Photo by Tomoyoshi
Have you set a goal (like a business plan or a weight loss regimen) in a burst of energy and excitement, only to find after a few weeks the excitement fades? Your progress slows, then stops, and you regress to where you started? Unfortunately, for many of us, this has become a habit. Regardless if the goal involves diet, exercise, money, education, relationships, business, or career, the pattern is the same, a peak of euphoria, optimism, and creativity, followed by a trough of fatigue, boredom, and loss of interest.
Quitting is a habit. The habit is reinforced by your emotional state which is always experiencing peaks and valleys. The good news is, habits can be changed with persistence and effort.
I’ve gathered 21 tips (from mentors, books, and blogs) that will help you stay motivated to achieve your long term goals:
21 Ways to Stay Motivated
1. Be prepared for setbacks – When you start something new, it’s fun, exciting, and it’s impossible to see that your enthusiasm will soon fade. But for most of us, it will fade. Prepare yourself mentally. Make the most of your “Enthusiasm Honeymoon.” If you plan ahead, and expect a letdown, you’ll be better prepared to persist when it happens.
2. Don’t do all the “fun stuff” first – When your enthusiasm is high (at the beginning), remember to leave some of the fun stuff for when you aren’t so enthusiastic. For example, If you like to create but you struggle with organization and planning, don’t jump directly into creation without taking the time to organize a plan, You’ll lose momentum later when the need for planning becomes apparent. Do the difficult things first when your enthusiasm is high.
3. Break it down – If you set big goals, they can feel overwhelming. I find it easier to break down big goals into smaller goals that you can achieve much quicker. Let’s say you set a goal to make 10K per month. You need to break it down into smaller steps. What actions do you need to take to achieve a higher income? Write those steps down and create a detailed plan.
4. Reward Yourself – When you work toward a long-term goal, it is difficult to see the benefits years down the road. Some of my goals took 5-10 years to achieve, so to maintain progress, it is important to reward yourself along the way. Give yourself a reward for your continuous effort toward your goal, not just for successful results, but for simply making an honest effort.
5. Keep your goals simple (at first) – You may have trouble staying motivated because quitting has become a habit. To break that habit you need to take baby steps at first. Failing at a large overwhelming goal will only deepen your bad habits. Start by setting a simple achievable goal. If you’ve set a goal to run 2 miles every day and failed. Try lowering the bar a little until you build up strength and persistence. Instead, try running 1 mile, 2 days a week. Find what works for you and build from there.
6. If You Still Struggle With Reaching Goals, Set Mini Goals at First – It’s important to create the habit of persistence. Success breeds success. Setting little mini goals are a great way to reprogram your subconscious mind. It worked when I quit smoking. When I swore off cigarettes for the rest of my life, I failed, more than 10 times! When I succeeded, I set a mini goal of driving to work without having a cigarette. Then I set a goal to make it until lunch without a cigarette. Then the afternoon. Then the evening. Mini goals, along with the nicotine patch helped me quit smoking 10 years ago.
7. State Your Goal Publicly – State your goals to friends and family or publish them on your blog. You don’t want to fail publicly. No one does. Your subconscious ego will push you toward success to protect itself from public embarrassment. This isn’t a good choice for all people, but for most people stating your goal publicly, will dramatically increase your odds of success.
8. Measure Your Results – Measuring your results will keep you pushing for improvement. Without metrics you don’t know where you stand. Without measurements, you are more likely to lose focus and interest.
9. Share Your Results Publicly – Making a public proclamation of your goals, your efforts, and your results creates social pressure to perform. Who wants to tell the world that they’ve set goals and made no progress? You will make progress because you need something to report.
10. Make it Enjoyable – A surefire way to fail is to make working on goals drudgery. It has to be fun or you’re likely to quit. One way to do this is to make your progress a game. Find a partner to join you in your quest.
11. Pick only one major goal – When you set multiple major goals, you are less likely to achieve any of them. Let say you’re 50 lbs over weight, you smoke, you drink too much, you want to make more money, and get in better shape. Do not try to conquer all these problems at once. You’ll fail. If you have multiple major items you’d like to change in your life, write them down, prioritize them, and knock them off one at a time.
12. When Down, Use Your Imagination – As you work toward your goal you will experience emotional dips. There will be times when you want to quit. There will be times when you feel like you’ve hit a plateau and progress has stopped. This is when you need to find a quiet spot, close your eyes, and visualize your ideal outcome. Imagine life when you reach your goal. Imagine in as much detail as you can. Imagine how you will feel. Imagine how it will look. Imagine your impact on other people. Do it to remind yourself why you’re working so hard. The stronger the images you can etch into your mind, the quicker you will restore your motivation.
13. Journal – Write a journal documenting your efforts. Write on your good days and your bad days. Write about your successes and your failures. Document how you feel. Make special note of recurring patterns. When you lose motivation, go back and read about a day when your motivation was strong. If you’re in a dip, read about a time in the past when you overcame a dip.
14. Read About Others Who Have Achieved Similar Goals – This cannot be stressed enough. If you want to lose weight and get in shape there are people who have done it before you. LISTEN TO THEM! They have a formula for success. The same is true about money. LISTEN TO THE PEOPLE WHO KNOW! There is millions (maybe billions) of dollars worth of free information on the internet. Use it. Don’t go it alone. Follow and improvise on those who have come before you. You don’t need to figure it out yourself. Cheat.
15. Get Help From Like-Minded Friends – If you’re trying to make more money, don’t hang out with whiners. If you want to quit smoking, don’t hang out with smokers. Your odds of staying motivated increase 100x when you associate with people who share similar goals.
16. Commit To Working On Your Goal Every Day – Have one major goal. Every day, review what actions you have taken to achieve that goal. Make it habit by forcing yourself to review your progress every day for 21 days in a row.
17. Accept Your Negative Feelings as Natural – Fear, anger, sadness, and even depression are felt universally. Don’t believe for second that people who achieve their goals don’t have these feelings. They do. It’s natural to get down. Deal with it and push forward.
18. Act in Spite of Your Negative Feelings – If you start to get angry or depressed, quitting won’t relieve these feelings, it will intensify them. The only surefire way to relive these feelings is to act in spite of them. Don’t repress them. Feel them fully and move on.
19. Celebrate Successes – Focus on the little successes along the way. When you work on projects, always set milestones, and celebrate reaching each one. It gives you a sense accomplishment along the way.
20. Take Breaks – If you are getting frustrated working on something, stop and do something else for a while. Frustration can spiral out of control and kill motivation. Don’t stop for long, just long enough for your frustration to subside. Then get back at it with a clearer mind. You might be thinking, this is contrary to #18, it isn’t, taking a break is not quitting. Act again soon; just take a short break to cool off.
21. Fight Procrastination By Taking Immediate Action – Right now I’m sitting at my son’s Jiu-Jitsu class and it’s about to end, and as I was about to write this, I thought, I’ll write it later, after class ends. Then I thought, NO, take action now. Do it. If you have time, do not wait, do not hesitate. You will find that forced action in the face of procrastination will build motivation.