Is there something you’ve been wanting to do but you keep putting it off? Are there goals you’ve been wanting to accomplish but something keeps getting in the way? Maybe you’ve been wanting to get back in the gym or lose a few pounds. Maybe you’ve been thinking of going back to school to earn a degree. Maybe you’ve even thought of going out on your own and starting a business. You have all of these aspirations and yet something keeps stopping you.
One of the factors most likely stopping you is not your level of motivation but your brain. Here is what happens. Our brains naturally want to see the end product so we end up visualizing only the most daunting parts of attaining a goal. It’s hard to see how we will get from where we are to where we want to be. We start to focus only on the end result. For example, lets say you want to lose 20 pounds. Your brain will automatically think of how you will look being 20 pounds thinner. However, right now you may be living a sedentary lifestyle and not eating the healthiest of foods. The idea of being 20 pounds lighter seems unobtainable. Your brain will start to think of all of the work it will take to accomplish that goal. This may keep you from ever getting started. What if you could break through and finally start to get what you want out of life? You can! Here is a simple two-step approach.
The first step is to set small obtainable goals. Lets use our previous weight loss example to illustrate this. What if instead of focusing on the amount of work it will take to lose 20 pounds, you focus on the work necessary to lose just two pounds? Now this feels much more obtainable and less daunting. You will say to yourself, “I can definitely do that.” This will help to alleviate the overwhelming feeling of getting started. There are other benefits to setting small obtainable goals. What ends up happening is that your motivation starts to progressively increase as you reach each small goal, as will your confidence that you can actually get there.
The second step in this process is to take action. Just get started! Research shows that starting a project is one of the biggest barriers to productivity. The great thing is that we can use a little psychology to help us in this process. There is a mechanism in the brain that compels humans to accomplish a task they have already started. When we don’t finish a task we have started, we experience discomfort and negative thoughts about not completing it. Have you ever starting reading a book and halfway through you realize you are not even enjoying it but you keeping reading it anyway because you feel compelled to finish it. Harness this little mind trick and make the brain your ally.
Let’s look at this two-step approach if you were thinking about going back to school. Maybe the first small goal you set today is to go online and see what schools offer the degree you are seeking. That’s it, that’s goal number one, small and obtainable. Tomorrow your goal would be to take a look at the admission requirements. Set these small goals and by the end of the week you will have identified the necessary requirements, chosen a major, filled out your application and you are now ready to submit your documents. Just think about the feeling of accomplishment and confidence you would feel after just one week.
Let’s now apply this two-step method to starting your own business. Maybe your first small goal could be to sit down and begin writing a business plan. You don’t know what a business plan looks like; maybe goal number one is to look online at what a business plan looks like. Again, small and obtainable! Maybe goal number two is to create and design your business cards. This is actually a really fun process, can be done online for a very small price, and you can get them delivered right to your home. Imagine the feeling as you stand there looking at a business card with your name on it. You can then harness this feeling to propel you towards the next small goal.
The great thing about this method is that it can be used to obtain any goals, not just the ones described above. So if there is something out there you want to accomplish, you just need to do two things:
- Set some small obtainable goals.
- Just get started.
By creating small goals and getting started, you can begin to measure and take pride in your achievement. You will be able to see forward progress in what might previously have seemed a long and arduous grind. Goal setting not only allows you to experience a greater sense of accomplishment, it will also allow you to take control of your life’s direction.
Contributed by: Dr. Carlos Garcia