This is the third chapter of nine included in my free, full version program, Goals! An Interactive Guide. The other chapters will be added in blog entries for future use.
Goals! An Interactive Guide Chapters:
Chapter One: Why Set Goals?
Chapter Two: Decide Exactly What You Want
Chapter Three: Create an Unstoppable Drive
Chapter Four: Get Organized
Chapter Five: Stay Flexible
Chapter Six: Overcoming Obstacles
Chapter Seven: Review Your Progress
Chapter Eight: Velocity-Based Goal Setting
Chapter Nine: Operate From the Highest Level
Drive is a trait common to virtually any successful person in a field. Motivation plays an incredibly important role in achieving any desire. Motivation will make cause you to want to jump out of bed each morning and it will keep you thinking about your goals until you go to bed. This drive and enthusiasm is not limited to those who are naturally ambitious, anyone can develop a burning passion and drive for their goals that excites the mind and makes us feel like we are truly living.
Motivation is ultimately about the strength of our associations between reward and punishment. If I hold a gun to your head and tell you to stop procrastinating, do you think you’ll start taking action? Similarly, if I offer you a million dollars if you can stick to your diet for another day, I’d predict you could accomplish that as well. By taking control of these associations and continuously reinforcing them, we can strengthen our motivation and drive.
Have you ever tried to not answer a ringing telephone in a quiet room? A ringing telephone practically demands to be answered and it expects it to be answered immediately. You can’t tell the telephone to wait until you get out of the shower and you can’t delay it until the commercials come on. Either you answer the telephone now or hope that the person calls back later. Your goals should create the kind of urgency that a ringing telephone creates. Making our goals feel like something that needs to be acted on this very instant is critical to our motivation.
Unfortunately, most people treat their goals like they treat a telephone with an answering machine. There is no urgency because, if it doesn’t get done now, then they will get it done later. It is easy to procrastinate on your goal when there is no sense of urgency attached to it. If you don’t feel that you need to start acting this very instant, it will be all to easy to do things tomorrow. Tomorrow never comes, all we have is today.
This is the primary reason for creating a challenging, yet realistic, deadline. If you make your deadline too easy, it won’t create the kind of urgency you need to take action upon it. A study at MIT looked at this concept of setting deadlines. In the study, students were put into one of three groups and asked to complete three term papers each. The first group was given preset deadlines that were evenly spaced. This group had the least amount of time to complete the assignments. The second group was allowed to set their own deadlines to complete the work and the third group had all three papers due with the maximum time possible.
Given that the third group had the most time to complete assignments, logical thinking would assume it could perform the best. With more flexibility, these students could surely do a better job at completing the assignments. The study showed, however, that these students performed the worst out of all three groups and had the highest chance of being late. Procrastination is an incredibly destructive force. Create urgency with your goals and you will build the motivation needed to overcome it.
Urgency can be created by breaking down your large goals into small units. If your goal is to read fifty books in a year, you could break this down to reading one book this week, a chapter each day and ten pages right now. Large goals tend to be so massive that we can’t conceptualize that actual work needed to achieve them. By breaking them down into manageable chunks, we can feel a sense of urgency because the next action can be accomplished right now.
Make Goals Realistic
Make sure that your goals are challenging but achievable. I can’t stress this point enough. Just because you set an impossible deadline doesn’t make it possible. As Zig Ziglar once said, “Set your goals out of reach, but not out of sight.” If the deadline for your goals is unrealistic, then hopelessness sets in. If you don’t feel that even trying your very best could accomplish your goal on time, it is all to easy to stop trying altogether.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t set big or difficult goals. This simply means that you must be realistic in the time necessary to accomplish your goal by. Wanting to become a millionaire may be a difficult goal, but if you plan on becoming one in thirty years, that is achievable. Going from flat broke to a million dollars in a month is deluding yourself. After a week or two you will soon realize that simply setting a goal doesn’t make you a magician and you might give up the goal entirely in frustration.
Setting realistic deadlines is especially true of short term goals. The longer a goal is, the more flexibility it has towards optimism. Steve Pavlina says that often we, “Overestimate what we can do in one year but underestimate what we can do in five.” If you are planning to write a novel in one year, compressing it to nine or ten months is probably achievable. If your book was 300 pages, that would simply mean about extra page per week. But if your goal was to write 1000 words in the next hour, changing that to 1500 words might be incredibly difficult. Smaller goals tend to have a lot less fat on them that can be cut down, so being realistic with these short term goals is very critical to their success.
Reconnect With The End
A really effective method for giving you a strong boost in motivation is to reconnect with the object of your goal. Pick up the written copy of your goal and re-read it. Visualize the image of achieving your goal again and remember the reasons you set the goal in the first place. By reconnecting with the compelling reasons for pursuing your goal it is far easier to overcome the minor frustrations associated with the little stumbling blocks associated with it. Someone once said, “People tend to be very good at climbing the walls on the road of life. It is the pebbles that trip us.” Reconnecting with your goal can be a great way to look past the little pebbles and push onwards.
Once you’ve had a chance to reconnect with your goal, redo your plan. Every time I redid my plan to produce the project you are looking at today, I was overwhelmed by the sense of urgency and drive attached to it. By breaking down the steps from my final goal and planning out the path to getting there I soon realized that I’d better get moving if I wanted to be successful. Expanding your perspective away from the day-to-day tasks and towards the big picture can create a lot of motivation.
Does sitting in your office make you feel productive and powerful? Does sitting in your kitchen make you feel like eating healthy foods? Do the clothes you wear support the goals you are trying to achieve? Our environment is an incredibly powerful part of our motivation. By reshaping our environment to reinforce our internal experiences we can build lasting motivation.
If your goal is for a certain stage in your career or business, take a look around. Does your office or workspace reinforce the idea of you being a productive and efficient worker? Is it organized, sleek and clean or is it cluttered, messy and unprofessional? Your workspace is having a subconscious effect on your productivity and you need to take control of that. Ensure that your workspace creates the kind of environment that reflects your goals.
How you should organize your environment should be based on how it makes you feel. For some people an office space with artwork, plants and a sophisticated mahogany desk creates the feeling of productivity and power they need to reinforce them. For others, having pictures of their family at their desk or their diplomas and awards on the wall motivates them. Still others in creative positions feel the need for a colorful environment to make their work fun and enjoyable. What matters is how the workspace makes you feel. If it doesn’t make you feel inspired to work towards your goal, change it.
Changing your environment doesn’t have to be so subtle. Putting up sticky notes or posters with your goals on it are very obvious ways to create motivation. Having a motivational sentence or platitude on your computer desktop might give you the little nudge you need to start thinking about your goal. The more often you can remind and reinforce your goal subconsciously, the more motivation you can build. I often print the words “Do It NOW” on my desktop background and I find it usually snaps me out of temptation to procrastinate.
The people you commonly associate with have a tremendous impact on your motivation. If you surround ourselves with go-nowhere, cynical or uninspiring individuals, you will soon adopt those behavior yourself. After a long trip overseas, it is often easy to notice a change in accent from those returning. They picked up the speaking patterns of the people surrounding them without even realizing it. Are you picking up good habits or bad ones?
It may be hard to stop seeing certain negative friends or family members, but ultimately taking the step towards making new friends who can act as a positive influence will be better for both of you. Staying loyal to someone who is dragging you down is only going to make you bitter, which will make the relationship worse and worse. Spend time with people who make you want to be better.
Where can you find these people? Look for organizations that are related to your given field. If it is a career or business goal, look for a trade organization. The people there usually have a wealth of experience along with attitudes that have made them successful. Support groups like AA or Weight Watchers can be a positive influence as well. Toastmasters was an incredibly powerful experience at meeting positive people for myself. You don’t have to be the perfect networker to find these people as often the organizations already exist to meet these individuals.
Most of us understand how punishing our failures can cause us to take action, but few of us truly reward ourselves for success. Motivation is the polarity between reward and punishment, without giving ourselves rewards for a good job, it is easy to abandon the goal setting process entirely as you feel stressed about all the struggle and sacrifice necessary. Setting up rewards for yourself can be a fun way to improve your motivation and to ease stress.
Don’t just reward yourself for the big things, reward small steps as well. If your goal is to lose weight, then reward yourself as soon as you make it through a week, a day or even one meal with your new diet. Give yourself something that will reinforce the behavior for the next time. Perhaps your reward could be watching your favorite television show, going to see your friends or event taking a few minutes to sit back and relax.
Whenever you achieve any step towards your goal, give yourself a pat on the back. Not all of your rewards need to be external or tangible. Simply sitting back and congratulating yourself for a good job can be a powerful reward. These emotional rewards further reinforce a strong positive emotion towards working on your goal. These rewards also build confidence in your abilities that allow you to act from your resources instead of fear. It is incredibly satisfying to cross off an item from your to-do list, with the knowledge you are just one step closer.
Motivation comes from action. By acting towards your goals and rewarding yourself for that action, you increase the motivation you have. Like a giant flywheel, it might take you an hour to get it to spin just once, but with continuous action and pressure, soon the flywheel can spin with little outside force. Building momentum with continuous actions is the surest way to ensure your motivation doesn’t falter.
Start with the smallest action that you can do right away. Procrastination results largely because we are overwhelmed by the magnitude of the task ahead. Breaking your goal down to the smallest possible fragment to work on right away can allow you to start building momentum. As you continue to work and reward yourself, this momentum will build until it is almost unstoppable. As Zig Ziglar says, “Motivation follows action.” Don’t wait to be motivated to start acting. Start right now.
If you forget everything else from this chapter, remember this point. You control your motivation. As long as you believe that there are steps to control and manage your motivation, you can utilize it. If you feel that motivation is something that ebbs and flows without your control, then you will be forced to operate at a suboptimal level. Increase your drive and you increase the chances that you will achieve your goals.