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How to Reach Your Goals By (Almost) Ignoring Them

How to Reach Your Goals By (Almost) Ignoring Them


    We all have big goals–losing weight, starting a business, whatever. Big goals are great. They can transform your life. Problem is, after about a week, most of us lose motivation. Our dreams don’t die, but our gumption dries up. Then on your birthday or New Year’s Day or some other annual milestone, we look at our goals list and kick ourselves and feel like perpetual slackers for not achieving anything.

    It’s a common problem, and happens because you haven’t stoked the furnace of your passion so you can persistently move toward your goals. Willpower and passion alone aren’t enough. Scheduling time to work toward our goals is helpful, but still isn’t enough.

    SEE: Top 10 Reasons Why People Don’t Reach Their Goals

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    So how can you reach your goal by ignoring it? It sounds counter-intuitive, but the strategies below really work.

    It’s easy to get excited about a goal, but that excitement won’t put enough fuel in the tank to take you down the long road so you can reach your goal.

    The trick to staying motivated and inspired

    It’s tempting to keep your eye on the prize, your goal. Some people like to make a collage of goal-related images and quotes, and slap in on their wall to constantly remind them about their goal. A concrete, visual reminder can be helpful, but again, it’s often not enough to keep focused on a goal over weeks, months, or years.

    Instead of focusing so much on your end goal–that thing far off on the horizon–focus on the immediate benefits. What you need is daily inspiration and reinforcement to keep you going. It’s like having your own personal cheerleading squad behind you every step of the way–even when you don’t feel like doing anything.

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    Create immediate reinforcement for taking action toward your goals. If you have immediate reinforcement, you don’t have to keep your eye on the prize as much. You don’t have to rely on unreliable willpower. Immediate reinforcement stokes your fire to keep you on track toward your goal.

    How do you give yourself immediate reinforcement? By focusing on how you feel when you take action, no matter how small the action is. Pay attention to how you feel when you do something that’s related to your goal. Do you feel inspired? Excited? Responsible? Empowered? What are your thoughts when you take action on your goal? Maybe you find yourself thinking “This is easier than I thought!”, or “Look at how much I’ve done in the past week!”. Pay attention to these feelings and thoughts, since that’s what’s going to fuel your persistence, and what will ultimately make it possible to reach your goal.

    SEE: 3 Common Goal Setting Mistakes

    A bonus trick to make it easy to start

    But what if you don’t even know where to start? Maybe you’ve got a big goal you’re excited about, but are overwhelmed? Fear not.

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    Here’s your bonus trick: spend 5 minutes planning what you need to do to start. In your plan, list tasks that are so incredibly easy and tiny, that you’re guaranteed to do them. To paraphrase a Kaizen saying:

    “You must be as certain you can do these tiny tasks as you are that the sun will rise tomorrow.”

    For example, if you want to lose 30 pounds, don’t start by trying to run a 10k. Start by putting on your exercise shoes. Make that your daily goal. If you can do that–and want to do a little extra–just step outside. If you want to do more, then walk around the block. But make those first tiny steps, pay attention to your thoughts and feelings, and use them to give yourself immediate reinforcement for taking action.

    These ideas are partly derived from the book Exercise for Mood and Anxiety: Proven Strategies for Overcoming Depression and Enhancing Well-Being by Michael Otto, Ph.D. and Jasper A.J. Smits, Ph.D. But even if you don’t suffer from depression or anxiety, and just want to get your butt in gear, the principles can be applied to any challenging task or goal.

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    Daily action and immediate reinforcement will snowball and allow you to reach your goal–without having to rely on your shaky willpower. So feel free to–almost–ignore your goal, but make sure to take daily action, and then reward and reinforce yourself for taking that action.

    What’s your next action going to be?

    Do it right now. In the comments, share your task/goal, your daily action, and how you’ll reinforce yourself.

    (Photo credit: Penalty Shootout in Amatuer Football via Shutterstock)

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      Last Updated on March 25, 2020

      How Do You Change a Habit (According to Psychology)

      How Do You Change a Habit (According to Psychology)

      Habits are hard to kill, and rightly so. They are a part and parcel of your personality traits and mold your character.

      However, habits are not always something over-the-top and quirky enough to get noticed. Think of subtle habits like tapping fingers when you are nervous and humming songs while you drive. These are nothing but ingrained habits that you may not realize easily.

      Just take a few minutes and think of something specific that you do all the time. You will notice how it has become a habit for you without any explicit realization. Everything you do on a daily basis starting with your morning routine, lunch preferences to exercise routines are all habits.

      Habits mostly form from life experiences and certain observed behaviors, not all of them are healthy. Habitual smoking can be dangerous to your health. Similarly, a habit could also make you lose out on enjoying something to its best – like how some people just cannot stop swaying their bodies when delivering a speech.

      Thus, there could be a few habits that you would want to change about yourself. But changing habits is not as easy as it seems.

      In this article, you will learn why it isn’t easy to build new habits, and how to change habits.

      What Makes It Hard To Change A Habit?

      To want to change a particular habit means to change something very fundamental about your behavior.[1] Hence, it’s necessary to understand how habits actually form and why they are so difficult to actually get out of.

      The Biology

      Habits form in a place what we call the subconscious mind in our brain.[2]

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      Our brains have two modes of operation. The first one is an automatic pilot kind of system that is fast and works on reflexes often. It is what we call the subconscious part. This is the part that is associated with everything that comes naturally to you.

      The second mode is the conscious mode where every action and decision is well thought out and follows a controlled way of thinking.

      A fine example to distinguish both would be to consider yourself learning to drive or play an instrument. For the first time you try learning, you think before every movement you make. But once you have got the hang of it, you might drive without applying much thought into it.

      Both systems work together in our brains at all times. When a habit is formed, it moves from the conscious part to the subconscious making it difficult to control.

      So, the key idea in deconstructing a habit is to go from the subconscious to the conscious.

      Another thing you have to understand about habits is that they can be conscious or hidden.

      Conscious habits are those that require active input from your side. For instance, if you stop setting your alarm in the morning, you will stop waking up at the same time.

      Hidden habits, on the other hand, are habits that we do without realizing. These make up the majority of our habits and we wouldn’t even know them until someone pointed them out. So the first difficulty in breaking these habits is to actually identify them. As they are internalized, they need a lot of attention to detail for self-identification. That’s not all.

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      Habits can be physical, social, and mental, energy-based and even be particular to productivity. Understanding them is necessary to know why they are difficult to break and what can be done about them.

      The Psychology

      Habits get engraved into our memories depending on the way we think, feel and act over a particular period of time. The procedural part of memory deals with habit formation and studies have observed that various types of conditioning of behavior could affect your habit formations.

      Classical conditioning or pavlovian conditioning is when you start associating a memory with reality.[3] A dog that associates ringing bell to food will start salivating. The same external stimuli such as the sound of church bells can make a person want to pray.

      Operant conditioning is when experience and the feelings associated with it form a habit.[4] By encouraging or discouraging an act, individuals could either make it a habit or stop doing it.

      Observational learning is another way habits could take form. A child may start walking the same way their parent does.

      What Can You Do To Change a Habit?

      Sure, habits are hard to control but it is not impossible. With a few tips and hard-driven dedication, you can surely get over your nasty habits.

      Here are some ways that make use of psychological findings to help you:

      1. Identify Your Habits

      As mentioned earlier, habits can be quite subtle and hidden from your view. You have to bring your subconscious habits to an aware state of mind. You could do it by self-observation or by asking your friends or family to point out the habit for your sake.

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      2. Find out the Impact of Your Habit

      Every habit produces an effect – either physical or mental. Find out what exactly it is doing to you. Does it help you relieve stress or does it give you some pain relief?

      It could be anything simple. Sometimes biting your nails could be calming your nerves. Understanding the effect of a habit is necessary to control it.

      3. Apply Logic

      You don’t need to be force-fed with wisdom and advice to know what an unhealthy habit could do to you.

      Late-night binge-watching just before an important presentation is not going to help you. Take a moment and apply your own wisdom and logic to control your seemingly nastily habits.

      4. Choose an Alternative

      As I said, every habit induces some feeling. So, it could be quite difficult to get over it unless you find something else that can replace it. It can be a simple non-harming new habit that you can cultivate to get over a bad habit.

      Say you have the habit of banging your head hard when you are angry. That’s going to be bad for you. Instead, the next time you are angry, just take a deep breath and count to 10. Or maybe start imagining yourself on a luxury yacht. Just think of something that will work for you.

      5. Remove Triggers

      Get rid of items and situations that can trigger your bad habit.

      Stay away from smoke breaks if you are trying to quit it. Remove all those candy bars from the fridge if you want to control your sweet cravings.

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      6. Visualize Change

      Our brains can be trained to forget a habit if we start visualizing the change. Serious visualization is retained and helps as a motivator in breaking the habit loop.

      For instance, to replace your habit of waking up late, visualize yourself waking up early and enjoying the early morning jog every day. By continuing this, you would naturally feel better to wake up early and do your new hobby.

      7. Avoid Negative Talks and Thinking

      Just as how our brain is trained to accept a change in habit, continuous negative talk and thinking could hamper your efforts put into breaking a habit.

      Believe you can get out of it and assert yourself the same.

      Final Thoughts

      Changing habits isn’t easy, so do not expect an overnight change!

      Habits took a long time to form. It could take a while to completely break out of it. You will have to accept that sometimes you may falter in your efforts. Don’t let negativity seep in when it seems hard. Keep going at it slowly and steadily.

      More About Changing Habits

      Featured photo credit: Mel via unsplash.com

      Reference

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