How To Set Goals to Stay Motivated
It is easy to set goals. The problem is staying motivated enough, for long enough to achieve the set goals. The secret to success is using the period when you are motivated to set up and schedule small, repeatable steps that move you towards your goal. By repeatedly achieving success in these daily practices, you will be motivated by your small achievements to continue with them.
What Stands in the Way of Achieving Your Goals
When a certain goal or target is not reached or being accomplished many people blame it on bad luck. Others blame themselves for setting goals that are too ambitious.
Now, there’s the rub. When you start to think that your goals are too ambitious or too huge for you to achieve then you will very likely become disheartened and reduce your momentum in obtaining them.
On the other hand, do you really think that the goals you set are too ambitious? Or is it just because you are not able to (or didn’t think to) divide the goals into smaller chunks and make each of these smaller chunks very doable and achievable on a daily basis?
According to Harvard Researcher Teresa Amabile, it is our small, daily progress that serves as the most powerful motivator at work. This means that if we want to be motivated on a daily basis then we have to see to it that our goals are achievable day by day. Also, for these sub-goals to be achievable they may have to be divided into even smaller chunks.
Huge tasks can seem overwhelming, but if we can check one to-do list item after another we feel fulfilled, and this supercharges our motivation by creating a positive reinforcement feedback loop.
Why Setting Smaller and Easier Goals Keeps You Motivated
Experiencing success, no matter how small it can be, brings about a very positive feeling in a person. Why is this so? This is because experiencing success triggers the release of dopamine in the brain which is a hormone responsible for bringing about feelings of pleasure in an individual.
Neuroscientists link dopamine to motivation and learning. When an individual feels the pleasurable effects of dopamine they will have an urge to once again repeat the act that triggers feeling of pleasure. Experts refer to this process as “self-directed learning”.
As you learn that you are capable of achieving one goal after another, you are more likely to repeat that process in order to feel that “dopamine effect” all over again. This is why setting easier and achievable short-term goals is much more effective in helping a person achieve the bigger, long-term goals they seek.
The beauty of this method is that by fulfilling the smaller tasks, motivation to start and continue with the larger ones happen much more automatically, with less needed reliance on willpower and drive, as these occur then at a subconscious level.
Easy Goals Require Easy Adjustments
Another reason why people fail to achieve their goals is their fear of leaving their comfort zone. In fact, all of us are like that – afraid to leave our comfort zones. This is a natural part of our make-up, as it was fear that kept our ancestors safe from predators. Today, however, this unconscious fear holds us back from so many successes we could achieve.
As a result, some people jump onto the bandwagon of “I will, someday”. Unfortunately, days, weeks and months pass by and you are still living in your comfort zone while those stepping stones that could lead you to success in life remain downtrodden. This is when setting easy and small goals will prove to be very effective.
By setting easy goals, you only have to make minor adjustments to your current state, which also mean that you won’t have to totally leave your comfort zone. This helps quiet the inner demons which are tied to our fear of failure.
With easier and smaller goals you are moving beyond your comfort zone in a controlled manner. As you achieve your smaller goals you will gain insight into the greater goals that you are trying to achieve.
Reward Yourself if You Achieve a Small Goal
Staying motivated is easier if there is a reward for the effort expended, whether that effort was physical, mental or emotional.
Depending on the goal or task, the effort may not have been in doing something, but in NOT doing something.
Often the most difficult tasks we set ourselves relate to withholding ourselves from undertaking negative behavior, or that which is not in our long-term good. This can relate to intake of food, alcohol or drugs, or may even apply to unnecessary spending.
All of these things can be very habitual and give immediate but very short-term pleasure. Unfortunately, the pay-back in terms of health and finance management can be very negative and painful.
Everybody performs better if they are given a reward. Our reward-seeking mechanisms are a result of both nature and nurture. It’s built into our DNA, and further ingrained into us as children.
Therefore, it makes perfect sense to leverage this by rewarding yourself when you attain goals, finish tasks or achieve milestones. Rewards reinforce the positive behavior that helped you achieve your goals. Take the time to consider and choose rewards appropriate to your goals and your values.
For example, if your goals relate to food intake, choose non-food rewards. If it relates to substance or alcohol intake, going on a bender as a reward for abstinence is not going to help in the short or long term.
Make sure you choose healthy, positive rewards! Here are a few suggestions.
Relax and Read
Reading a book can inspire and motivate you to achieve even more. It also provides you with great lessons in life and can allow you to benefit from the failures and successes of others without having to experience them yourself. There are only a fixed number of hours in a day.
By spending a few hours reading you are obtaining the condensed wisdom of thousands of hours, days or years that you can leverage for your own benefit and advancement. In this way your reward becomes the next phase of your success.
This is the type of leverage that is behind the success of most great people, who openly admit their success is a result of standing on the shoulders of those who came before them.
Many successful people never let a week pass by without being able to read a book or two. Bill Gates for example says he reads one book each week. The very successful Elon Musk was once asked how he was able to build rockets. He simply answered “I read books”.
In other words, when you allow yourself from time to time to “indulge” in a good book you are not just rewarding yourself for a job well done. You are also adding more value to your own skill set because of the lessons learned from each book you’ve read.
A Movie Night
Do you like watching movies at the theatre, but your time has been taken up with achieving your goal? If so, reward yourself with a night of movies. Depending on the genre, what has been said about books can also apply here. That doesn’t mean restricting viewing to dry and dusty documentaries. Many fictional movies mirror life and can vividly project an inspirational theme than can positively charge the emotions.
Buy Something Special
You have to be ‘consciously aware’ of what you are buying here and not just buy the first thing that comes along. You have to be cautious when rewarding yourself with retail therapy. Make sure you set a price limit with your reward so it fits in with your budget and does not add to your financial burdens.
Reserve an expensive reward for a super goal! Studies have proven that the greatest joys are in the anticipation rather than the obtaining of a reward, the pleasure of which can be very short-lived.
Learning the benefits and joys of delayed gratification can massively assist your mindset when it comes to achieving your goals and desires.
For now, be content with buying something you use daily so you can see your reward and be reminded of your accomplishments. You don’t have to go out to treat yourself. There are plenty of ways you can right in your own home.
If you feel you can’t trust yourself shopping, you can always stay home and reward yourself with a soothing bubble bath, surrounded by candles and even ask your partner if you deserve a beautiful massage from them for achieving your goal!