How are those big new plans you’ve decided for yourself working out for you so far? Still on the right path? Great. Losing some motivation? Oh no. Already quit? That’s not good.
Getting started is the easy part. We’ve started so many times to achieve goals or form a new habit. The hardest part is finishing what we’ve started. At the end of the year, are you going to be better off than you are now or getting ready to make the same New Year’s resolutions?
Here are ten ways to make sure you stick to your big goals for the year.
1. Don’t call them resolutions
A friend of mine posted on her Facebook that she has been doing really bad with her New Year’s resolution of cursing. In fact, she felt like she was cursing more than normal. I replied that she should have made a resolution to curse more, then she wouldn’t be cursing at all.
That’s how resolutions usually turn out. Whatever we set out to do, the opposite will happen, which is not the result we’re aiming for.
I stopped making resolutions a long time ago. Before I would make them and quit after a month like the 99%. I’m not a fan of the word anymore cause of how we treat resolutions. We treat them like crap. When I now hear people making resolutions, I view it as a feeble attempt making a change in their life.
A resolution is a decision to do something. That’s it. It’s just an idea in your mind to want to make a change. It sounds so weak. I wish we could all just decide to do something, and we’d do it forever. It doesn’t work that way though. We face challenges. We lose motivation. We give up.
So instead of calling them resolutions, call them goals and treat them as more than just a decision. There needs to be a plan of action and a way to ensure you don’t give up after the first month.
One ways to stick with your goals is to make them public. When you tell others about what you intend to do, it puts pressure on you to keep working at it.
You could also find an accountability partner to check up on your progress once a week or bi-weekly. Do it over coffee, over Skype, the phone, or email. You could be each other’s accountability partner, which would be even better. Just go over what went well that week and what didn’t. Then state what you will achieve for that next week.
What’s the punishment for not doing it? You both could come up with a punishment or just knowing that you didn’t accomplish what you said you could can be punishment enough.
3. Put your money where your mouth is
Aren’t the two biggest motivating factors in life money and sex? I could be wrong, but both definitely make people do crazy things.
One way to make sure you follow through with your goals is to put some money on the line.
There are a couple ways you could do it.
Let’s say you have a goal of running four days a week for a minimum of thirty minutes each time. Set aside an amount of money that if you lost it, it wouldn’t be cool. Everyone has a different amount. Someone might not care about losing $50 bucks, while others will hate it.
Give someone you can trust (important) your money. Let’s say you give them $300. Set a time frame. Maybe you want to run for twelve weeks. So every week that you complete your goal, that trusted person will give you $25 back ($300/12 weeks = $25 each week). If you run less than four times (no excuses allowed) that person keeps $25. Then the next week you start over and it’ll end with you getting $25 or your friend keeping $25.
Most likely you’re going to have to be accountable to yourself. If you missed a day, sure you can lie and say you did it, but what’s the point in that? The whole point of putting money where your mouth is to get you to take action.
You can do this for anything goal or habit. Set a time frame, guidelines, and an amount of money.
Do it with a friend you trust! This is so important. If you don’t, your friend is going to spend the money you gave them and say they’ll pay you back as soon as they can, which means kiss it goodbye.
Also make sure you do it with a friend who’s going to support you and not try and try to sabotage your progress just so he/she can collect money. If all your friends are like that, then you need to find new friends.
Another way to do it is to give your friend a lump sum of money if you don’t do what you say you will do by a certain date. For example, if you don’t finish the first outline of your book by June 1st, you’ll give your friend $300. Be accountable for it by letting others know the plan.
4. Track your actions
There’s one way to do this and is sometimes called the “Don’t break the chain method” made popular by comedian Jerry Seinfeld.
This system was described in a Lifehacker post. Here is an excerpt from it.
He said the way to be a better comic was to create better jokes and the way to create better jokes was to write every day. But his advice was better than that. He had a gem of a leverage technique he used on himself and you can use it to motivate yourself—even when you don’t feel like it.
He revealed a unique calendar system he uses to pressure himself to write. Here’s how it works.
He told me to get a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall. The next step was to get a big red magic marker.
He said for each day that I do my task of writing, I get to put a big red X over that day. “After a few days you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain.”
“Don’t break the chain,” he said again for emphasis.
In a follow up post five years later, a Lifehacker writer said Seinfeld’s productivity secret helped him beat procrastination. He set some guidelines he had to do to get an X, which you can read more about here.
I’ve done a modified version of this method. Instead of not trying to break the chain and marking an X every day, I’ll mark an X when I took action that day towards a goal.
After a week I can see how many X’s I had. If it’s not as many as I want, then I know the following week I need to step it up.
It becomes real clear is when I look after a whole month. If I have more blank boxes then X’s then I’m slacking. I just want to make sure the X’s are in the majority.
Make sure you put the calendar in a place you’ll see it every day. Under a pile of magazines is not a good place.
Another benefit of tracking is to see results because you’ll unlikely see any from your actions in the short term. You won’t feel any different and no one will notice. That is frustrating. That can make you want to quit.
However when you see those red X’s on your calendar, you can see how much progress you’re making. You know you’re doing a good job of taking action and being consistent. It’ll motivate you to keep going. The results will eventually come.
5. Be reasonable about your goals
Sometimes goal achieving is a failure because you’ve put unrealistic expectations on yourself. If your goal is to lose 50 pounds in a month that’s unrealistic.
If you want to start a blog and want 10,000 subscribers in a year, then that’s stretching it a bit too far.
I’m sure you’ve seen the infomercials of home workout programs like Insanity and P90X. You see the transformations from fat to fit in just 90 days. While it is possible to get six pack abs in that time frame, that’s just a very tiny percentage of all people who follow the program. Many different factors will determine your results.
So yes go for six pack abs in 90 days, but don’t get frustrated if you only have three pack abs when you started with just one pack.
Try setting SMART goals, which stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-sensitive.
6. Why do you want do it?
If you can’t answer this question, then you’re going to fail. If your answer is vague, you’re going to fail.
A goal of mine, as it has been for the last 10+ years is to stop biting my fingernails. Just tonight I decided I want to stop biting my fingernails. I’ve tried different ways before and all have failed.
However the chances that I fail again for the 12442 time is very high. Why? Well it’s because I don’t have a strong enough reason why I want to quit.
I just want to stop biting them cause I know it looks bad and it’s not sanitary. That’s such a weak reason.
Now if someone would give me a $10,000 if I don’t bite my nails for a whole year, I’m definitely not biting them. I’ll have notes everywhere to remind me. I’ll have my wife remind me. I’ll tell you to remind me. My reasons why is really strong.
That’s why the ones who have a strong reason why they want to lose weight will and those who make a New Year’s Resolution to get into shape won’t.
I had a friend who just got married in December. His goal leading up to the wedding was to lose 50 pounds. I forgot when he started, but at least six months ahead of time. He had a huge reason why he wanted to lose weight and he actually lost more than 50 pounds.
Before that he just was getting heavier and heavier ever since graduating college. Sure he wanted to lose weight and he tried, but he never did. He no strong reason why.
Think about your reason why you want to achieve your goals. It can’t just be about money either. Money is important, but I needs to be more than that. It really needs to come from deep within you.
7. Make sure you’re doing it for yourself
If you have a goal for the wrong reasons, you’re not going to be motivated to achieve it. If you do actually achieve it, you’re probably going to hate it over time cause it’s not your goal.
Then you’ve wasted all that time and energy going after a goal that isn’t what you wanted in the first place.
When your goal comes from you, you’re going to be more likely to follow through with it. It has to be for reasons YOU want. Don’t do it just because some wants you to.
8. Visualize what you want
Visualization simply makes the brain achieve more. Sports psychologists and peak performance experts have been popularizing the power of visualization. Almost all Olympians and professional athletes now use the power of visualization.
When you visualize your goals as already complete each day and every day, it creates a conflict in your mind between what you are visualizing and what you currently have. Your subconscious mind tries to resolve that conflict by turning your current reality into the new, more exciting vision.
This tension you’ve created, when intensified over time through constant visualization actually causes three things to happen:
1. It programs your brain to start making you more aware of anything that will help you achieve your goals. You mind can only focus on so many things at a time so it has to be selective.
Recently I went shopping for AA batteries. While walking through the store I noticed them at the end of almost every other aisle! They were everywhere! They’ve always been there, but I never noticed them before because my mind wasn’t focused on looking for them.
It’s why visualization is like a radar looking for anything to help you.
2. It activates your subconscious mind to create solutions for getting the goals you want. You’ll start waking up in the morning with new ideas. You’ll find yourself having ideas in the shower, while exercising, and while you are driving.
3. It creates new levels of motivation. You’ll start to notice you are surprisingly doing things that take you to your goal. All of a sudden you are being more proactive and taking more risks in your personal life.
A quick way to get started with visualization is to write down a list of what you want to achieve. Don’t come up with too many. Five to ten is good. Close your eyes and visualize your goal as if you have already achieved it. Don’t imagine you looking at yourself. You want to be in your own shoes looking out at your surroundings. Feel what it feels like to achieve your goal. What sounds would you hear? What would your day look like? Imagine people congratulating you. You want to make that experience feel as real as possible.
Continue to do it at least once a day and your subconscious mind is gonna help you make it a reality.
Another benefit of visualizations is so you’ll always remind yourself of what it is you want to achieve.
9. Don’t try and be perfect
One problem people have when trying to stick to their new goals is that they want to be perfect. Who is perfect? Nobody is perfect so why do you need to be perfect?
For example, someone wants to start eating healthier by juicing every day (fruits and vegetables and not steroids), eating smaller portions, and cutting out any refined sugar. They do good for one week, but then one day the second week they ate a whole pint of ice cream. They get upset at themselves the next day. Instead of getting back on track, they quit because they’ve already failed. Really? It was just one day and there are 365 days in a year last time I checked. One day of screwing up isn’t going to hurt you.
That’s why I don’t go for consecutive X’s like the Jerry Seinfeld method of productivity. I know myself and I’m not likely to do something I need to be doing every single day. I’m going to miss a day or two. That’s okay. I don’t aim for perfection because if I did, I’m only setting myself up to fail.
If you mess up, then use that as a wake up call and immediately get back on track.
10. Narrow down your goals
Sometimes we get too excited about change and want to do so many things at one time. We believe we can handle it. Instead what happens is we spread yourself too thin. You’ll feel too busy, neglect some and eventually all of them.
Choose to focus on one goal that will either have the greatest impact on your life. One that you want to have achieved by this time next year. Make that your #1 priority over all your other goals.
11. Write it down
Have you written down your goals anywhere or are they floating around in your brain along with a billion other thoughts?
A goal in your mind is just a wish or resolution. If you write it down, then it becomes a declaration.
Write it down and put them somewhere you can see them every day like right above your computer screen, bathroom mirror, fridge or all three places. Let that list be a reminder every single day of what you want to achieve.
12. Believe it can be done
Like I said earlier, resolutions are set up to fail so we don’t really believe we can stick with it. Call them goals and believe you can do it. You must start off with a belief that what you want to achieve is possible. If not, then you’ll begin with failure as a belief and you won’t try that hard.
13. Reward yourself
Rewards are a great motivator, but it’s often neglected when achieving your goals. You should find ways to reward yourself at different milestones. Your goals should be broken down into smaller more manageable goals. When you reach a milestone, give yourself a reward.
In the 4 Hour Body, Tim Ferris talks about a cheat day. After six day of following the slow carb diet, you get one free day. He talks about the biological benefits of it, but also it’s a great reward! It gets you keeps you focused for those six days cause at the end is food heaven.
You get to have Oreo cookies for breakfast if you want or a whole pizza for lunch. That’s a great reward. You get it all out of your system so you are ready for the next six days of the slow carb diet.
You determine the reward you’ll get if you achieve your goals. If you get to 15% body fat, you’ll book that trip to Hawaii. If you sell $1000 of your ebook, you’ll buy yourself an iPad Mini. Choose something that’ll have meaning to you.
However you have tried to stick to your goals in the past haven’t been working if you’ve failed most of the time. It’s time to take a new approach. Choose one or more of the strategies above.
To achieve goals you’ve set for yourself you need to be continually conscious of the choices you’re making every minute of every day. You need to always be thinking, “Will this action take me closer or further away from my goal?”
Do you have an specific strategies to add that can help others? Please share!
Photo by Eric Constantineau