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.