We all have big goals we’d like to achieve that we know will enhance our experience and enjoyment of life. Whether you want to learn another language, reach your physical peak, or fulfill your lifetime dream of becoming a diving instructor, goals will help you get there.

Deciding on a goal is easy. Following through, on the other hand, is not. Here are three surefire ways you can give yourself a helping hand and follow through on your goals.

1. Go Public

Very few things are quite as motivating as public accountability. Once we’ve announced to friends, family, co-workers, and the general public that we’re working towards a certain goal, we’re far more likely to actually complete that goal.

Why? Public accountability works for two main reasons.

First of all, we don’t want to look bad. We care what our nearest and dearest think of us and we don’t want to seem flaky. If we publicly announce a goal and don’t complete it, we have to face up to everyone who asks “Hey, how did that marathon go last summer?” As much as we might be able to justify prioritising our long lie-ins over long runs to ourselves, trying to explain that to someone else is going to be pretty embarrassing.

The second reason that public accountability works is more positive. Just as we know we’re going to have to ‘fess up if we don’t complete our goal, we also know that we’ll have a lot of support from people around us when we do complete our goal. This in itself can help motivate us to push through the more challenging times.

So if you’re working towards a goal and want a simple yet effective way of sticking to it, get on Facebook, send a group email, text everyone on your contacts list, and watch your motivation levels soar.

2. Set milestones

One of the biggest barriers that stands between you and your goals is becoming overwhelmed. Goals always contain a series of action steps, which have varying degrees of difficulty. When we look at the goal as a whole, we might feel discouraged by how far we are from the completion point.

Breaking the goal down into several milestones, however, helps keep us motivated. Instead of focusing on how far we have to go until we complete the big goal, we can shift our focus to the smaller, more manageable milestones.

Not only do milestones give us cause for celebration on the way to completing our goal, they also help us stay on track with completing our big goal by a certain date. Setting a deadline is one of the key hallmarks of achievable goals: if you don’t have a deadline, other commitments *will* get in the way.

3. Incentivise success

You can incentivise yourself to complete your goal in two ways:

  • Rewarding completion
  • Penalising non-completion

In practice, rewarding completion of a goal or milestone might look like treating yourself to something when you reach that particular target. At the same time, you can commit to a certain penalty, such as donating $100 to charity, if you don’t complete a certain milestone or goal.

These incentives are most effective when you agree to the details in advance. If you wait until you either reach or don’t reach your milestone or goal to decide on the specifics, this method won’t be as much help.

We are masters at self-justification, so if we don’t agree to rewarding ourselves in a certain way at a certain time when we reach a certain goal, then we’re more likely to cheat, or forgo the reward altogether (and rewards are important). Equally, if we don’t complete our milestone or goal and haven’t agreed a penalty in advance, it’s going to be a lot easier for us to reason our way out of sticking to the penalty.

Decide which rewards and penalties you’re going to commit to in advance, and you’ll be far more likely to stick to them.

Which method is right for me?

Any one of these three methods will help you reach goals and targets. You know yourself better than anyone so you’re in the best position to decide which of the methods above will be most helpful to you individually.

If you’re really serious about achieving your big goals, however, you’ll give yourself the best chance of getting there by implementing all three at once.

What are your surefire ways for following through on your goals?

For those who are not familiar with S.M.A.R.T., this is a primer; for those who are, it’ll be a refresher: Why You Need a S.M.A.R.T. Goal Refresher (or Primer)

Featured photo credit: JoF via Flickr

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