Most of us set goals for our lives. Whether the goal is to climb Everest or to buy a pair of shoes, setting goals can sometimes seem like second nature to us. Even so, setting a goal doesn’t automatically mean getting the result. Sometimes goals are gradually forgotten about and fade away into the back of our minds.
Motivation is the biggest goal killer. When we first set a goal, whether it’s to earn double what we earn now or achieve world domination, there is usually a reason behind that goal. People don’t jump out of bed with a goal out of the blue. There is a source of inspiration, something that has sparked our imagination. We usually see something, or read about something that makes us want our lives to change. There is an initial spark and we’re hit with a flood of motivation, and can’t wait to get started on this goal.
After a few weeks or even days, our enthusiasm dies down, and that spark of inspiration becomes a memory. We know what the goal is, but we no longer have that passion burning inside us and our momentum grinds to a stop.
To achieve goals that take time, we need to stay motivated, and we need to keep the inspiration flowing. The goals need to be constantly in our minds. Unavoidable and present wherever we are. If we’re constantly reminded of our goals, they never go away. This constant reminder means that goals are always on our mind, and easier to achieve.
As with most things, it’s better to keep this process simple. These are five suggestions that I use. They’re easy to do and don’t take much time, but the effects are obvious once you do them.
I’m going to start with what I find to be the most effective method, and the rest of the list will be in descending order (so you get the best stuff first).
1. Create a “vision board” or “board of dreams”.
I found this method over at selfgrowth.com, and it always keeps me motivated. The idea is to get a notice board, and let your artistic side out. Create a shrine to what you want to achieve. Don’t just write a list. Stick up things that remind you of what it is that you want. Photos, gifts, memorabilia, letters, notes, pages from books. Anything that provides you with a reminder of that original inspiration. If you’re goal is to become wealthy, think of all the things that remind you of that goal. Houses, cars, yachts, people. The list is endless. Be creative: print a picture of the American Express Centurion card and stick that up until you can replace it with one of your own (you might have to phone American Express and say you lost your card to replace the one on the board). This board will engulf everything about your goal and show you all the reasons you want to achieve it.
Once done, stick it where you will see it most. I have mine facing my desk. Whenever I glance up from my monitor I see the board. When I’m feeling uninspired and ready to quit, a few minutes looking at my board, appreciating all the things that I want to achieve gives me that bit of inspiration needed to continue working.
2. Photos (everywhere)
Visual stimulation can be much more powerful than words. Seeing the words “Aston Martin Vanquish” doesn’t compare to seeing an Aston Martin Vanquish. Images are a source of great inspiration. A quick look at advertisements will show that the ones providing visual stimulation work better than the ones with only words. Seeing a sunset isn’t the same as reading about it, no matter how good the writer. Get photos of what you want to achieve and stick them everywhere you can. Pictures of the people that inspire you doing what they do best are great. Decorate your home with them, put them on your desktop background, put them on your cell phone background, have photos on your desk of things that represent your aims. The picture isn’t as important as the emotional connection to your goal that comes with it.
Steve Pavlina suggests using digital photo frames. Digital photo frames allow you to have a slide show of images. Seeing these images will reinforce your desires, and remind you what you’re working towards.
3. Leave notes (everywhere)
As well as the photos, have notes dotted around the place. Write notes that explain the photo you have chosen. A photo of a mansion with a pool with a note saying “I am going to buy this house” will further reinforce your goal. The more unavoidable and obvious your goals are, the easier it becomes to remember what you are working for. Notes can be left anywhere. I leave notes on my desk, by my bed, on the refrigerator door, in the bathroom (although they tend to get wet). Write on your spouse’s face when they’re asleep if you want to (okay, don’t. This isn’t a good idea…).
4. Your most used applications
What applications do you use most? The majority of applications that are used everyday will have some way of keeping a note, whether it was meant for that purpose or not. I’m an avid user of iGoogle and my iGoogle homepage displays my goals every time I log in. Microsoft Outlook can do the same. Firefox can (there are handy notes add-ons!). Even Windows can. Google’s Desktop sidebar lets you save notes so that they’re ready for you when you log in. Whatever application you use the most, have it remind you of your goals.
5. Tell people (but be selective)
Tell others about your goals. Tell the people that inspire you and will throw encouragement your way. The inspiring people in our lives will add to our momentum. Have a conversation about your goals often, don’t just tell other people and never mention them again. Remind others and talk about their goals as well as yours (don’t phone someone at 4am every morning to tell them about your goals, that doesn’t work either…). If your goals are well known and a regular talking point, you’ll never lose that inspiration.
Staying motivated past the original spark of inspiration is not easy. It can take discipline and a strong will to keep working towards a long term goal, but at the very least we can make things easier.
Remind yourself of the original moment you set your goal. The reasons you want to achieve that goal. The potential results of your hard work should be seen around your home or workplace.
Don’t stick to a list. Be creative, put effort into this and it will have a bigger impact on your life. Make a day of it and let the day become part of your memories. A day dedicated to decorating your house with reminders will stick with you longer than 10 minutes spent writing a list.
I’ve used all the methods above, and I find the vision board to be the most effective. Spending a few hours creating a collage of what I want to achieve helped the whole idea of the goal sink in, and I got to spend some time going through each aspect of the goal this way.
Hopefully with the above methods, you will find your goals become part of who you are, and you’ll find the journey to achieving them much easier.
Paul Dickinson is the author of SolopreneurProductivity.com, a blog designed for the sole purpose of providing productivity tips and tricks for solopreneurs! Follow me on Twitter: @pauldickinson