent podcast I listened to by Jenna Kutcher. In the podcast, she taught listeners how to work backward to create the life that you want, by identifying your […]

  2. midlife says:

    […] Kutcher, J. (n.d.). How to reverse engineer the result you want. https://jennakutcherblog.com/reverse/  […]


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Before you get any further... Hi! I'm Jenna Kutcher!

A small town Minnesota photographer, podcaster, educator and puppy rescuer, my happiest days are spent behind my computer screen sharing my secrets with the world. I'm glad you're here.

I’m an expert at online marketing, a nerd when it comes to the numbers, and my obsession is teaching others how to make a living doing what they love (without it taking over their life). 

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