Advertising
Advertising

5 Ways to Set Your Goals in Stone

5 Ways to Set Your Goals in Stone

photo by mendhak

    Most of us set goals for our lives. Whether the goal is to climb Everest or to buy a pair of shoes, setting goals can sometimes seem like second nature to us. Even so, setting a goal doesn’t automatically mean getting the result. Sometimes goals are gradually forgotten about and fade away into the back of our minds.

    Motivation is the biggest goal killer. When we first set a goal, whether it’s to earn double what we earn now or achieve world domination, there is usually a reason behind that goal. People don’t jump out of bed with a goal out of the blue. There is a source of inspiration, something that has sparked our imagination. We usually see something, or read about something that makes us want our lives to change. There is an initial spark and we’re hit with a flood of motivation, and can’t wait to get started on this goal.

    After a few weeks or even days, our enthusiasm dies down, and that spark of inspiration becomes a memory. We know what the goal is, but we no longer have that passion burning inside us and our momentum grinds to a stop.

    Advertising

    To achieve goals that take time, we need to stay motivated, and we need to keep the inspiration flowing. The goals need to be constantly in our minds. Unavoidable and present wherever we are. If we’re constantly reminded of our goals, they never go away. This constant reminder means that goals are always on our mind, and easier to achieve.

    As with most things, it’s better to keep this process simple. These are five suggestions that I use. They’re easy to do and don’t take much time, but the effects are obvious once you do them.

    I’m going to start with what I find to be the most effective method, and the rest of the list will be in descending order (so you get the best stuff first).

    1. Create a “vision board” or “board of dreams”.

    I found this method over at selfgrowth.com, and it always keeps me motivated. The idea is to get a notice board, and let your artistic side out. Create a shrine to what you want to achieve. Don’t just write a list. Stick up things that remind you of what it is that you want. Photos, gifts, memorabilia, letters, notes, pages from books. Anything that provides you with a reminder of that original inspiration. If you’re goal is to become wealthy, think of all the things that remind you of that goal. Houses, cars, yachts, people. The list is endless. Be creative: print a picture of the American Express Centurion card and stick that up until you can replace it with one of your own (you might have to phone American Express and say you lost your card to replace the one on the board). This board will engulf everything about your goal and show you all the reasons you want to achieve it.

    Advertising

    Once done, stick it where you will see it most. I have mine facing my desk. Whenever I glance up from my monitor I see the board. When I’m feeling uninspired and ready to quit, a few minutes looking at my board, appreciating all the things that I want to achieve gives me that bit of inspiration needed to continue working.

    1. Photos (everywhere)

    Visual stimulation can be much more powerful than words. Seeing the words “Aston Martin Vanquish” doesn’t compare to seeing an Aston Martin Vanquish. Images are a source of great inspiration. A quick look at advertisements will show that the ones providing visual stimulation work better than the ones with only words. Seeing a sunset isn’t the same as reading about it, no matter how good the writer. Get photos of what you want to achieve and stick them everywhere you can. Pictures of the people that inspire you doing what they do best are great. Decorate your home with them, put them on your desktop background, put them on your cell phone background, have photos on your desk of things that represent your aims. The picture isn’t as important as the emotional connection to your goal that comes with it.

    Steve Pavlina suggests using digital photo frames. Digital photo frames allow you to have a slide show of images. Seeing these images will reinforce your desires, and remind you what you’re working towards.

    1. Leave notes (everywhere)

    As well as the photos, have notes dotted around the place. Write notes that explain the photo you have chosen. A photo of a mansion with a pool with a note saying “I am going to buy this house” will further reinforce your goal. The more unavoidable and obvious your goals are, the easier it becomes to remember what you are working for. Notes can be left anywhere. I leave notes on my desk, by my bed, on the refrigerator door, in the bathroom (although they tend to get wet). Write on your spouse’s face when they’re asleep if you want to (okay, don’t. This isn’t a good idea…).

    Advertising

    1. Your most used applications

    What applications do you use most? The majority of applications that are used everyday will have some way of keeping a note, whether it was meant for that purpose or not. I’m an avid user of iGoogle and my iGoogle homepage displays my goals every time I log in. Microsoft Outlook can do the same. Firefox can (there are handy notes add-ons!). Even Windows can. Google’s Desktop sidebar lets you save notes so that they’re ready for you when you log in. Whatever application you use the most, have it remind you of your goals.

    1. Tell people (but be selective)

    Tell others about your goals. Tell the people that inspire you and will throw encouragement your way. The inspiring people in our lives will add to our momentum. Have a conversation about your goals often, don’t just tell other people and never mention them again. Remind others and talk about their goals as well as yours (don’t phone someone at 4am every morning to tell them about your goals, that doesn’t work either…). If your goals are well known and a regular talking point, you’ll never lose that inspiration.

    Staying motivated past the original spark of inspiration is not easy. It can take discipline and a strong will to keep working towards a long term goal, but at the very least we can make things easier.

    Remind yourself of the original moment you set your goal. The reasons you want to achieve that goal. The potential results of your hard work should be seen around your home or workplace.

    Advertising

    Don’t stick to a list. Be creative, put effort into this and it will have a bigger impact on your life. Make a day of it and let the day become part of your memories. A day dedicated to decorating your house with reminders will stick with you longer than 10 minutes spent writing a list.

    I’ve used all the methods above, and I find the vision board to be the most effective. Spending a few hours creating a collage of what I want to achieve helped the whole idea of the goal sink in, and I got to spend some time going through each aspect of the goal this way.

    Hopefully with the above methods, you will find your goals become part of who you are, and you’ll find the journey to achieving them much easier.

    More by this author

    The Benefits of Automation 5 Ways to Set Your Goals in Stone Nap time Dealing with Distractions How to Wake Up and Instantly Achieve Something Everyday

    Trending in Productivity

    1 The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain) 2 What to Do When Bored at Work (And Why You Feel Bored Actually) 3 6 Effective Ways to Enhance Your Problem Solving Skills 4 How to Concentrate and Focus Better to Boost Productivity 5 15 Productive Things to Do When Bored (So Time Is Not Wasted)

    Read Next

    Advertising
    Advertising
    Advertising

    Last Updated on July 17, 2019

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    What happens in our heads when we set goals?

    Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

    Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

    According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

    Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

    Advertising

    Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

    Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

    The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

    Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

    So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

    Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

    Advertising

    One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

    Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

    Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

    The Neurology of Ownership

    Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

    In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

    Advertising

    But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

    This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

    Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

    The Upshot for Goal-Setters

    So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

    On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

    Advertising

    It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

    On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

    But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

    More About Goals Setting

    Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

    Reference

    Read Next