For me, setting a goal or resolution feels amazingly productive, even though I’m not actually accomplishing that goal. It’s because staying on track signifies success, and intending to do something is the first step down that path. But walking the talk and reaching your goal is seldom easy. In a world full of distractions—texts, social media, online shopping, etc.—focusing on one task seems impossible and stressful. If you’re looking for ways to stay motivated and achieve your goals, here are some tips that’ll help.
1. Analyze Your Initial Goal(s)
Start motivating yourself by making your plan specific, measurable, and realistic. By making your goals specific and measurable, you add value to your goal, and can actually see progress, which inspires you to keep going. For example, if your initial goal was to study more, you could make it more specific by tweaking it to something like, “my goal is to study more on Wednesdays in the library.” You could make this more measurable by logging study hours into a journal or app that can track your behavior. This will keep you accountable, too.
Your goals should also be realistic, in that you’re taking a baby step from the stage you’re at right now. Taking a big step too quickly can frustrate you, or make you so involved in your goal that you ignore other important areas of your life. With this being said, make sure you give yourself time to achieve your goals—nothing happens overnight. If you’re trying to build a habit, plan on giving yourself a while.
2. Make a Plan
Okay, now you’ve got your goal. How do you get there? First, don’t just plan for your goal. Plan for the roadblocks that’ll come up too. Say you’re trying to break a bad habit. Think: what causes it and what is your normal routine? Why do you currently follow that routine? How can you combat it? Take this example:
Bad habit: I spend too much time on my phone.
What causes it: I feel lonely.
Normal routine: I spend hours on Instagram.
Reward of the normal routine: I feel connected.
Way to break the habit: Spend time with actual people, IRL.
By figuring out what causes the bad habit and why you follow your normal routine, you can come up with a solution that will give you a similar reward but without the bad habit. Breaking down your goal like this also pushes you to make progress, even if it’s small. The reward you set for yourself reinforces the routine and makes you want to do it. Just make sure to plan for the hurdles.
3. Stop Making and Justifying Excuses
No matter how hard you plan, change is hard. Set your plan, but make it flexible for when life gets in the way. If you slip up and revert to your old ways while trying to achieve your goals, don’t stress. Focus back on your plan instead, and just keep moving on. If you get anxious and blame yourself instead, you’ll end up disappointed and stray from your goal. Instead, look at the mistake as a learning opportunity and succeed better next time.
Fantasize your goal, but keep it realistic. It sounds silly, but if you think only about your ideal outcome, that thinking is enough to put your mind at ease and keep you from achieving your goal. Imagine your goal, but don’t forget to also visualize your personal setbacks and your plan. Adding this to your positive thinking breathes life into your goal and gives you the energy and realistic inspiration you need.
4. Find a Community
You don’t have to find a huge group, even one or two friends will do. They’ll hold you accountable, keep you motivated, and help you achieve your goals. They want you to succeed and will help you when times are tough. If it helps, you can even post about your goal on social media. It’ll provide you with a community that can track your progress and keeps you uplifted. If you think you’ll obsess over views, likes, or how people on social media think of you, maybe sit this step out.
You should also consider reaching out to other people who are reaching for the same goal, even if you don’t know them. You can find online support groups, forums, and real-life communities in a single Google search related to your goal. These groups help a lot with social reinforcement and provide you with good examples of people who have achieved your goals.
With this being said, make sure that you cut back on bad influences. They can hold you back or make you feel inadequate for setting your goal. You’re trying to achieve your goal, not get emotional about it. If a person feels that your goal is removing them from your life, try explaining why you set the goal in the first place.
If you’re still feeling unmotivated, or missed your goal, it’s okay. Be kind to yourself and start again. You can start now, tomorrow, or next week. Remind yourself why you set the goal and think about the big picture. You can do it!
What keeps helps you achieve your goals? Let us know in the comments!
Opening image by community member Hannah Bertolino.