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The Key To Reaching Your Goals: Willpower And Planning

The Key To Reaching Your Goals: Willpower And Planning

Most of us have goals. Our goals should be the reason we wake up in the morning and do the things we do. How many times have you written down goals and promised yourself to stick to reaching them? You find yourself succeeding for the first week or two (exceptional cases would be a month) and then you lose track of the routine, slide back into old habits, and three months later have made no real progress. This is a very demotivating cycle in life and we have all been there one too many times. It’s not only encompassed by lack of motivation and discipline, but also by the poor execution of our goal setting.

While most of us focus on the end goal and how little progress we’ve made, rarely do we look into these two important things: willpower and planning

Willpower has been defined as: “control deliberately exerted to do something or to restrain one’s own impulses” (Cambridge). This is often mistaken for motivation. Motivation is the urge or deep desire to do something, will power is following through even under undesirable circumstances.

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The first thing we need to focus on when setting our goals is how much will power are we going to have? This can be hard to determine as we do not know what tomorrow brings. However, we can still exercise our will to our favour.

Exercising your will power

The first step to exercising will power is becoming conscious of the need for will power. Say, hypothetically, your goal was to cut down on the amount of time spent on social media. List down events that will require the will power.

  1. Free time on your hands
  2. Pop ups and notifications
  3. When work is going slow
  4. When you’re avoiding completing a project

These are just random guesses; however, we are able to identify the enemy and fight it off with will. When your become conscious about the need to exercise your will and not just trying to stay motivated, you are better prepared to fight the temptation to give in to distractions.

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The plan

The second part of our goal setting is planning. Numerous studies show the advantages of planning, some have even concluded that just having a plan in place increases your chances of success.

The plan is a map that shows you how to get to the finish line. Once again, using our hypothetical goal of cutting down on social media time,  your end goal could be to spend 30 minutes on Facebook a day and no more. How do you go about achieving this goal if you currently spend 3-4 hours on social media daily? A good way to plan this is first identifying why it matters to you that you achieve this goal?

  1. You could be more productive if you spent less time on social media
  2. Your work wouldn’t pile up
  3. You have more actual free time to just chill without guilt about incomplete work
  4. For your own sanity

These are motivators. Now that you’ve established why it’s important to you, how will you go about achieving this?

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Take it one step at a time

Our biggest mistake is taking giant leaps. Habits are built over time. They don’t happen overnight. A good plan would be writing down a list of important things that need your attention, such as a report that’s overdue or studying for an upcoming exam. When your priorities are in mind and sight you are more willing to work on it and not procrastinate.

Now that you’ve got your plan of action and a list of events that could deter you from your plan, this eliminates blindsides and makes you feel more in control.

Bring it down to bite size chunks

What do we mean by bite size chunks? It simply means, do not bite off more than you can chew. Set realistic and achievable goals. Dreaming of becoming president isn’t unrealistic, but it is unrealistic when you have no political experience, no background in politics, and lack the right skills or expertise to hold such a post. Realistic means something that is achievable within a given time frame.

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To cut down on social media from 4 hours to 30 minutes in one day is unrealistic. A bite size chunk would be turning off notifications and only logging on during tea or lunch breaks. Take it one step at a time.

Keep track

Always keep track of where you are. All too often, people look at the end goal, then look at where they currently are and lose motivation. However, if you look back at where you’ve been, you are able to measure and keep pushing. Maybe you went on social media longer than lunch break on Tuesday. Don’t let that discourage you. Look to your track keeping journal, and you’ll notice you’ve gone from 4 hours to 3.5 hours in two week. Instead of being discouraged, focus on this small victory. Victories trigger positive emotion that makes us believe we can achieve these goals.

Outdo yourself

If you’ve cut down your social media usage by 30 minutes, challenge yourself to cut it down by another 30 minutes over the following weeks, then add another 30 after some time, and so forth. After some time you’ll go down from 4 hours to 30 minutes!

Conclusion

The key to reaching your goal lies within your own will and commitment to becoming a better version of yourself. Reaching your goals also requires setting the right plans in place to achieve them. When you are able to follow these guidelines and stay committed to good habits and proper routine there will be no need for willpower and planning. You will be on autopilot. You can set higher goals and achieve even more. If you are setting goals and failing, you are already on the right track. Having goals in the first place shows that you want to change, grow, and develop. You have been equipped with everything you need to be your absolute best. So when the tough gets going remind yourself why it is important to you.

Goal infographic

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    Kayiba Mpoyi

    Writer by birth

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    Last Updated on September 20, 2018

    8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

    8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

    You go to the gym to train your muscles. You run outside or go for hikes to train your endurance. Or, maybe you do neither of those, but still wish you exercised more.

    Well, here is how to train one of the most important parts of your body: your brain.

    When you train your brain, you will:

    • Avoid embarrassing situations. You remember his face, but what was his name?
    • Be a faster learner in all sorts of different skills. No problem for you to pick up a new language or new management skill.
    • Avoid diseases that hit as you get older. Alzheimer’s will not be affecting you.

    So how to train your brain and improve your cognitive skills?

    1. Work your memory

    Twyla Tharp, a NYC-based renowned choreographer has come up with the following memory workout:

    When she watches one of her performances, she tries to remember the first twelve to fourteen corrections she wants to discuss with her cast without writing them down.

    If you think this is anything less than a feat, then think again. In her book The Creative Habit she says that most people cannot remember more than three.

    The practice of both remembering events or things and then discussing them with others has actually been supported by brain fitness studies.

    Memory activities that engage all levels of brain operation—receiving, remembering and thinking—help to improve the function of the brain.

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    Now, you may not have dancers to correct, but you may be required to give feedback on a presentation, or your friends may ask you what interesting things you saw at the museum. These are great opportunities to practically train your brain by flexing your memory muscles.

    What is the simplest way to help yourself remember what you see? Repetition.

    For example, say you just met someone new:

    “Hi, my name is George”

    Don’t just respond with, “Nice to meet you”. Instead, say, “Nice to meet you George.”

    Got it? Good.

    2. Do something different repeatedly

    By actually doing something new over and over again, your brain wires new pathways that help you do this new thing better and faster.

    Think back to when you were three years old. You surely were strong enough to hold a knife and a fork just fine. Yet, when you were eating all by yourself, you were creating a mess.

    It was not a matter of strength, you see. It was a matter of cultivating more and better neural pathways that would help you eat by yourself just like an adult does.

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    And guess what? With enough repetition you made that happen!

    But how does this apply to your life right now?

    Say you are a procrastinator. The more you don’t procrastinate, the more you teach your brain not to wait for the last minute to make things happen.

    Now, you might be thinking “Duh, if only not procrastinating could be that easy!”

    Well, it can be. By doing something really small, that you wouldn’t normally do, but is in the direction of getting that task done, you will start creating those new precious neural pathways.

    So if you have been postponing organizing your desk, just take one paper and put in its right place. Or, you can go even smaller. Look at one piece of paper and decide where to put it: Trash? Right cabinet? Another room? Give it to someone?

    You don’t actually need to clean up that paper; you only need to decide what you need to do with it.

    That’s how small you can start. And yet, those neural pathways are still being built. Gradually, you will transform yourself from a procrastinator to an in-the-moment action taker.

    3. Learn something new

    It might sound obvious, but the more you use your brain, the better its going to perform for you.

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    For example, learning a new instrument improves your skill of translating something you see (sheet music) to something you actually do (playing the instrument).

    Learning a new language exposes your brain to a different way of thinking, a different way of expressing yourself.

    You can even literally take it a step further, and learn how to dance. Studies indicate that learning to dance helps seniors avoid Alzheimer’s. Not bad, huh?

    4. Follow a brain training program

    The Internet world can help you improve your brain function while lazily sitting on your couch. A clinically proven program like BrainHQ can help you improve your memory, or think faster, by just following their brain training exercises.

    5. Work your body

    You knew this one was coming didn’t you? Yes indeed, exercise does not just work your body; it also improves the fitness of your brain.

    Even briefly exercising for 20 minutes facilitates information processing and memory functions. But it’s not just that–exercise actually helps your brain create those new neural connections faster. You will learn faster, your alertness level will increase, and you get all that by moving your body.

    Now, if you are not already a regular exerciser, and already feel guilty that you are not helping your brain by exercising more, try a brain training exercise program like Exercise Bliss.

    Remember, just like we discussed in #2, by training your brain to do something new repeatedly, you are actually changing yourself permanently.

    6. Spend time with your loved ones

    If you want optimal cognitive abilities, then you’ve got to have meaningful relationships in your life.  Talking with others and engaging with your loved ones helps you think more clearly, and it can also lift your mood.

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    If you are an extrovert, this holds even more weight for you. At a class at Stanford University, I learned that extroverts actually use talking to other people as a way to understand and process their own thoughts.

    I remember that the teacher told us that after a personality test said she was an extrovert, she was surprised. She had always thought of herself as an introvert. But then, she realized how much talking to others helped her frame her own thoughts, so she accepted her new-found status as an extrovert.

    7. Avoid crossword puzzles

    Many of us, when we think of brain fitness, think of crossword puzzles. And it’s true–crossword puzzles do improve our fluency, yet studies show they are not enough by themselves.

    Are they fun? Yes. Do they sharpen your brain? Not really.

    Of course, if you are doing this for fun, then by all means go ahead. If you are doing it for brain fitness, then you might want to choose another activity

    8. Eat right – and make sure dark chocolate is included

    Foods like fish, fruits, and vegetables help your brain perform optimally. Yet, you might not know that dark chocolate gives your brain a good boost as well.

    When you eat chocolate, your brain produces dopamine. And dopamine helps you learn faster and remember better. Not to mention, chocolate contains flavonols, antioxidants, which also improve your brain functions.

    So next time you have something difficult to do, make sure you grab a bite or two of dark chocolate!

    The bottom line

    Now that you know how to train your brain, it’s actually time to start doing.

    Don’t just consume this content and then go on with your life as if nothing has changed. Put this knowledge into action and become smarter than ever!

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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