Most of us have no trouble setting goals. We like the idea of making more money. We want to lose weight. We want to finish that home improvement project we started a year ago.
But the problem is staying committed to those goals. We want to make more money, but we don’t invest in our education or ask for a raise at work. We want to lose weight, but we eat fast food every day and only exercise occasionally. We want to finish that home improvement project, but there’s always something good on TV to watch instead.
How can you stick to your goals more consistently and get the results you want?
Set More Realistic Goals
First, consider setting more realistic goals. It’s easy to become discouraged if you’re too ambitious from the outset. For example, if you want to lose 100 pounds in a month and you only lose 2 pounds in the first week, you’ll instantly want to give up. Losing 10-20 pounds in a month is a much more reasonable goal – and something you can easily achieve.
That said, you still need to make your goals challenging. Otherwise, they won’t inspire you and you won’t make much progress. It’s a delicate balance to strike.
Break Big Goals Into Smaller Goals
Looking at a big goal when you haven’t made much progress can be intimidating. For example, if you’re an aspiring novelist, you might have a goal to write a 50,000-word novel over the course of a year. When it takes you an hour to write 500 words, it’s only natural to feel like this is an impossible task.
Everything seems much more achievable and realistic when you break those big goals into smaller goals. Instead of writing a 50,000-word novel in a year, focus on writing 1,000 words per week, or 150 words every day. Not every goal will be this easy to quantify, but you should be able to break it down somehow regardless.
Use a Calendar to Stay Organized
A physical calendar can make it easier for you to stay organized – and be a powerful visual motivator as well. You can print your own calendar for the job, customizing it to look however you want. From there, you can write down important dates and deadlines for your goals. You can keep track of your progress each day. And you can jot down reminders of important things to accomplish each week or each month.
Create a Daily Habit
Sometimes, you forget about your goal. You forget that there was something you were trying to accomplish. Sometimes, you have to choose whether to work toward your goal and do something easy – so you choose doing something easy instead.
Both these alternatives can be overcome if you turn your goal into a daily habit. For example, if you exercise every single morning for 20 minutes, right after you wake up, it will eventually become so ingrained in your routine that you can’t forget it and you won’t be tempted to do anything else. The trick is to commit to doing it every day, preferably at the same time and for the same amount of time. Once established, it will be very difficult to break.
Involve Other People for Accountability
If you struggle with personal accountability, consider involving other people in your goal somehow. Instead of going to the gym alone, go with a friend; you’ll find it much harder to break your arrangement with another person than to skip the gym by yourself.
You can also increase your accountability just by telling other people about your goal (assuming you value their opinion). After disclosing your targets and desires, you’ll be motivated to follow up with them to share your progress – but only if you keep working hard.
Set Rewards for Yourself
It’s also a good idea to set rewards for yourself along the way. For example, consider going on vacation or splurging on a luxury item when you achieve your top-level goal. And you can reward yourself with small treats along the way when achieving smaller goals.
Measure Your Progress (and Remind Yourself How Far You’ve Come)
Don’t forget to measure your progress and remind yourself how far you’ve come. If you’re trying to accumulate $1 million in net worth, $200,000 may not seem like much – but that’s a lot further along than you were with $1,000 in the bank. It’s important to see the real impact that your decisions are having on your life.
Even with these strategies, remaining committed to your goals will be hard – especially if you’re doing something out of character or if you’re trying to achieve something especially ambitious. Keep fighting for what you want and trying out new tactics to see more consistent results.