It’s the same thing every year – you want to get in shape, start eating better, stop smoking or finally finish that project you’ve been talking about for ages. And, most of the time, you’re lucky if you make it to the end of February before it all falls apart.
The book “Stick with it” by Sean Young provides advice on how to resolve not to let this happen again. We all have certain habits and tendencies that are at odds with our best intentions. The good news is, we’ve made some major progress lately in terms of understanding the way our mind works, and how we can trick ourselves into doing what we’d really like to do.
No matter how big your goal is, try to remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day. Indeed, the first tip for achieving your goals is to know that your mind will respond better to small steps than to giant leaps.
Just consider a 2012 study that followed the progress of 126 overweight women who were trying to lose weight. The researchers found that those who focused on short-term goals, like sticking to low-calorie food every day, were more likely to lose weight. Not only that, but those who focused on hitting long-term goals, like losin that, but those who focused on hitting long-term goals, like losing a certain amount of weight by the end of the month, actually gained weight.
Short-term goals are effective because they take advantage of the way your mind works. For instance, the pleasure we feel when earning a reward is associated with the dopamine our brain releases when we anticipate that reward. Just the thought of being able to check off a meaningful goal is treated like a reward in your brain. Therefore, it’s more pleasurable and motivating to and thus earn these consistent rewards, than it is to aim for some distant, future goal.
So, when you’re setting up a new target for yourself, think about how you can break this broader task into three smaller categories: steps, goals and dreams. Steps contain small tasks that take two days or less to complete. If your goal is to learn a new language, this might entail signing up for a course or buying a workbook.
Goals should contain both the short-term and long-term objectives. The short-term goals, which should take around a week to complete, should add up to complete the long-term ones that take around a month to complete.
Lastly, dreams are ultimate goals that will take three months or longer to complete. So, If your dream is to write a book, the steps might be to write one page a day, the short-term goal might be to write 2000 words a week, and the long-term goals might be finishing a chapter every month.
So if the first stride toward reaching your goal is breaking down your dream into the right steps, the second can be to find external support. That’s why the next tip is all about giving yourself a solid support system. In fact, a great way to increase your chances of success is to surround yourself with people who have like-minded goals.
Organizations such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Weight Watchers and CrossFit are excellent examples of the great results that can come about when people join forces to achieve common goals. And it’s all due to the amazing potential for change that is created when people support one another.
As a matter of fact, there’s a specific kind of power that comes from such organizations, and it’s called the social magnet. This refers to the magnetic pull that a community can have on individuals, making them less likely to splinter off and abandon the shared goal. Plus, communities usually offer a safe space for people to confront problems they may be otherwise hesitant to deal with.
This community doesn’t have to be a physical one, either. For example, the author helped a team of researchers create HOPE, an online forum for men at risk of contracting HIV. HOPE allowed people to join anonymously, which made them feel more comfortable sharing experiences and not worry about the unfortunate social stigma that can still accompany homosexuality. There were also online mentors on HOPE who would encourage members to express their concerns and whatever challenges they were facing.
Statistics showed that those who joined HOPE were twice as likely as non members to get tested for HIV. The member retention numbers looked good as well: after 15 months, 82 percent were still active in the online community.
HOPE, along with similar communities and support groups, addresses a basic human need to feel encouraged, empowered and trusted. So, if you’re feeling helpless, or if you just need a push in the right direction, chances are there’s a community of like-minded individuals who would be happy to offer their support. So lean on your friends and family a little.
Check out my related post: How to break a bad habit?