Long Term Goals

How to Stay Committed to Long Term Goals

When you first commit to the goal to run a marathon, buy your own home, or lose 50 pounds, you’re ecstatic. You can’t wait to get started on making your dreams a reality.

If your goals is to lose 50 pounds, you might throw away all the junk food in your house, download a diet plan online and get a personal trainer. But after a few weeks, or even days, your preliminary enthusiasm wears off and you start thinking about whether this is really worth it.

So after your short burst of enthusiasm, what does it take to ensure that you stay motivated?

What’s helped me is creating a goal support system, a sort of “goal prop” if you will. We can use these prop to help us stay focused and committed, before following the path to our goal has become a habit.

A goal prop can be anything that helps us stay focused on our goal. It helps us remember why we started when our discipline is waning and we’re not sure if it’s worth it anymore.

Here are some suggestions for a creating a prop, that will help you stay focused toward your long-term goals:

1. Create a mantra. This is probably the easiest thing to start out with and one of the most powerful motivators. It’s simple and unsophisticated. If your goal is to buy your own home, you can use the mantra “my own place” or “my dream home.” The mantra itself isn’t as important as the emotional connection it gives you to your goal.

2. Create a ritual. If your goal is to lose weight, it’s not easy to change all the previous unhealthy habits you might have. What is much easier is creating a ritual to reinforce your new lifestyle. This might every time when you wake up, or before you go to bed you look at pictures of the body you want, you review your diet plan and journal about why health is important to you and how you can’t wait to have a healthy lifestyle and body.

3. Make plans. This is one of the most powerful actions for me, but it’s not something I do daily. Make plans and day dream about what you’re going to do when you achieve your goal. When you finally buy your own home, what are you going to do? How are you going to design it? How are you going to use each room? When you lose 50 pounds, what are you going to do differently? Are you going to go to the beach more, play with your kids, start modeling? Whatever it is, regularly thinking about your plans for your life after you’ve achieved your goals is a powerful way to stay motivated. It allows you to renew that initial excitement you had when you first set out to achieve your goals.

4. Put yourself on auto-response. In this article, I talk about how the practical mind will often get in the way of our heart and our true desires. Sometimes we have to silence our mind in the face of the practical and seemingly ridiculous. We have to put ourselves on auto-response; instead of thinking “I don’t know” we change our auto-response to “I’ll figure it out.

Staying motivated toward long term goals is not an easy thing to do. It takes discipline and passion to transform your previous mode of existence. This is especially true when you want to stop working toward someone else’s goals and want to work living your own purpose. It takes grit and perseverance to achieve long term goals like starting your own business, reaching enlightenment, or completely overhauling your previous way of living.

I’ve used all of these methods above as “props” to help me stay focused toward my goals. They’ve helped me stay on track when my I’m struggling staying disciplined and feel like giving up. Try one or any combination of these methods, I think you’ll find them worthwhile.

It’s also important that we keep our goals in context. We should remember that the point of achieving our goal one, two or three years from now is to improve our life. But we’re still living in the present. If we live only for our goals, we’ll likely resent the present, and start resenting our goals as well.

Keeping perspective is one of the hardest things to do. We just need to remember that productivity and achievement are a means to an end, not the end themselves. Time – not money, possessions or status – is our most precious commodity.


Jonathan is the author of Illuminated Mind – The less boring side of personal development. His articles include Living Freestyle; Life Without a Template and Liberate Your Life: Put Yourself on Auto-Response. You can subscribe to his here, or get more from him on twitter.

Image by Scott Ableman.

61 Responses to How to Stay Committed to Long Term Goals

  1. Pete says:

    I wrote about turning ‘bad habits’ into good habits. What I meant is, the same way we form ad habits, one little step at a time, is the same technique we should use for our long term goals.


  2. Thomas says:

    Thank you. I find myself enjoying your blog more and more recently.

  3. James says:

    i’ve just started on a 12 week health and exercise program to get me ready for my wedding. i’m an avid gym goer but if i don’t keep refreshing what i do then it gets old and i lose motivation.

    for me the biggest way to stay motivated and reach the objective is planning.

    one saying goes, ‘if you fail to plan, you plan to fail’ and to me that is so true.

    for my exercise plan i have put together a 12 week schedule, days, times, exercises, meal times. there really is no time when i’ll think to myself

    hhhmmm, what should i do now…i can’t decide so i just won’t do anything.

    ambiguity is a big reason why people fail because its always easier to do nothing!


  4. James says:

    for me its all about planning.

    there is a saying, ‘if you fail to plan, you plan to fail’

    ambiguity is a huge factor for not reaching your goals. so if you don’t know when, where, and what you are going to do exercise wise then you’ll spend so much time trying to decide on these that you’ll end up not doing anything.


  5. I agree with Pete and will add that neuroscientists have recently “proven” what philosophers have known for thousands of years: The brain can be rewired!

    The neuroscientists call this process, “neuroplasticity.” Philosophers call it, among other things, “habit” or “mindfulness.”

    Essentially, it is the process of reducing and removing “bad habits” and the formation of “good habits.” The greatest challenge for us is that habits take time to form and our brain tends to prefer short-term results.

    All of this, in my view, is the struggle of “mind vs. brain” and for the mind to “win,” self-awareness is essential…

    “As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

  6. janelle says:

    Great post…I find that what helps me achieve my goals is to let those who are close to me know what it is I am trying to achieve. For example, recently, I told my boyfriend that I wanted to eat healthier (not that I eat unhealthy now), so he jumped on the bandwagon as well. Suddenly, what was my goal also became his, and it’s been great so far. Additionally, I find that the biggest thing with achieving goals in the past is simply having a plan and then being consistent. If you’re trying to get in shape, first come up with an actual written plan for how you are going to achieve it. Create a workout calendar, and everyday when you get up, check the calendar and do what needs to be done.

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  8. Tabs says:

    That list is short and sweet and straight to the point, I seem to be attracting short and simple this week. Mantra, rituals, plan, auto-respond those are great steps. The one I found most useful is auto-response, my new auto-response is “My day must be effective.” I go to sleep feeling like I have accomplished something or I don’t sleep. It has worked miracles for me. Thanks for sharing the list.


  9. Robert says:

    Grant Cardone talks about staying commited to long term goals. Check out his most recent blog post on Huffington Post.


    Really great blog blog by the way.

  10. Alex Fayle says:

    I especially like the bit about looking to the future but living in the present. That’s always been a challenge for me. I live in the future so don’t actually do anything now.

    I’m getting better though and follow through on more of my goals now.

  11. Great ideas, especially for the person who wants to lose weight.

    In addition to your suggestions, I would also recommend if you have a blog that you announce it to your community, with photos to boot.


    Because now you’re really holding yourself accountable. You have all those people who are expecting results, which puts you on the hot seat and helps keep you focus. Your ego doesn’t want to fail in front of all those people, right?

    I just started a 30 day “Tim Ferris Diet” experiment and wrote about over at my blog. If you’re interested, you can simply click my name and once you’re over at my blog, you’ll see an article I wrote called “How I Will Lose 20 lbs. in 30 Days: An Experiment.”

    When I wrote that article, not only did I take photos of my first day’s meals but I also took a snapshot of myself in front of the mirror – not an easy thing to do but I did it.

    And now there’s no turning back!

  12. @Thomas: Thanks man, it means a lot to me.

    @James: Ambiguity and letting not knowing paralyze you is probably the biggest reason for broken dreams. You have to make the path yourself.

    @Janelle: That’s awesome. Having a support system is definitely a great way to keep yourself accountable.

    @Stephen: Another great way to keep yourself accountable.

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  14. EMotivate says:

    I also think we have to be careful not to be TOO hard on yourself. You certainly dont want to get in a situation where the long term goal feels like punishment. Try to do something that feels like a reward. If you are trying to lose weight, have a day where you get to have a guilt free treat. When you are setting career goals, find milestones that you can celebrate as victories.

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  17. It’s far from original, but I find it really does help to remind myself of my long term goals each morning by reading an affirmation before starting to write a to-do list for the day (which I do before checking my email)

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  20. Candace says:

    To stay on track you can make a short term goals list, mid range goals list and then long term. This is a great reference to use to remind yourself what your working towards and what a great feeling to accomplish the short term and see that you are accomplishing what you have set out to do.

  21. Gerald says:

    The ritual is really important. After all, losing weight permanently is about lifestyle change, and for that the right habits need to be in place.

  22. Abdul Samad says:

    Something that i am Trying to achive for along time. Must admit is a difficult thing..
    Never the less i shall keep trying


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  24. I’ve been finding it really hard to commit to anything lately and believe me I know that without commitment that nothing is really possible. so I have read your article which I found using Google search for the keywords committed to goal and then I re read it and I have decided to use some of your tips especially the mantra and also I thing that I will write out a goal with some sort of road map step format.
    Once again thanks for the hope that your article gave me.


  25. party gowns says:

    yeah, a long term goal is important!

  26. Joseph Satto says:

    I think that Step 3 is the most critical step although my idea of making plans is slightly different. For me, its engaging in the process of figuring out the actual steps you need to accomplish. Breaking down the concept of a goal into actionable steps allows you to make incremental progress and this is essential in staying focused on goals that take time to achieve. We’ve incorporated this plan-building process at the core of our goal-achievement platform and the results speak for themselves. The people that build these interactive step-by-step Plans (a couple of good examples – http://bit.ly/aaEFvS and http://bit.ly/d6fkRI) have a much higher rate of success. Give it a try and I’m fairly certain it will make a big difference.

    Joseph A. Satto

  27. Rupal Sirohi says:

    please send me inspirational articles to stay focussed on my goals

  28. Wendy Singh says:

    This is a great post. Thanks for sharing.  I just tweeted it – would love to connect on twitter @NutinNut:twitter .  Also, if you’re interested in a guest post on my blog, please contact me.

  29. Smelz Like Funk says:

    Make a long term goal, but also make short-term ones to lead up to your long term goal. If you keep completing your short term goals you will get closer and closer to achieving your long term. Make sure your goals are are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely, which are the main principles when making a goal :)

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  34. Bernie Cole says:

    I am always setting goals for myself and many of them are long term. I find that it’s easy to become overwhelmed if I don’t allow myself all the help available to me. I use an online tool to help with every stage of every goal. Before I found it I would achieve a small percentage of my goals and now I would describe myself as successful. That’s a pretty good considering the size of some of the goals I set. Keep up the good work!

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  36. Bernie_cole says:

    I set a lot of goals for myself. I used to accomplish less than half of them because I wasn’t approaching them in the right way. The goals I set weren’t always clear and I couldn’t keep track of everything. I found this online organizer a couple of months ago and it has made all the difference. I can now easily follow the plans I make, and the plans themselves are now clear. It’s awesome.

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  38. Athena Rock says:

    Excellent idea to create a goal prop. The fact that I’ve just heard of this for the first time might be the same for many others too. I feel this is why many New Year’s Resolutions simply fade away.

    It’s sad because that tends to cause a lot of stress on people as each new year comes. This then can compound into a greater burden as in perhaps eating more or eating badly, not exercising and generally deteriorating rather than improving our health.

    You mention “time” as our most precious commodity. I would like to add “health” to that list as well.

    It’s very important to manage stress overall so look now over here (http://HowtoRelieveStressEasily.com) for strategies you can use for handling stress,anxiety,panic attacks, phobias, depression and tips in your pursuit of happiness.

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  40. No doubt goals
    really help to measure progress. Long term goals really take discipline and
    passion to transform our previous mood to existence. We always try to achieve our goal on a definitive date. By being
    realistic or clearly define goals we can take pride on the achievement of our

  41. guest says:

    This didn’t help me my goals are not so motivational to achieve do the long term. I need something to motivate me to keep saving money for more financial independance. But what should a visual money because my goal isn’t to spend it but not depend on other for anything. The other goal is breaking the shoulder length plateau of hair which, just doesn’t seem to have any solution no matter how I improve my habits or the sound advice I have gotten. Looking at a picture of a girl with long hair just reminds me that I haven’t even gotten an inch closer literally to that goal. I just don’t have individuals that are great at supporting these goals. Especially with a mother and family saying that as far as your hair will grow.

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  44. This is pretty helpful, I don’t go jogging although i should but I have taken on board these points for other areas of my life.  Thanks for this.

  45.  Great stuff, I have been looking for something like this for a long time! Thanks!

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  47. Autumn the dancer says:

    Thanks this helped I am a dedicated dancer and I am having trouble with stretching regularly and you know us dancers need to stay bendy! Lol

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  55. help says:

    I have no problem sticking with things. For a few years. But then I lose interest, and become passionate about something else. I am constantly changing careers. It’s getting expensive due to university costs etc. Help!

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  59. Short Hair says:

    Good post about How to Stay Committed to Long Term Goals

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