I know how hard it can be to stay motivated day after day (year after year). Everyone struggles with this (including me!). But persistence does indeed pay off! Take a look at these famous examples:
- It took Thomas Edison 1,000 tries before he successfully created a carbon-filament incandescent electric light bulb.
- Fred Smith, the founder of Federal Express, received a C on his college paper detailing his idea for a reliable overnight delivery service. His professor at Yale told him, “The concept is interesting and well formed, but in order to earn better than a C grade, your ideas also have to be feasible.”
- Twelve publishers rejected J.K. Rowling’s first book until a small British publishing house in London, England, picked up Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.
One thousand tries? Twelve publishers? Seriously? I have the patience of a gnat, so I am tremendously impressed by this type of fortitude. That said, I also believe that no worthwhile goal is easy to accomplish. So how do we dust off our goals and make progress on them?
1. Drown out the noise and focus on what’s important.
It’s so easy to get caught up in the everyday tasks of life that an entire month can go by before you even realize it. And then—lo and behold!—half the year is already gone.
Write down your top two goals to accomplish by year’s end and why it’s critical to get them done. If you can’t explain a goal’s importance, strike it off the list and replace it with a different one.
ACTION: Look at your list of top two goals every morning and remind yourself why it’s important to get them done this year.
2. Break each goal into smaller, more manageable chunks.
Committing to “one major accomplishment or change” can be a recipe for disaster because it leaves you constantly falling short of your target. Setting daily or weekly milestones feeds into our “instant gratification” culture, and marking your progress this way can keep you motivated day after day.
ACTION: Identify (and meet) the small milestones on the way to accomplishing your overarching goal.
3. Write down your goals and post them everywhere.
We all know from experience how easy it is to get caught up in day-to-day life and let resolutions fall by the wayside. Putting something in writing makes it more concrete than just letting it float around in your head (among all the other clutter of life).
So write down your goals, then keep them in front of you constantly. Post them in your home, at your work space, and wherever else you will see them regularly. Carry your list of goals in your wallet and save a copy of it on each electronic device you use (perhaps as your screen saver!).
ACTION: Write down your goals and post them everywhere you regularly look.
4. Identify someone who can hold you accountable.
In my own experience, if I’m the only one who knows my goals, I’m much easier on myself when those goals keep getting delayed. So I understand the value of having someone else check up on me!
Find a mentor or confidant who’s invested in your success—someone whose input you value and trust. Set a timeframe for hitting major milestones toward your goal, then share the schedule with this person.
Every other week, check in with him or her and review how you’re doing at reaching your milestones. If you’ve experienced delays, are there “good” reasons behind them, or was it the noise of everyday life getting in the way? (If it’s the latter, figure out how to shut out the noise so you can focus on one task a day that will take you closer to your goals.)
ACTION: Share your schedule with a mentor or confidant and ask him or her to hold you accountable to it.
5. Take action every day toward accomplishing your goals.
It’s so easy to convince yourself that you’ll start on your goals “tomorrow.” But what happens? The next day you push it off to “tomorrow” again, and so forth. Convince yourself that today is the day—no exceptions.
Each morning when you review your list of top two goals, determine one action for each one that you will do today to get you a little closer to reaching that goal.
ACTION: No matter how big or small, take one action every day that gets you closer to your goal.
6. No more excuses—make it happen!
As the great inventor George Washington Carver famously declared, “Ninety-nine percent of the failures come from people who have the habit of making excuses.” Considering his incredibly output of inventions, patents, and agricultural research bulletins, I think it’s safe to say that he definitely made no excuses but kept his eye on his goals.
Or as Jordan Belfort, the nasty title character from The Wolf of Wall Street so eloquently put it, “The only thing standing between you and your goal is the bullshit story you keep telling yourself as to why you can’t achieve it.”
ACTION: Stop the excuses and make it happen!