Last week I wrote about how important it is to pick the right goal for yourself so that you are not banging your head against the wall trying to meet an impossible or insignificant goal. I actually think the reason we don’t meet our goals is mostly because the goals suck. But if you have a really important goal that’s right for you, here are some ways to ensure you see the goal to completion:

1. Think about money.
People who get paid to reach their goals are better at reaching them. This is why we typically can meet deadlines for work but not self-imposed deadlines. And that’s why movie stars can stay rail-thin, while the rest of us have a harder time losing weight: A movie star’s livelihood is based on their ability to lose weight.

So if you can think like a movie star, and decide that your livelihood depends on meeting your goal, then you’ll probably meet it.

Here are some mental gymnastics to that end: People who meet one goal can meet more goals because self-discipline is a muscle that gets stronger and stronger. Additionally, most of our career goals depend on self-discipline. So we can all tell ourselves that if we meet our one goal, whatever it is, we will have more successful careers and thereby make a lot more money.

Goal setting tip: Don’t set a goal about money. It has no intrinsic value beyond your basic food and shelter. Set your goals for things that truly will change your life. The money will come from living life like this.

2. State your goals in a way that encourages sticking to them.
You can’t structure that change if you are telling yourself only what NOT to do. My friend, Jay, points out that kids are a good example – they’re much better at “be quiet” than “shut up.” (Which immediately shows me not only why my kids are never quiet, but also that maybe my most important goals should be in the parenting arena.)

If your goal is to stop smoking, the goal is actually to replace that behavior with something else. One recent goal of mine was about not eating bread, but I reframed it so that I eat only foods that make me feel good. You can’t change behavior if you don’t know what to change it to.

Don’t make your goal so broad that you can’t tell on a day to day basis if you’re getting there. For example, I have a goal to keep my marriage together. On a day to day basis, though, my number-one thing is to keep my computer turned off when I’m home with my husband. It takes discipline and I have to plan for it. For example, at 9am I start making sure that no one is going to be waiting for me to respond to them between 6pm and 8pm. This would be easy for some of you, but I have been responding to email during family time for years, so people expect it. I have to retrain myself to retrain them.

Gender tip: Both genders should follow this advice, but for different reasons. Women get grander success when they tell their goals to a friend. But the competitive nature of men makes them very susceptible to specific measures of success, according to research from Richard Wiseman at the University of Hertfordshire (via Idealawg).

3. Write the goal down every day, and put the paper on your wall.
Many books extol the idea that if you write your goal down each day, it makes you more committed. I tried it. It works.

One of the reasons this works is that changing our behavior takes intense focus and writing down our goals reminds our brain. Bruce Wexler is a neuroscientist and author of Brain and Culture. He found that children have brains that can easily change, but adults become more hard-wired and changing their behavior requires a more extreme amount of intense focus than we ever imagine.

Writing down your goals will take about a minute a day. Not that long at all. But it’s a good litmus test. If you can’t commit to thinking about the goal regularly, you probably won’t have the focus to change.

Blogger tip: Susan Johnston told me she accomplishes this through her blog, Urban Muse, where she writes about meeting her professional goals for an audience of readers who are also trying to meet similar goals. She says, “The blog keeps me accountable to my goals.” I think this is actually true of a lot of bloggers, especially productivity types.

4. Commit to three weeks
The hardest part of changing behavior is that your brain is addicted to the bad behavior. For example, when you think about the gym, your brain remembers when you didn’t go to the gym and did work instead and your brain gets happy from having the extra time to work. If that’s what you usually do.

If you force yourself to change your behavior for three weeks, your brain will start to develop more dopamine in response to the behavior that you are trying to change to, according to Monika Fleshner, a neuroimmuno-physiologist at the University of Colorado at Boulder. For example, after three weeks, your brain will start to release dopamine when it thinks about going to the gym instead of when it thinks about ditching the gym.

During those three weeks, you need to know, the night before, how you are going to meet your goal the next day. For example, when my goal was to lose my pregnancy weight, I had to organize every day around going to the gym, scheduling the babysitter, and breastfeeding. Each day required a different schedule, but I worked it out the night before.

When I was starting out as a professional writer, I knew I needed to write an hour every day, but it was really hard for me. I used to put it off and put it off and then it wouldn’t happen. Until I realized that I had to schedule every single day around that hour in order for it to happen.

McDonald’s tip: You also have to organize your days around avoiding the dopamine triggers of the behavior you’re trying to avoid. For example, if you don’t want to eat fries, drive three blocks out of your way to avoid your regular McDonald’s. According Nora Volkow, the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, for some people, just seeing the colors red and yellow makes their brain release dopamine in anticipation of McDonald’s. Your issue might not be fries, but most of us have our own version of the red and yellow trigger.

5. Make some new friends to go with your new behavior
People who don’t change their behavior tend to justify it by saying that it’s socially acceptable, according to Cindy Jardine, professor at the University of Alberta who studies public health. This is why, for instance, if you have fat friends you are likely to be fat. So travel in circles where the behavior you want to change is not accepted. And find like-minded people. They will help you to be the person you want to be.

My brother just started school at the University of Iowa, and this was his first caucus. He describes a room totally crammed full of young people: “It was basically all the students caucusing for Obama and the adults dispersing among the other candidates.”

In the end, in his Iowa City precinct, the students sat victorious at the Obama camp with 70% of the votes, while the caucuses for Edwards and Clinton were shouting over to the Kucinich supporters to abandon camp and come to them.

This is a metaphor for the workplace. The young people have, effectively, shifted the balance of power to themselves, and the older people squabble between each other, as if their power structures still matter.

Millennials are fundamentally conservative

The victories of Generation Y will not look like the Boston Tea Party or Kent State. They will look like this Iowa caucus: Gen Y, playing by the rules, and winning.

When Gen-Xers were this age, we were so overwhelmed with trying to earn a living that voting was the last thing on our minds. And when baby boomers were this age, they were protesting, and dodging the draft, and disrupting the establishment. So in a way, it’s remarkable how engaged, optimistic, and rule-abiding Millennials are during their twenties.

But as a group, Gen Y is fundamentally conservative, so it’s not surprising that they come out and vote in droves. Voting is a way for people who color-within-the-lines to instigate change. Voting is a fundamentally conservative way to tell the establishment to get out of the way.

Baby boomers are being forced out, in a non-disruptive way

And this is the exact same way that generation Y is telling baby boomers to get out of their way at work. Gen Y plays by the rules, meets expectations, and in the same step, pulls the rug out from under the people with power. How? By refusing to pay dues, by customizing their own career paths instead of lusting after a promotion, and by job hopping when learning curves get flat.

When USA Today wrote “Gen Y has already made its mark” the story was about entrepreneurship – Gen Y is ambitious, driven, and success-oriented, and since hierarchical structures of corporate life allow for so little mobility, young people are turning to entrepreneurship and are starting businesses at a blistering rate not seen among young people earlier.

This is not exactly the Civil Rights movement or grunge music. But Gen Y doesn’t need to rebel because, as I wrote in Time magazine, young people are already in the driver’s seat at the workplace. They can work within the established lines of business to get what they want, but they get it faster than we expect.

The gender divide is an antiquated view of the world

So many times I give a speech and explain to the room why women should not report sexual harassment. Invariably, the room divides. The millennials think the advice makes sense, the baby boomers are outraged.

Baby boomers perceive that there is a gender war going on at work, and women are fighting for equality: “The glass ceiling still exists!” But millennials are entering a workforce where women are making more than men in major cities, and the salary gap is essentially gone in most fields of business for this demographic. Nearly 50% of millennial girls were sexually harassed in their summer job, and by the time they are of voting age, sexual harassment is old news– it doesn’t scare them because they have plenty of power at work.

Early pundit posts declare that the results in Iowa hinged on the votes of young women. The Clinton campaign assumed women would vote for women. But young people did not make this election about gender, they made it about age. They want change. They want a chance to do things differently, within the established structures of power.

And this is true of the workplace as well. There are not women fighting for women in Generation Y. The gender divide ended when Gen X dads started giving up promotions to stay at home with their kids. Today there is a generational divide, and it’s happening at work and in politics and the balance of power has shifted to Generation Y.