If you want to set goals you can actually achieve, you must make them specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. You may have heard of this SMART strategy, utilized it even… but still managed to come up short. Why? Because you lacked the key: motivation.
There are plenty of effective strategies and guidelines for accomplishing your goals, but many of those are pretty ineffective if you aren’t motivated to put them to use and reap real results. Keep that motivation alive by following these 6 tips below:
1) Visualize your brightest and worst future.
Kay Walker, Vice President of Business Development at Cyberwalker Digital, recommends visualizing positive and negative outcomes: “The fastest way to motivate yourself is to visualize your brightest future and then your worst future. When you visualize, your brain doesn’t know the different between thinking about doing something and actually doing it. If you close your eyes and see yourself in the future achieving the outcome you want and really experience it in your mind, you’ll start to feel inspired and excited. After you visualize what you want to achieve then visualize the opposite. Visualize how terrible it would be to not achieve what you want. This is the fastest way to illicit a deep desire in yourself and launch into action.”
2) Look at what has worked in the past.
Tomer Yogev, an executive coach at Tandem Spring, says it can also help to take a look at the past. “Most of us try to motivate in the name of overcoming some sort of failure… if, instead, we focus on strengths and what has worked in the past, then the whole game changes,” he says. “It isn’t about did I or didn’t I work out every morning, but rather a question of what have I done in the past that has worked, and how can I do more of that? If I really enjoyed jogging with my friends then I should go and set that up or join a running club. Maybe it isn’t the exact form of working out I had envisioned, but it is something I like, it has worked in the past, and as a result, I’ll stick to it and remain motivated.”
3) Consider your values and match your goals to those values.
Now, before you set any major goals, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Amy McManus says you should clarify your values and then build your goals around those values. “What are the top five to seven things that you value most of all? Family? Health? Spirituality? Personal growth? Make a list so you can refer back to it. Now, when you formulate a new goal, go back to the list and make sure that your goal specifically reflects one of your values,” she explains. “For instance, if your goal is to lose 10 pounds, but your actual value is to feel good about your body, there might be a better way to express that value—like having a regular yoga practice or even getting regular massages. When your goals accurately reflect your values, it is so much easier to stick to them when the going gets tough.”
4) Set small goals that lead up to your ultimate goal.
Another strategy for staying motivated and on track is setting smaller goals that will help you accomplish the end goal. “In order to stay motivated, most of us need both a goal and a strategy for staying focused,” says Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Ili Walter. “Setting one goal for each day that leads to your larger weekly or monthly goal will accomplish a few things: 1) it will limit distractions because you’ll know exactly what to focus on each day, 2) it will prevent inaction that is the result of feeling overwhelmed by working on too many projects at one time, and 3) it will improve determination because you will see progress daily.”
5) Tell your friends about your goals.
It’ll also help if you tell your friends about your ambitions! “Tell someone. Or better yet, tell five people,” says Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Dana Koonce. “It’s easy to backtrack and talk yourself out of something, coming up with excuses, if you’re only answering to you. If you know you’re going to have one, three, or five friends/family members/coworkers following up and asking how you did with you’re going, you’re going to be more motivated to follow through so you can give a positive report.”
6) Go easy on yourself.
And finally, go easy on yourself if you fail to find that motivation and slack off one day. “Being compassionate with yourself is the key; beating yourself up when you fail will only make you more likely to overeat, sleep in, or shop to comfort all those feelings of failure, guilt, disappointment, and discouragement,” says Mary Ingram, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist at Thriveworks Philadelphia. “Compassion for one’s mess-ups will make then make it easier to re-commit and get back on track.”
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