When it comes to setting goals-whether they’re personal, professional, financial, or anything in between-it’s easy to forget that anyone who’s gotten where you want to be went through a long process to get there. Finance blog Mom and Dad Money explains why this is the most important, yet overlooked aspect of changing your habits.
It’s easy to look at someone who’s achieved financial stability and assume they make more money or they started out in a better place than you did. While those can be factors, Mom and Dad Money points out that, more often than not, the people who have done what you hope to do went through a long and complicated process to get there. And it’s never over:
The point is this: none of this is easy for anyone, no matter what it looks like from the outside. Those people whose success you want? It wasn’t easy for them to get where they are. It wasn’t glamorous or magical or quick.
It was a process. A long process filled with confusion, frustration, success, failure, understanding, disagreement, re-thinking, happy moments, sad moments, and everything in between.
And the reality is that no matter how easy it looks for them now on the outside, they’re actually just like you: still struggling, still doubting, still looking for better ways to do things.
While the source is describing this in the context of financial goals, it extends to everything in life. Whether it’s a job you want to get, a relationship you want to have, or even just something you use every day, there’s almost always a lengthy, complicated process that went in to making it happen.
Of course, knowing there’s a process doesn’t mean that you automatically know what it is. But it does help you narrow down where to get advice. If there’s a dream job you want to achieve, ask people who work in that field how they got there. If you want to have a loving, happy relationship, learn from the people in your life who embody that the most. Learn the process and you’re best prepared to make it to the outcome.
Over the last 5 years, I studied motivation and incremental steps toward goals for my Ph.D. research. During the same time period, I used incremental steps myself, publishing Profit from the Positive with Margaret Greenberg. Based on both experiences, here are my research-based suggestions for taking incremental steps to reach important goals.
1) Break big goals into smaller steps
If you have a 42-page document to write for work and you have seven days to do it, should you A) set a goal of completing all 42 pages within seven days or B) set a goal of completing six pages on the first day and keep resetting that six-page goal each day?
In 1981, researchers Albert Bandura and Dale Schunk tested something very similar to the above question. Bandura and Schunk worked with children ages 7 to 10. About half the children received the suggestion to set a goal of completing six pages of math problems per session, and the other half received the suggestion to set a goal of completing 42 pages of math problems over seven sessions.
What happened? Smaller subgoals led to faster completion and more accurate answers than one large goal. This has been demonstrated so often that researchers now take it for granted.
The specific results of the original study were that children with the smaller subgoals completed each session in an average of 21 minutes while those with one large goal took 29 minutes per session. Furthermore, children with the smaller subgoals performed better, getting about 80% of the math problems right compared to about 40% for the students with one large goal. Additionally, children that actively thought about the smaller subgoals had greater confidence in their abilities, greater perseverance, and (the best result of them all in my book) greater intrinsic motivation as measured by how much they voluntarily chose to solve math problems. This result about setting smaller subgoals has been replicated with young adults, government employees, and college students.
What does all this mean in practical terms? If you want to accomplish something, break it down into smaller steps and go after them incrementally. In Profit from the Positive, we give a nuanced recommendation related to this finding: we encourage readers to “just plan it” instead of “just do it.” Plan out the smaller steps before jumping into the big project.
When you are planning out your smaller steps, you could create a ritual about when the event falls on your calendar. You could choose to work in your home office every morning at 8:30am for a half hour or in a conference room every Wednesday and Friday afternoon at 2pm. Why might it be helpful to ritualize the time and location of working on a task?
2) Turn working on the subgoals into a habit
When you plan a time and a location for taking action, you are setting the seeds of a habit. Researchers define a habit as an action performed almost daily in a stable environment. In a diary study of daily behaviors, researcher Wendy Wood and colleagues found when people are doing something habitually, two positive results emerge:
- People do not need to think about the action they are taking and can have other thoughts while taking the action.
- People feel less stressed and have a lower intensity of emotions when they are taking habitual actions.
Thus, habits allow us to free up our minds and feel less stress.
During the years when we were writing Profit from the Positive, Margaret and I had a one-hour meeting every Friday at 10am my time and 1pm her time. That was routinely in our schedules and kept us honest about continuing to move the project forward even when Margaret had a full-time consulting and executive coaching practice and I was doing research full time. Plus, having small tidbits of successful progress FELT good.
Why might that be? In clinical-counseling literature, Terry Trepper and colleagues suggest that a therapy focused on the short-term and on process helps the patient by forming incremental behavioral success-patterns. That makes sense: if you are focused on short-term processes, then each time the process works well, it reinforces behavioral success-patterns.
3) Focus on process, not outcome
This is the kicker. Sometimes it feels energizing to say, “I’m going to write a book,” or “I’m going to make $X.” Ok, so you’ve said it. But does focusing on the outcome help you take steps to achieve it?
You’re probably not going to sit down and write a book. You’re probably going to write a chapter or an outline. To do that, you’re probably going to start by gathering some information or writing down a brain dump of your ideas relevant to that outline or chapter. The “write a book” goal is likely long term and far away. What could you focus on to enjoy the process? You could focus on how you write, that is, the writing process. You could focus on making sure to describe the benefits and key results of each chapter and making sure to highlight instances when the suggestions you’re making do not work. Thus you could have a process that you work on improving.
Researchers Lien Pham and Shelley Taylor studied which behavior is better for achieving a goal: focusing on the process or focusing on the outcome. They found that students who simulate the process of studying for an exam and focus on good study habits get a better grade on the exam 5-7 days later than students who simulate the outcome of getting the good grade. The students who simulate the process also do better than the students who simulate both process and outcome. What could be happening here? The researchers found that focusing on the process and on good study habits decreases anxiety and increases planning, both of which help to achieve better grades.
Similarly researchers Barry Zimmerman and Anastasia Kitsantas ran a study on teaching girls to shoot darts. During practice sessions, the girls that focused on the process were told to focus on the final two movements in each throw: the vertical forearm motion and the finger extension towards the target. The girls that focused on outcome were told to try to get the highest numeric score (between 0 and 7) during the practice session. The girls focused on process consistently outperformed the ones focused on outcome in dart skill.
What does this mean for you? It’s easy to measure oneself by the outcome, but paying attention to the process may get you closer to where you want to be. As a preview of future articles, this is especially important where the project is not completely clear and if there are some things for you to learn along the way.
In a Nutshell
In summary, here are the three pieces of research you most need to know about incremental steps:
- Choose smaller steps of a larger goal
- Develop a habit
- Focus more on process than on outcome
If you take these actions, you’ll likely find that it’s easier to work on an important project.
By TIM RACETTE
It’s about that time… You’ve given up on (or broke) your New Year’s resolution(s). Don’t worry, you’re not alone.
You don’t have to admit defeat just yet. Remember, you’re not a failure unless you stop trying.
“Good habits are as good as bad habits, only a lot more rewarding”
Here are some ways to create habits you can stick with:
Crawl before you can walk
Start small, like really small. Something so simple and easy it’s almost impossible not to succeed.
If you’re goal is to “read more in 2014” start by making a list of the books you’d like to read. Or checking a book out from the library, or even picking out a spot where you are going to do your reading.
I’m not too big on New Year’s resolutions; I’d rather have one big goal that all my focus on and drives everything else that I do. I did however want to read more in 2014 so I decided to set a goal of reading 20 pages per day, that’s it.
It only took a week for me to get sucked into some great books and now I find myself reading for an hour before bed and first thing when I wake up.
It’s amazing what baby steps can do.
How to increase your goal success rate
In my last post of 2013 I wrote about goal setting for traders. It’s important to quantify a goal, meaning tie it to a specific date and have some measurable factor to which you can measure it as a success.
In trading though, assigning dates to some goals is a bad thing.
Rather than creating the goal of having X amount of dollars in your trading account by X date, or trading X many contracts by X date shift the focus to what makes the goal a success.
If you’re trading 1 ES contract with a $5000 account instead of saying “I want to grow my account to $10,000 by end of next month” it’s more advantageous to set a goal of “being profitable for 8 consecutive weeks.”
This addresses the core issue, being consistently profitable, and thus ensures all your efforts are focused to getting to that goal.
The more you clarify your goals, the more successful you’ll be.
3 bad habits to break in 2014
Another way to create good habits than can have a powerful impact on your trading is to break bad ones.
Here are some things to stop doing in 2014:
1. Turn off the TV: There’s a reason it’s nicknamed the idiot box.
If you must, rent a movie, or watch a show on Hulu, but make a point to watch less TV.
Helpful Hint: If turning on the TV is habit, start with day a week no TV watching, or make a list of all the shows you watch regularly and narrow them down to your top 3 – 5.
2. Stop listening to pop radio: I gather most of my audience doesn’t have this problem, but pop radio is just as bad as TV. Filled with celebrity gossip, consumerism, and ads. Instead, try listening to a podcast, or talk radio, or even classical!
Helpful Hint: Make a point to leave 5-minutes earlier. Allowing the extra 5-minutes is enough time to lower your stress level and not feel rushed.
3. Stop live trading if you’re unsure of yourself: Whenever you doubt yourself, your methodology, or don’t feel confident your trading suffers. Remember that the markets will ALWAYS be there for us so there’s no rush to take a new strategy or idea to print immediately.
Helpful Hint: Take the time to master your ideas on paper first. Once you’ve proven to yourself that your idea has some validity on paper you can begin to trade live.
With all the emotional aspects that come into play with live trading you need to be totally comfortable with your entry, exit, and trade management criteria.
Make a point in 2014 to challenge yourself. When two paths lay before you, make a conscious effort to take the one that looks more challenging and learn as you go. In the end it will be more rewarding.
Good habits to strive for in 2014
- Walk for 10-minutes 2x a day
- Reconnect with 1 dormant tie (an old friend) each week
- Take a different route home from work each day
- Do a Weekly 80/20
A New Year means a fresh start and new beginnings, but the same can be said for a new month, or a new week. Make a conscious effort to do the little things each day and together they will help you reach your goals faster.
By Morris Cohen
Do you cringe every time you break the rules of the diet you promised to start last month? Do you tally up all the days of gym membership you’ve paid for without setting foot inside? Do you convince yourself you’ll stop smoking — as soon as you finish this pack?
As March begins, many people have consciously or unconsciously given up on their goals for the new year. But don’t fear — while your body doesn’t need the start of a new year to make changes, your mind needs a new outlook to stop beating yourself up each time you fall short of your goals.
Here are some ideas on how to use positive reflection to get yourself back on track, along with a few suggestions on how to cultivate this practice:
1. Give Yourself Credit for What You’ve Already Done
For many people, the turning of the calendar is inspiration to focus on what needs fixing, adding or changing.
But in the rush to think about improvements, we can sometimes overlook things going well that we have been working on over the past year, or several years. That slow, steady progress on goals that aren’t usually first on the list in the typical fitness-centric New Year’s resolutions can be the most meaningful for our health and well-being.
That includes goals such as building better relationships, using stress management techniques and connecting with one’s inner emotional world.
I’ve found with my clients that when they overlook these positive changes, however small and incremental, they can be more likely to feel disappointed and depressed in the face of seeming failures.
When that happens, I recommend they focus on the power of positive psychology.
2. Positive Psychology: It’s Not Just for Pollyannas
Positive Psychology is the principle that while all people can face challenges and distress, they can focus on their strengths, assets and resilience in order to heal emotional issues and highlight what makes life worth living.
In my experience, when a client is fixated on a problem that feels intractable, it’s often helpful to refocus on what is going well, where progress is being made and what’s changed for the better over the course of their lives, instead of rehashing current or past problems that feel irresolvable.
Recognizing the small positives of our lives helps us feel more empowered to make life decisions that might help us achieve major goals we desperately want to achieve.
3. Measure Progress in Manageable Increments
Sometimes when we’re in a challenging place, the tendency is to focus on what we think we lack in our lives. For example, you might think, “I’m still unmarried,” or “I’m still angry at my mother/father.” While it’s important to acknowledge these thoughts and feelings, positive psychology urges us to be sure to include what is going right in our lives.
For example, instead of saying, “I’m unhappy at work,” you might say, “I’m unhappy at work but I’m taking steps to change my career.”
Instead of saying, “I’m still angry about my childhood,” you might try: “There are still things unresolved in my childhood, but I’m much less angry and triggered than I was five years ago.”
4. The Healing List
The use of journaling has long been a common practice tool in therapy. A journaling technique called the Healing List seeks to reflect on the healing you have done in the past year or years and therefore foster a more positive outlook.
To give it a try, start by giving yourself an opportunity to think about recent mental or emotional difficulties. This can be stress you may be feeling about relationships, workplace issues, family problems, anxiety, depression or other mood issues.
Next, make a list of these experiences that have been healed, or are in the process of healing. You can write them down in a book, type into a phone or tablet, or even draw these experiences.
You have leeway here, but remember to only write down the experiences of healing, not those issues that continue to be problematic. Just gently remind yourself that there will be other time to focus on the negative, and now is not that time.
To further augent your Healing List, spend a couple of minutes expressing gratitude for all that “works” in your life.
For example, you can think or write about your gratitude that your body’s immune system has staved off infection this winter. Or, you can express gratitude for the people in your life who support you on your personal journey. You can even express gratitude for your favorite food. It all counts toward keeping you motivated towards your health and wellness goals.
Other common gratitude practices include an exercise of finding something to be thankful for starting with each letter of the alphabet. An example might be “The letter D: I am grateful for my doctor, who helped me heal.”
And, for those who want the quickest, simplest gratitude practice, just take a few moments and think about the three things you are most grateful for right now.
When it comes to our health and wellness goals, it’s helpful to take the long view. Wellness is a marathon, not a sprint, so remember when you fall short of your goals one day, that doesn’t mean you have to sabotage your goals for the rest of the week, year or decade.
Working towards fulfillment and transformation is not a Sunday afternoon hobby. It means living your life with a plan in mind that you are 100% committed to realizing! Do you have compelling goals in your life for yourself and/or your business? How are you doing with them? If you are feeling frustrated or stuck, check out your level of commitment to your goals. Because I guarantee you that the results you get will be directly proportional to the level of your commitment. As we approach the New Year, it seems appropriate that we turn our focus to this crucial area of commitment to set the stage for a fantastic year to come. My post this week is all about commitment and how you can fine tune your level of commitment to reach your most important goals. Below are 5 ways you can get your commitment level back up to 100%:
- Define your why: Many of us have very fuzzy ideas of where we are headed and what we want. How can you be committed to something you’re not clear about? So take the time to get clear about what you want – your vision for the future. Make it as real and 3 dimensional as possible in your imagination. Operate “as if” you are already where you want to be. Once you have clarity of intention you will boost motivation significantly because you know where you are headed and the future looks bright.
- Transform your thinking: Rid yourself of negative thoughts and self-criticism by practicing being present. Once you can identify your patterns you can substitute positive self-talk.
- Be honest with yourself about where you’re at now – strengths and weakness. This will give you a solid foundation from which to build.
- Prepare to let go of anything getting in the way of your desired outcome. This may require getting the emotional healing you need.
- Think of yourself as a success already. Whenever you have an important decision to make, ask yourself “will this take me closer to my goals?”. If not, don’t move in that direction.
Remember: commitment is about intention and attention. That is why it all starts with your vision. You must have a crystal clear vision and a deep desire to reach your goals. These are the fuel that will propel you forward towards fulfillment of your destiny. For more great tips and tricks on the principles of transformation that will help you have a successful life, download my FREE ebook, “Intentional Fulfillment: Four Powerful Steps to the Life You Want.”
By Osman Hameed
Why are Dreams or Goals so Important?
Dreams and goals are the backbone of society and innovation. They are the birthplace of human ambition. And a person without a dream or goal is only a shell of his or her full potential.
- Dreams or major goals are so important for a number of reasons including:
- Dreams motivate you to do your best and reach your full potential.
- Dreams provide you with positive energy and help to keep you going through hard times
- Dreams keep you focused on what’s really important.
- Dreams help you define yourself as the type of person you’d want to be.
- Dreams keep you excited about life and the possibilities of the future.
6 Powerful Ways to Make Your Dreams Come True
So, how can we see that we actually accomplish our goals and realize our greatest dreams? Here are 6 tips that you can put to work for yourself immediately to make your dreams a reality.
1. Visualize Yourself Reaching Your Dream
Visualization is a great first step to make your dream a reality. By visualizing yourself in the final stages and achievement of the dream, you affirm to your subconscious that it can be done and that you are already on your way. This limitless supply of positive energy is crucial to reaching your goal especially when the going gets tough.
2. Get Organized
The next step in my experience to reaching your greatest dream is to come up with a strategic plan.
Rather than just dreaming about it and hoping one day it comes to pass, create a plan that you could use to actually see it become reality. Although this can be a daunting task, just remember that each step gets you that much closer. Make a list of the first few steps and just do one thing at a time.
For example if your dream or goal is to lose 50 lbs don’t just start working out randomly. Plan it out and be very particular to how you use your time. Take it one day at a time focusing on making that specific day as efficient as possible towards losing weight.
This planning and way of thinking will not just bring you closer to your goal, but it will also make you feel good and positive about your progress.
3. Build a Support Network
A strong support system is crucial to being successful no matter what your goal is. Just like how a bridge can’t stand by itself, it’s harder to make a dream a reality on your own.
You could look at all of the great accomplishments people have made from Steve Jobs founding Apple Inc. to Michael Phelps becoming the most decorated Olympian of all time – they have all had people who have supported them and helped them along the way. While this doesn’t mean that you ask someone else to do all of the work for you. Sharing your dream and vision with others who believe in you will greatly help you in your journey towards your goal.
4. Ignore the “Haters”
There will always be people who refuse to believe in the feasibility of your dream. They will put you down and they may even tell you that your dream is impossible. You must ignore these “haters” and march forward. Don’t let their negativity even touch you and keep focused and locked in towards your goal.
Always keep in mind that many people before have tried to stop dreamers from dreaming throughout history. But dreamers have always been triumphant. Look at the example of the Wright Brothers. They dreamt that one day they would fly. People laughed at them and mocked them. But they shut everybody up when they made the first airplane. And today flying is an accepted concept and a basic form of transportation.
5. Pull The Trigger
At some point you’re going to have to make decisions to make your dreams come true. These could be small decisions like going for a morning jog or bigger decisions like taking a large loan from the bank. Just remember that whatever the decision you make, don’t be afraid of making it. Always do you due diligence but in the end make sure you “Pull the Trigger” for whichever option you choose. There will be more opportunities in the future but you must make most of what you have now.
6. Develop Self-Confidence
Self-confidence is crucial to making your dream or goal a reality. Unless you believe in yourself and your abilities completely, you will never be able to reach your max potential. In the simple but powerful words of Peter Pan: “The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease for ever to be able to do it.”
7. Transform Your Dream into Energy
You must transform your dreams and goals into a burning desire inside of you. You must feel that you want to reach your dream more than you even want to even breathe. Once you’re in this state of mind you will find that there is not much that can stop you. This desire will fuel your every action and give you an endless supply of energy to reach your goal.