Can you change your life in an instant? You watch an inspirational movie, read the best self-help book, come across a quote that reaches you deeply. Can these moments lead to lasting change? They lead to intense inspiration and motivation. However, the burst of inspiration is fleeting and the moment slips away.
You imagined shedding your old ways and lifting off into a new stratosphere of success while you were in the cloud of inspiration. You saw your best self emerge. The gravity from the beliefs, patterns of thought, and habits you built over years pulls you back to your base state. According to a University of Scranton study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, only 8% of New Year’s resolutions are successful. You didn’t need a research study to arrive at that conclusion.
You’ve experienced it with your own resolutions to make drastic changes. You realized it when your friend’s resolution to work out every day lasted 2 weeks. The jury is in: enduring change doesn’t happen overnight. The movie montage of the protagonist flipping tires and running sprints in an abandoned warehouse after experiencing a life-changing epiphany isn’t realistic.
While motivation doesn’t persist, you can commit to change your life in an instant. You tell yourself you’re sick of your old ways; it’s time to take action. If you embrace the moment and commit to change, the spark from that decision produces lasting change. You can use the moment to build momentum and commit to consistent, determined action until you arrive at your dream destination. Use the fuel from motivation to propel you to develop systems that facilitate the daily work that leads to your goal.
You can ride the wave of inspiration by creating the habits, plans, and systems necessary for success. You can’t ride the wave all the way to your end goal though. As your motivation dips, your inner critic begins a continuous stream of limiting thoughts. Your inner voice says you’re not good enough. Your plan will never work. You should give up on your dreams.
On top of the inner critic getting louder, you make mistakes, stumble, and fail because you’re learning a new skill or process. You don’t know the next step to take to overcome the latest setback. This seems like an ideal time to shove the dream back in the closet and quit. That’s what most people do. They turn to the safe path they’re familiar with when the going gets tough. The path that everyone else takes. There is a way to navigate around these setbacks that cause most people to quit.
The road map guides you past the roadblocks towards your dream. The road map breaks down the larger goal into smaller mini-goals. Achieving mini-goals each week provides small wins that create momentum towards the larger goal.
In The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, Charles Duhigg writes that “Small wins fuel transformative changes by leveraging tiny advantages into patterns that convince people that bigger achievements are within reach.” You can develop your plan in a way that tilts the odds in your favor. Breaking down the goal into small pieces allows you to focus on the next step rather than being overwhelmed by the mountain ahead.
You’re in control of the road map. You can sequence your mini-goals so that each challenge is an appropriate level of difficulty. When you play a video game, level 1 is easy. It builds confidence and skills that will be needed in tougher levels. You don’t start the video game in level 7. If you did, you would lose 3 times in the first minute and turn the game off. Start your goals in level 1 to accumulate small wins.
Commit to Your Dream
It’s hard to change routines and behaviors. Trying to do too much at the beginning is the quickest route to giving up. Being overly ambitious early in the process results in frequent failures that lead to feelings of inadequacy. These feelings drive you to conclude that you’re not good enough to reach the goal. You head in a different direction towards a new goal.
Repeating this process over and over in your life creates limiting beliefs and massive friction towards taking action. Why set new goals if you’re just going to fail after a few weeks? Play the long game instead with your goals. When you’re committed to a goal, failures in the journey turn into opportunities to learn and improve. Instead of quitting, you ask what can I learn from this failure? What will I do differently next time?
Commit to your dream regardless of the amount of time it takes to achieve it or the obstacles that arise along the way. If your commitment level is low, you’ll be pushed around by circumstances. On the other hand, if you MUST realize your dreams, you’ll find a way past the obstacles.
“Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.” – Napoleon Hill
Habits for Success
Once you determine the course of action, block out specific time on your calendar to do the work. It’s ideal for the blocks of time to be the same each week. Working on the goal at the same time each day helps you stick with the habit for the long run. Consider working on life-changing goals first thing in the morning. In Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength, Baumeister and Tierney write that “You have a finite amount of willpower that becomes depleted as you use it.”
You have a full tank of willpower in the morning. The world hasn’t kicked into high gear yet with e-mails, phone calls, and texts screaming for your attention. Creating a winnable plan and setting aside time to do the daily work paves the way towards success. To strengthen your game plan, build in weekly monitoring to assess your progress and identify your biggest pain points. From there, you can strategically make adjustments for the next week.
If you miss the mark on the min-goal of the week, you can scale back the actions for the next week. Adding accountability provides another layer of protection to your game plan. Asking a friend to check in with you once a week provides more motivation to follow-through on your action steps. The last step in the plan is a large dose of perseverance.
When you don’t feel like working on your goal, work on it. When fear, insecurity, and uncertainty strike, work on it. When you’re exhausted and overwhelmed, work on it. No matter how you feel, work on the plan. Trust the process. Methodically overcome each obstacle that arises. Execute the plan. Take the next step. The process leads to massive gains. It’s that simple. It’s also that hard. It’s difficult to ignore external expectations and distractions. At any moment, you could do a thousand other things than what you need to do.
When we look at successful people, we see the rewards they reap in public. We see the spoils from their years of hard word. We don’t see the thousands of hours of work that they logged in private. We don’t see that they worked towards their uncertain dreams every day, no matter how they felt. Putting your head down and executing the plan you laid out is hard. However, it leads to disproportionate results and success over time.
“The will to persevere is often the difference between failure and success.” – David Sarnoff
Success isn’t a nebulous or mystical process. There’s a formula for success. It’s a repeatable process.
Develop a road map, implement habits that support your goal, conduct weekly check-ins to monitor your progress, and add accountability. Then, adjust, learn, and persist until you arrive at your destination.
What habits or strategies do you implement to take consistent action on your dreams? What’s the biggest challenge you face in pursuing your dreams? Share your experience in the comments below!
How to Stay Motivated to Achieve Your Goals
Time is the raw material of our lives. How we choose to spend it, shapes our life accordingly. So having the motivation to spend it on achieving goals is crucial to creating a life we want.
What is Motivation?
The Oxford dictionary defines motivation as the desire or willingness to do something – our drive to take action.
Scientifically, motivation has its roots in the dopamine pathways of our brains. When we do something that feels good, that’s dopamine kicking in. Our actions are driven by the desire for that reward (the good feeling).
Author Steven Pressfield describes motivation more practically. He says we hit a point where the pain of not doing something becomes greater than the pain of doing it. He sees motivation as crossing the threshold where it’s easier to take action than it is to be idle. Like choosing to feel awkward while making sales calls over feeling disappointed about a diminishing bank account.
However you choose to think about it, we all want to harness motivation to achieve our goals.
How to Get Motivated
James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, says that most people misunderstand motivation. They think that motivation is what gets us to take action. In reality, motivation is often the result of action, not the cause of it. Once we start a task, it’s easier to continue making progress. Like Isaac Newton’s first law: objects in motion stay in motion.
This means most of the resistance when working on your goals comes right before we start. Since motivation naturally occurs after we start, we need to focus on making starting easier.
4 Ways to Make Starting Easier
1. Schedule it
One reason people can’t get started on things is that they haven’t planned when to do it.
When things aren’t scheduled it’s easier for them to fall by the wayside. You’ll end up hoping motivation falls in your lap or hoping that you’ll muster enough willpower to get it done.
An article in the Guardian said, “If you waste resources trying to decide when or where to work, you’ll impede your capacity to do the work.”
2. Measure something
It’s easy to feel uninspired when you don’t know if you’re making progress or what you’re even working towards. That’s why you need to make your success measurable in some way. Starting is easy when you know exactly how much closer your current actions will bring you to achieving your goal.
3. Extrinsic motivation
This type of motivation is from external factors. It can be either positive or negative. Positive motivation consists of incentives like money, prizes, and grades. Negative motivation consists of deterrents like being fired, having a fight, or being fined. Extrinsic motivation doesn’t work effectively long-term, but it can work well in the short term to get you started on something.
4. Make it public
Keep yourself accountable by telling friends and family your goals, or even sharing them on social media. This makes it easier to start something because you’re pressured to not let others down.
How to Stay Motivated Long Term
When we say we want to feel motivated to do something, we don’t want to be pushed or guilted into doing a task. We want to be so attracted and drawn to the idea that we can’t resist not taking action. That’s why it’s important to build a foundation that will set you up for consistency.
These are 5 techniques that will help you do just that:
1. Stay in your goldilocks zone
The goldilocks zone is when a task is the perfect level of difficulty—not too hard and not too easy. In this zone, we reach peak motivation and focus.
For example, let’s say you’re playing a serious tennis match against a 4-year-old. On this level of difficulty, you’ll quickly become bored and not want to play. Now let’s say you’re playing a serious tennis match against Serena Williams. On this level of difficulty, you’ll quickly become demotivated because the match is too challenging.
The Goldilocks zone is in the middle of that spectrum. You want to face someone with equal skill as you. That way you have a chance to win, but you have to focus and try for it. Adjusting your workload and goals over time to stay within your Goldilocks zone keeps you engaged and motivated long-term.
2. Pursue intrinsically motivated goals
Being intrinsically motivated to achieve a goal is when you want to achieve it for what it is. There are no external factors like a reward or the risk of being fired. The drive behind your actions is coming from within.
For most intrinsic goals we pursue them because they will enrich our lives or bring us closer to fulfillment. That makes these goals extremely sustainable long-term because they directly affect our quality of life and the things we care about.
3. Use “chunking”
Chunking is the technique of breaking down a goal into smaller short-term targets. By doing this you achieve multiple successes in your pursuit of the main goal. This triggers the brain’s reward system and drives you to keep going.
Traditionally, you may set a goal that you expect to achieve in one year. That’s a long time to commit without seeing any results along the way. By chunking your goals into monthly or quarterly targets, you get the consistent positive reinforcement you need to stay motivated long-term.
For example, instead of trying to lose 50 pounds in one year, try to lose 4 pounds every month for 12 months.
4. Be flexible
We’re all victims of circumstance. Things happen along our journey that we can either adjust to or quit because of. That’s why it’s important to have leeway and flexibility when you’re pursuing a goal. If you expect everything to go perfectly, the inevitable failure can make you disengaged and desireless. When you plan for things to go wrong, you make sure you can keep up for the long haul.
5. Pursue your goals in a sustainable fashion
Don’t lose hope when you’re not an overnight success. Overnight successes are the 1%—for the most part, they don’t exist. What we see as an “overnight success” is actually countless hours of work behind the scenes finally hitting a tipping point. Pursuing goals is a story of patience, persistence, and unseen effort.
Don’t compare yourself to others. Comparison is a recipe for a drop in self-confidence and satisfaction. It also cultivates a mindset where you think you haven’t done enough. As a result, you may raise your expectations and put more pressure on yourself.
This is pointless because things worth achieving take time. So we obviously won’t compare to the things around us when starting.
Mastering motivation is a superpower. With that ability at your fingertips, you can accomplish your goals and shape a life you want to live in.
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