After reading about goal setting you may be asking yourself “Will this really work? I’ve set goals for myself before and I’ve never achieved them”. Unfortunately it is not uncommon for people to fall short of reaching their goals. This can happen for many reasons but the most common reason is that people lose their drive and stop working on their goal before they have achieved them.
In order to achieve any reasonably sized goal you will need consistent and persistent effort over a long period of time. The primary factor that will help you achieve this is motivation. While the idea of achieving your goal should provide you with a lot of motivation, it will not necessarily see you through the days that you just don’t feel like working on your goal. If you know how to motivate yourself you will greatly increase your ability to achieve your goal as well as reduce the time it takes to complete it.
Motivation comes in many forms and you will likely need to find motivation in more than one way in order to achieve your goal. There will also be times that you will have to work towards your goals even when you aren’t motivated. This section will provide some basic techniques for motivating yourself and helping you to become more productive.
Forms of Motivation
The goals that we strive for, whether consciously or not, are often motivated in one of two ways. These two types of motivation are away from pain and towards reward.
When we are motivated away from pain we are trying to get away from, or avoid a situation where we are not comfortable. However, by focusing on what we don’t want, we may not end up in a better situation — just a different one. By trying to escape what we don’t want we aren’t necessarily moving towards what we do want.
The second form of motivation is towards reward. This kind of motivation can be more effective because it moves you towards what you do want. It fills you with hope and optimism and makes life more fun and interesting.
When setting your life goals try and be aware of what is motivating you. While there will always be something negative that we want to move away from, you have a much better chance of success by focusing on what you want to have instead.
There are times when working towards your goals can be overwhelming — they problems seem too complicated, it is taking too much time, or you don’t feel you have the energy to keep going. One way of dealing with these feelings is to expose yourself to greater challenges that other people have overcome. Think about it — building the pyramids was somebody’s goal. Sending a person into space or to the moon was somebody’s goal. Just seeing the space shuttle launch can be awe inspiring. If you can’t make it to see a shuttle launch visit a local airport and watch planes taking off and landing. Quite often, in the context of these achievements, the challenges of our goals can seem more manageable.
Another approach to overcome challenges is to imagine your goal as being even larger than your current goal. For example, if your goal is to write a book, imagine that you are really aiming to write a series of books, or go on tour promoting your series of books. Clearly these goals are possible as there are many people who have achieved similar goals. In this light, just writing one book can seem more manageable.
Achieving a great goal can be its own reward but it can be difficult to work for long periods of time without at least small rewards for your effort. When planning your goal it is important to also devise a reward system. When creating a timeline for your goal (Learn how to Create a Timeline for your Goal) it can be helpful to establish milestones and rewards for each milestone. Rewards can consist of treating yourself to dinner or buying a small gift for yourself. Find things that you enjoy that can be used as rewards.
It can be useful to reward yourself intermittently. Instead of giving yourself a reward every time you achieve a sub-goal, reward yourself for every 3 to 5 sub-goals. This will teach you to expect reward after longer periods of no reward and can help you to get used to delayed reward for your efforts. This is important for achieving large goals. There have been scientific studies done that show that an animal, when rewarded intermittently, will work for much longer after the rewards have stopped. This research is elaborated on in the textbook The Principles of Learning and Behavior.
One final thing to keep in mind about reward and motivation — try and associate with positive people. Positive people can offer you encouragement when you are feeling down and can provide positive feedback on the work you have already done. People who are generally negative can sometimes end up supporting negativity and leading you to get more discouraged.
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Notes On Goal Setting
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Goal Setting Process