Self Improvement Thursday: 10 things you should know about achieving your goals

achieving your goals tips


This is a two part post: Today we'll look at the first five tips.  Next week it's tips six to ten!

While researching today's post it occurred to me that we often talk about setting goals when we really should be talking about achieving goals, or even finding the motivation to achieve our goals.  Most of us have little trouble setting goals.  We make all kinds of grand plans for the things that we're going to do at work or at home, in relation to our health and well being or other facets of life.  It's following through and making things happen when it gets tricky.

So here are five things you should know about goals that might help you move from thinking to achieving.

  1. Goals are just pictures of where you want to be (psychologists call these internal representations of desired states).  By filling in the details of these pictures with a bit of thought you can make the goal more desirable and you're totally more motivated to achieve it. What are you doing in your picture? Where are you? Who are you with? What's happening around you?  How do you feel when you achieve your goal? Think it through and write it down. 
  2. I talked a little while ago about distal goals (long term) and proximal goals (the steps or mini goals in between). You can read about that here.  When you achieve those proximal goals (the baby steps to get where you're going) your brain receives little dopamine hits (that's the happy hormone) and when you're feeling good you tend to do more of what makes you feel that way.  Notice the little happy hits and run with them. Do more.
  3. Keep track of context. Sometimes we need little goal reminders to resist slipping back into old habits.  An easy way to do this is to use the 'if...then...' rule. For example, 'if' I find myself switching the TV on when I know there's work that I should be doing, 'then' I will make a cup of tea (or some other ritual or treat) and sit down to do 20 minutes work. 
  4. The 20 minute rule.  Try this.  Whenever you know there's something you should be doing (work, tidying, exercise) but you really don't feel like it, tell yourself that you only have to do it for 20 minutes and then you're allowed to do something else.  Often the hardest part is starting and once you've started you find that you can quite easily keep going.  If you feel that you have to immerse yourself in three hours of a task, it feels too hard.  By allowing yourself the chance to opt out after 20 minutes it's that bit easier to get started.  And if you do opt out after 20 minutes? Well you've got 20 minutes' worth done! 
  5. Sharing is caring. Tell other people what you're planning to achieve.  By putting your goals out there into the world you increase your accountability and you're more likely to stick with it.

Next week I'll talk about how SMART goals are dumb, doing things differently and the importance of patience, but I think there's enough to get cracking with today.