We’ve all faced the disappointment and guilt that comes from setting a goal and giving up on it after a couple of weeks. Sustaining motivation for a long-term goal is hard to achieve, and yet the best goals can usually only be accomplished in a few months or even years.
Here’s the solution: Focus instead on creating a new habit that will lead to achieving your goal.
Want to run a marathon? First create the habit of running every day. Want to get out of debt and start saving? Create the habit of brown bagging it to work, or watching DVDs instead of going to the movies, or whatever change will lead to saving money for you.
By focusing not on what you have to achieve over the course of the next year, but instead on what you are doing each day, you are focusing on something achievable. That little daily change will add up to a huge change, over time … and you’ll be surprised at how far you’ve come in no time. Little grains of sand can add up to a mountain over time.
I used this philosophy of habit changes to run a marathon, to change my diet and lose weight, to write a novel, to quit smoking, to become organized and productive, to double my income, reduce my debt and start saving, and to begin training for an Olympic triathlon this year. It works, if you focus on changing habits.
Now, changing your habits isn’t easy — I won’t lie to you — but it’s achievable, especially if you start small. Don’t try to change the world with your first habit change … take baby steps at first. I started by just trying to run a mile — and by the end of the year, I could run more than 20 miles.
How do you change your habits? Focus on one habit at a time, and follow these steps:
- Positive changes. If you’re trying to change a negative habit (quit smoking), replace it with a positive habit (running for stress relief, for example).
- Take on a 30-day challenge. Tell yourself that you’re going to do this habit every day, at the same time every day, for 30 straight days without fail. Once you’re past that 30-day mark, the habit will become much easier. If you fail, do not beat yourself up. Start again on a new 30-day challenge. Practice until you succeed.
- Commit yourself completely. Don’t just tell yourself that you might or should do this. Tell the world that DEFINITELY will do this. Put yourself into this 100 percent. Tell everyone you know. Email them. Put it on your blog. Post it up at your home and work place. This positive public pressure will help motivate you.
- Set up rewards. It’s best to reward yourself often the first week, and then reward yourself every week for that first month. Make sure these are good rewards, that will help motivate you to stay on track.
- Plan to beat your urges. It’s best to start out by monitoring your urges, so you become more aware of them. Track them for a couple days, putting a tally mark in a small notebook every time you get an urge. Write out a plan, before you get the urges, with strategies to beat them. We all have urges to quit — how will you overcome it? What helps me most are deep breathing and drinking water. You can get through an urge — it will pass.
- Track and report your progress. Keep a log or journal or chart so that you can see your progress over time. I used a running log for my marathon training, and a quit meter when I quit smoking. It’s very motivating to see how far you’ve come. Also, if you can join an online group and report your progress each day, or email family and friends on your progress, that will help motivate you.
Most important of all: Always stay positive. I learned the habit of monitoring my thoughts, and if I saw any negative thoughts (“I want to stop!”) I would squash it like a little bug, and replace it with a positive thought (“I can do this!”). It works amazingly. This is the best tip ever. If you think negative thoughts, you will definitely fail. But if you always think positive, you will definitely succeed.
We all want specific things in our life, the problem is how to reach what we desire. It’s not always easy to reach our goals, but are there any tricks to reach them? There aren’t any easy answers to that question, however I have a few ideas that might help you get there:
1- Believe in yourself
If you read my posts you will often see this point come up. I cannot put enough emphasis on the fact you need to believe in yourself and in your abilities to achieve anything in life. Believing in yourself is the key to almost everything you will start. If you start a business not only you need to be in love with what you do, but you also need to believe in the fact it can work. It’s the stepping stone to any foundation. Most of us already do this for common things like cooking, driving a car or taking a class in University.
2- Think about the process to reach your goal
Planning ahead is important, especially when you are trying to reach a specific goal. It’s very important to visualize each of the steps needed to reach your goals. Imagine yourself doing these steps, living each instant of them. This is a very easy way to plan ahead, it also helps you not forget anything along the way. By visualizing the steps you can see what you need to do to reach your goals. When the time arrives and you are living those steps, you will probably get a “déjà vue” and this comes from the fact you already imagined it. I usually do this before going to bed, which brings me to my third point.
3- Visualize your steps before going to bed
Yes, visualizing each steps before going to bed will not only help you reach you goals with less hurdles it will also make you dream about it. I often dream about my goals or my daily life, this gives me practice in what I am about to do. Did you know when you sleep your brain doesn’t know the difference between reality and fiction? This explains why your dreams can feel so true. It also explains why a nightmare can feel so real. Once we understand this concept you can see all the advantages of dreaming properly. I will write a post another post soon dedicated to this technique.
4- Strive, fight and stay positive
Your goals won’t happen overnight, they also won’t happen without work. You will have to overcome many obstacles before you reach your desired goal. There are always people who will work against you (if it’s not yourself doing so) or technical hurdles you will need to overcome. NEVER discourage yourself, always stay positive and focus on being a problem solver. Keep pushing and never discourage yourself even when you think everything is lost. No one has ever achieved anything without past failures or setbacks, try to stay positive.
5- Get backup, use your contacts and talk to people
Don’t be shy to talk to people about your new goals and how you plan to achieve them. Other people’s insight can be very important and can help skip a few steps. A teacher once told me that on a construction yard do they build new trucks and tools for each new construction? The answer is NO. The same concept applies to our life and experiences, you can use other peoples experiences to learn quicker and get by some of the steps. (In this example they are your tools) This can be true on tangibles goals like setting up a business, going back to school or building by yourself a shed in the backyard. Getting help is not only smart and quicker it will also show your friends and family that you want to learn and achieve your goals.
I want to point out one important thing about goal setting. I believe anything is possible and that everyone can reach their goals. Keep in mind some goals might not be possible to achieve. We need to be realistic in life, I understand this only applies to 1% of population, but common sense is important (after all, this is a blog for logical people ). Also if you set your goals too high you will be disappointed if you can’t reach them appropriately, so don’t be too greedy and make sure whatever your goal is, that deep down inside, that is what you really want.
When you first commit to the goal to run a marathon, buy your own home, or lose 50 pounds, you’re ecstatic. You can’t wait to get started on making your dreams a reality.
If your goals is to lose 50 pounds, you might throw away all the junk food in your house, download a diet plan online and get a personal trainer. But after a few weeks, or even days, your preliminary enthusiasm wears off and you start thinking about whether this is really worth it.
So after your short burst of enthusiasm, what does it take to ensure that you stay motivated?
What’s helped me is creating a goal support system, a sort of “goal prop” if you will. We can use these prop to help us stay focused and committed, before following the path to our goal has become a habit.
A goal prop can be anything that helps us stay focused on our goal. It helps us remember why we started when our discipline is waning and we’re not sure if it’s worth it anymore.
Here are some suggestions for a creating a prop, that will help you stay focused toward your long-term goals:
1. Create a mantra. This is probably the easiest thing to start out with and one of the most powerful motivators. It’s simple and unsophisticated. If your goal is to buy your own home, you can use the mantra “my own place” or “my dream home.” The mantra itself isn’t as important as the emotional connection it gives you to your goal.
2. Create a ritual. If your goal is to lose weight, it’s not easy to change all the previous unhealthy habits you might have. What is much easier is creating a ritual to reinforce your new lifestyle. This might every time when you wake up, or before you go to bed you look at pictures of the body you want, you review your diet plan and journal about why health is important to you and how you can’t wait to have a healthy lifestyle and body.
3. Make plans. This is one of the most powerful actions for me, but it’s not something I do daily. Make plans and day dream about what you’re going to do when you achieve your goal. When you finally buy your own home, what are you going to do? How are you going to design it? How are you going to use each room? When you lose 50 pounds, what are you going to do differently? Are you going to go to the beach more, play with your kids, start modeling? Whatever it is, regularly thinking about your plans for your life after you’ve achieved your goals is a powerful way to stay motivated. It allows you to renew that initial excitement you had when you first set out to achieve your goals.
4. Put yourself on auto-response. In this article, I talk about how the practical mind will often get in the way of our heart and our true desires. Sometimes we have to silence our mind in the face of the practical and seemingly ridiculous. We have to put ourselves on auto-response; instead of thinking “I don’t know” we change our auto-response to “I’ll figure it out.”
Staying motivated toward long term goals is not an easy thing to do. It takes discipline and passion to transform your previous mode of existence. This is especially true when you want to stop working toward someone else’s goals and want to work living your own purpose. It takes grit and perseverance to achieve long term goals like starting your own business, reaching enlightenment, or completely overhauling your previous way of living.
I’ve used all of these methods above as “props” to help me stay focused toward my goals. They’ve helped me stay on track when my I’m struggling staying disciplined and feel like giving up. Try one or any combination of these methods, I think you’ll find them worthwhile.
It’s also important that we keep our goals in context. We should remember that the point of achieving our goal one, two or three years from now is to improve our life. But we’re still living in the present. If we live only for our goals, we’ll likely resent the present, and start resenting our goals as well.
Keeping perspective is one of the hardest things to do. We just need to remember that productivity and achievement are a means to an end, not the end themselves. Time – not money, possessions or status – is our most precious commodity.
“The more intensely we feel about an idea or a goal, the more assuredly the idea, buried deep in our subconscious, will direct us along the path to its fulfillment.” ~ Earl Nightingale
Many people falsely believe and accept that the goals they have set for themselves are far out of reach. Other people seem to think that they are just not very good at setting goals and sticking to them, so they don’t even bother trying. The real problem is usually that the goals are unclear or unrealistic.
The truth of the matter is that no matter where you are in life you can use your current place as a starting point for greater success. But, you will have to learn to set clear, concise, and actionable goals that push you forward and build momentum.
The first thing you need to remember is that you will be constantly setting new goals for yourself throughout the course your life. Many people become discouraged because they feel that every time they reach one goal, they find that they still have even more work in front of them. Unless you plan to reach a goal and stand still in that spot for the rest of your life, it is a good thing to always be looking to the horizon and revisiting your goals! Doing this means that you will continue to move forward, become a better person, accomplish greater things, and meet with more successes as you define them.
When sitting down to set your goals, you should think about where you will be and what you will be doing in a month, six months, a year, five years, and ten years. A problem that many people have is that they set huge goals for five or ten years from now. And, although it is great to have lofty goals, if the goal is too ambitious, or the leap seems too great, you may feel easily intimidated or discouraged by it. For this reason, you need to set smaller goals all along the way so that you can continue to motivate yourself and continue to build up forward momentum.
Short-term goals are just as important as long-term goals, and this is one of the most important things that you should keep in mind when setting goals. Create some smaller goals for yourself every few months so that when you reach them. You will feel a sense of accomplishment and be stoked about reaching the next goal. These shorter-term goals are like stepping stones. They will keep you excited about the future, keep you focused on the end-game, and push you forward in your moments of doubt or frustration.
Use positive affirmations
You can also use the power of affirmations to help you create the positive mindset you need to get things done faster. Affirmations will help you maintain a positive attitude while you work hard to reach each of your goals. Affirmations, in case you don’t know, are short, concise, positive statements that you can repeat to yourself as often as needed to help you reprogram your mind, while focusing on the positive in your life.
As you develop your affirmations, you may want to think about where you want your goals to take you. Where do you want to end up? Examples of goal-setting affirmations can be as simple as, “I am focused on my goals and dreams,” or, “I have well-structured goals and stick to my deadlines.” I know these may seem rather simple and simplistic, but this way of thinking will help you set and reach the important milestones in your life, while making you more resilient to any obstacles along way.
At a loss for affirmations? Join us here every Saturday and Sunday for a weekly boost!
Goal-setting is easy. But easy and effective are not the same thing. Your goal-setting can only effective if you make your goals crystal clear. Know where you want to go. Make actionable steps to get there. Keep yourself primed with a positive mindset. Go forth and conquer!
In life and work, success begins with a goal. It could be losing weight, asking for a raise, quitting smoking or starting your own business. Big or small, goals give us purpose and, like a compass, keep us headed in the right direction. Of course, it then takes lots of hard work and determination to reach your destination.
Writing over 2,000 years ago, Aristotle described the process this way: “First, have a definite, clear, practical ideal; a goal, an objective. Second, have the necessary means to achieve your ends: wisdom, money, materials, and methods. Third, adjust all your means to that end.”
Unfortunately, many of us remain stuck at the goal stage. We start out with good intentions and perhaps a plan, but then we can’t seem to make it happen.
There are countless reasons that this occurs — busyness, impatience, fear and negative social pressures are some of the usual culprits — so how do we respond to these challenges and move in the direction of our goal?
Seeing Is Believing
Before we can believe in a goal, we first must have an idea of what it looks like. To paraphrase the old adage: we must see it before we can believe it.
This is where visualization comes in, which is simply a technique for creating a mental image of a future event. When we visualize our desired outcome, we begin to “see” the possibility of achieving it. Through visualization, we catch a glimpse of what is, in the words of one writer, our “preferred future.” When this happens, we are motivated and prepared to pursue our goal.
Visualization should not be confused with the “think it and you will be it” advice peddled by popular self-help gurus. It is not a gimmick, nor does it involve dreaming or hoping for a better future. Rather, visualization is a well-developed method of performance improvement supported by substantial scientific evidence and used by successful people across a range of fields.
Take athletes, for example. Studies show that visualization increases athletic performance by improving motivation, coordination and concentration. It also aids in relaxation and helps reduce fear and anxiety. In the words of one researcher, “visualization helps the athlete just do it and do it with confidence, poise, and perfection.”
Former NBA great Jerry West is a great example of how this works. Known for hitting shots at the buzzer, he acquired the nickname “Mr. Clutch.” When asked what accounted for his ability to make the big shots, West explained that he had rehearsed making those same shots countless times in his mind. Other sports legends like Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Tiger Woods and pitcher Roy Halladay have also used visualization to improve their performance and achieve their personal best.
Why Visualization Works
According to research using brain imagery, visualization works because neurons in our brains, those electrically excitable cells that transmit information, interpret imagery as equivalent to a real-life action. When we visualize an act, the brain generates an impulse that tells our neurons to “perform” the movement. This creates a new neural pathway — clusters of cells in our brain that work together to create memories or learned behaviors — that primes our body to act in a way consistent to what we imagined. All of this occurs without actually performing the physical activity, yet it achieves a similar result.
Putting It All Together
Remember, you don’t have to be an elite athlete to benefit from visualization. Whether you’re a student, businessperson, parent or spouse, visualization will keep you tethered to your goal and increase your chances of achieving it. The power of visualization is available to all people.
There are two types of visualization, each of which serves a distinct purpose, but for greatest effect, they should be used together. The first method is outcome visualization and involves envisioning yourself achieving your goal. To do this, create a detailed mental image of the desired outcome using all of your senses.
For example, if your goal is to run your first marathon, visualize yourself crossing the finish line in the time you desire. Hold that mental image as long as possible. What does it feel like to pass under the finishing banner, looking at your watch, the cool air on your overheated body? Who is there to greet you as you finish? Your family? Friends? Other runners? Imagine the excitement, satisfaction, and thrill you will experience as you walk off the lactic acid and fall exhausted into their arms.
Some people find it useful to write their goal down, and then, in as much detail as possible, translate it into a visual representation. It could be a hand-drawn picture, a photograph or a diagram. The media doesn’t matter, just as long as it helps you create a vivid mental image and stay motivated.
The second type of visualization is process visualization. It involves envisioning each of the actions necessary to achieve the outcome you want. Focus on completing each of the steps you need to achieve your goal, but not on the overall goal itself.
Back to the marathon example: Before the race, visualize yourself running well — legs pumping like pistons, arms relaxed, breathing controlled. In your mind, break the course into sections and visualize how you will run each part, thinking about your pace, gait and split time. Imagine what it will feel like when you hit “the wall,” that point in the race where your body wants to stop, and more importantly, what you must do to break through it.
You may never run a marathon. However, you can use the same principles to achieve any goal — create a vivid mental picture of yourself succeeding, envision what you must do during each step of the process and, like a runner pushing through “the wall,” use positive mental imagery to stay focused and motivated when you experience obstacles or setbacks.
Visualization does not guarantee success. It also does not replace hard work and practice. But when combined with diligent effort (and, I would add, a strong support network), it is a powerful way to achieve positive, behavioral change and create the life you desire.
Most people have grand ambitions for their futures. Yet only a fraction of us ever realize our dreams, because ambition means little without motivation. It is true that some people have more opportunities than others, and it is easy to hide behind the excuse that your own circumstances put you at a disadvantage but failure is a state of mind. Everyone who accomplishes great things meets failure countless times on their way success. What sets motivated people apart, however, is their ability to see failures as opportunities to learn. So while setting goals is essential; cultivating the patience, persistence, and positivity needed to attain those goals is life’s true challenge. Here’s how to motivate yourself to excel, from the classroom to a top job:
Set the Right Goals
We all know it is good to study hard, get high marks in school, participate in productive extracurricular activities, and attend university. But few take the time to consider why they want these things. Is it merely to please parents? Is it for the satisfaction of standing out from peers? Or is it because of a genuine desire to grow, to meet challenges, to understand our place in the world better, and to lay the foundation for future accomplishments?
Don’t set goals merely on the basis of what other expect of you. Instead, determine what makes you feel most fulfilled and satisfied (though not necessarily what makes you fleetingly happy), and model your goals towards that. The purest motivation is powered by passion.
Define Your Course
As you begin to understand what you want most in life, learn all you can about it. Examine how others succeeded before you, find out what obstacles you need to overcome, and set a clear trajectory for yourself. Then break your big goal into a series of smaller goals, keeping long and short-term ambitions in mind, and strive each day to make a bit more progress.
I have personally ventured on a number of courses from my passion in engineering to my investment of studying business for future goals. Through my project management courses my knowledge expanded in sales, marketing, HR and modern business, which gave me the motivation and ability to deliver on things like financials which is an area I kind of dislike but I successfully managed to deliver due to the motivation I had to succeed and not accept failure as an option because of the longer term goal of success.
Constantly Refine Your Efforts
Effort without self-awareness is waste. So you must continually evaluate the areas where you succeed and fail. Always aim to be more efficient than you were the day before, and learn from your mistakes rather than being discouraged by them.
Plumb The Unknown
You must expand your horizons in order to grow, so always explore what you don’t understand. In university, when you see modules on topics that seem utterly foreign, take them. If you have a chance to travel abroad, jump at this. Keep an open mind and always be willing to consider viewpoints that differ from your own. Many a times on engineering and nuclear projects I was scared of the unknown, that I may construct something wrong but with an engineering degree and working experience I knew my ability to take risks would get me through and teach me more.
Don’t let fear paranoia or self-consciousness, hold you back and seize every opportunity to grow. Motivate yourself to push your own boundaries further and further. Meet new people and be outgoing. The more often you prove to yourself that you can overcome fear, the easier it will be to motivate yourself to tackle tough tasks in the future and open the keys to new doors and careers.
Invest in Self-Improvement
Above all, strive each day to make yourself better. Reject stagnation wherever you find it in your life, and constantly seek areas for improvement. Spend less time watching TV, less time daydreaming, and less time undermining your own goals. Motivation is built upon productivity, remember that!
Countless people go through their whole lives dreaming of something better, yet never making the effort to understand what it is they truly want or exploring how to get it. The transition from school to a career is one that many people make almost without thought, simply following along in the path that society has laid out for them. Those who get the most out of education and eventually find meaningful work in careers they love are those who motivate themselves by exploring, understanding, and cultivating their passions.
Author: Jen Beswick is a graduate with a strong education in engineering and business. She developed her skills and motivated herself further by taking some project management Telegraph courses which allowed her to manage multiple construction projects in various fields of engineering work, now she is able to offer her advice to you.