How many times have you tried to set a goal and failed? You can’t even count…the number is that high.
You’ve failed to reach your goals so many times that, deep down, you feel eternally cursed to live the same life on repeat.
You look at the future and everything is…the same. It scares you, but you also feel like you can’t do anything about it. You have these little waves of motivation and have a little bit of hope, but then you fail again, which makes you less likely to want to try again. Then, after trying enough times, you just quit.
This is the story for 95 percent of people, but it doesn’t have to be your story.
At a certain point in your life, if you follow through with a handful of goals, you’ll become permanently motivated.
I failed at nearly every goal I set until I found writing. Since then, I’ve achieved most of the goals I set for myself. It’s as if the past doesn’t exist or count, You can get here, too. If you break that mental barrier and find a way to finally start following through, one day you won’t be able to recognize your former self.
I have hope for you. Not because I’m pandering. But because I spent a good chunk of my life being an extremely lazy royal screw up who couldn’t concentrate or focus on a goal to save his life.
So, while no listicle can fix your life, I hope at least one of these ideas sticks out and sparks the motivation you need to go on the magical bull-run you’ve been desperately waiting for.
- Write your goals down — This seems basic and trivial, but there’s something about the mind-body connection that occurs when you physically commit to a goal by writing it down. Literally writing, too. Don’t type it. The physical act sends a subconscious signal to your brain that you’re somewhat serious.
- Get as many ‘quick wins’ as possible — Lower your criteria for success and stack little victories on top of each other quickly to get momentum. If you want to be a writer and truly can’t bring yourself to sit down and write for long periods, commit to 10 minutes of writing per day if that’s what you have to do to build a streak.
- Follow the rule of 2 — I learned this idea from James Clear. If you screw up on the path to your goal, e.g., missing a workout, just don’t do it twice. Allow yourself that mulligan to avoid the ‘downward spiral.’
- Find compelling reasons to achieve your goals — The more compelling the reason, the why, behind your goals, the more likely you are to follow through. I was compelled to stick with writing because I was legitimately terrified of having to work for someone else my entire life.
- Use negative emotions — I find negativity to be the most compelling form of motivation. Is it the healthiest? Debatable, but it’s been the most effective for me. I usually start seriously working on a major goal or initiative when I’m sufficiently fed up with my current circumstances. I move things from the ‘tolerable’ column to the ‘I can’t fucking stand to live like this’ column and then I change.
- Don’t brag about shit you haven’t done — I see this happen too often. A friend of mine has a new ‘business.’ They have all these shiny business cards, a logo, and they’re posting all over social media about how successful they’ll become. 100 percent failure rate. Keep your big hairy audacious goals to yourself until you pull them off.
- Brainwash yourself — Individual pieces of motivational content, including mine, are ineffectual. That’s why you have to consume so many of them. Combined with action, though, and done over a long enough period of time, this content can re-wire your brain. Mind you, you’re susceptible to becoming a self-help junkie who gets nothing done, but this route gives you your only fighting chance.
- Stop looking for examples in ‘the real world’ — You can’t use people in your daily life as models for success. They’re not bad people, but odds are, the people you know personally haven’t done the things you want to do, nor do they have the level of motivation you seek to have. Most people get caught in that lower paradigm because they conform to their surroundings.
- One thing at a time — Read the book The One Thing by Gary Keller for a full explanation of this. You always want to have a primary goal to focus on each day, week, month, year, etc. I do many things in my business, but my ‘one thing’ has always been getting a blog post done. Find that keystone goal that makes all other goals easier to achieve.
- Use the chain strategy — Buy a calendar, mark off an ‘x’ each day you do the task that leads to your ultimate goal. You will form a chain of x’s. The longer the chain, the less likely you are to break the chain.
- Be mindful of your environment — If you want to lose weight, you can’t keep junk food in the house. Having the T.V. on and 8 social media tabs open probably isn’t conducive to staying focused on your writing. This seems simple, but people dramatically underestimate the power of their environment.
- Understand this truth — You think hesitation is less painful than following through with the action, but it’s the opposite. Hesitating and the anxiety it causes is actually more mentally taxing on you than just doing the thing. Re-read that and think about it.
- Focus all your effort on the ‘tipping point’ — Keep your head down and work on your goal until you reach a point where your efforts start to compound, meaning you get more payoff for the same amount of work. Example: most writers quit too early because they don’t understand that once they get a little bit of an audience, their audience will grow at a faster rate in the future.
- Master your strengths, then hedge your weaknesses — Set goals based on your natural talents and strengths. You’ll stick with them because you’re already decent. After mastering those you can set goals based on fixing up your weak spots, or you can find partners, employees, assistants, contractors, friends, etc who can complement your skillset.
- Align your goals with positivity — Naval Ravikant has a saying “eat the healthy food that tastes good to you” For me, I realized I’d never reach my fitness goals by eating dry chicken breast and vegetables daily. So I didn’t even try. Don’t torture yourself to reach your goals. It just tends not to work.
- Get help — Coaches, mentors, trainers, etc, serve one purpose — accountability. Often, investing money to get help in an area creates emotional leverage to stay accountable because you don’t want to waste that money.
- Don’t choose dumb and arbitrary goals — If you set a goal like “make a million dollars” or “get rich” you won’t reach it because you have no context for the goal. Set goals based on the things you want to do and the outcomes you want to achieve. You’ll get things like money as a byproduct.
- Don’t become a self-help robot — I’ve never once written down a S.M.A.R.T Goal on purpose. Many of my goals fit the criteria, but I’ve never gotten too in the weeds with goal setting or productivity routines because they tend to become a form of procrastination in and of themselves. I use a notebook and mostly journal about the things I want to achieve in a loose way. It’s been sufficient for me.
- Use these rules of thumb — Use them loosely and keep them in the back of your mind while you’re working. It takes five years to overhaul your life, reinvent yourself, and build something substantial. Focus on the first 90 days of ruthless action to build traction. Continue these quarterly bursts and track your overall progress every 18 months or so.
- Use time blocks — You want to do your task at the same time every day and preferably even the same place. This will help you reach a point where you expect to get your task done because you’ve conditioned your brain to be ready to do that task at that time.
- Keep reminders of what it takes — Use two types of examples. One, find examples of people you look up to and research how long it took them to get good. This will keep you grounded and patient. Second, find examples of people who clearly have less talent than you or came from a more difficult situation than you. This will keep you from deluding yourself into thinking your situation is special.
- Understand the 80/20 of reaching long term goals — The first 20 percent of your journey accounts for 80 percent of your success. The first 20 percent is the part where you’re overwhelmed with all the little nuances and minutiae of your path. It’s the equivalent of when you first go to the gym and you’re super sore. This is the part where you’re flailing around just trying to gain a basic understanding. Once you do have that understanding, though, you’re pretty much all the way there and the rest is just a matter of time and picking up a few more nuances along the way.
- Think about dying — I use my own mortality as a motivator constantly. I want to get to a point in life where I’d be okay if I died. I’m pretty close. How would you feel about the progress of your life if you knew today was your last day? What would you rush to get done the rest of the day? Think about that. Use it.
- Use inversion — Set goals for outcomes you don’t want to have. Use people as models for what you don’t want to be like. Figuring out exactly what it takes to be successful is harder than figuring out what definitely won’t work.
- Stop being soft — Society doesn’t like to use the word soft anymore. Why? Because society is full of soft people. Look, you need mental toughness to pull off major goals. Feeling like a helpless victim of circumstance isn’t conducive to reaching goals. You have to leave that self-care shit alone for a while. You have work to do.
This article first appeared on Medium.