The biggest obstacle to you achieving your goals is, I’m afraid, you.
Whether it’s lack of motivation, fear of failure, procrastinitis or pure laziness, we often get in the way of our own progress and self-development.
But even with those goals in place, it can still be an almighty struggle to keep motivated and knuckle down, especially when the going gets tough.
But there are some simple techniques and tricks you can employ to overcome the barriers you put in the way of your own success.
1. Tell other people what you’re trying to achieve
By sharing your goals with others you’ll get more support for your efforts and you’ll be more motivated to succeed so as not to lose face.
2. Beat procrastination
You may have set yourself a goal but it can be really difficult getting started. But there is a really simple technique to beating procrastination.
Research by a Russian psychologist in the 1920s showed that people remember uncompleted or interrupted tasks better than completed tasks – known as the Zeigarnik effect.
What this means is that if a task is left unfinished your brain keeps on thinking about it.
This phenomenon can be put to good use if you’re facing a complex task that feels a bit mammoth or scary. Just do a little bit of work on it. Pick an element of the overall task that’s easy and spend five minutes on it. Then stop. Your brain will continue to think about it and, in effect, demand that you get on and finish it.
I find this technique works well if I start a difficult report I need to write at the end of the day. The next morning I’m always keen to crack on with it!
3. Employ double-think
Contrary to popular belief, dreaming about our desired future does not help us achieve it. In fact, recent research by Gabriele Oettingen showed that it can result in complacency and a lack of motivation.
Instead, she recommends mental contrasting – or what Prof. Richard Wiseman (59 Seconds) calls doublethink.
Think about what obstacles and challenges are in the way of you achieving your goals. This helps you to be more realistic about your goals and to develop ways to tackle those challenges – giving you an increased chance of success.
For example in the case of achieving a promotion, you might consider – “well, I want to get to a Functional Manager role. It could take me a long time to work my way up and I might get disheartened at the pace of progress. How will I tackle that? Could I think about what additional responsibilities I could take on that will help me towards that overall goal and mean I get a sense of achievement as I go along?”
4. Focus on performance rather than outcomes
Think about your behaviour and how you perform (those things you can influence) rather than dwelling on outcomes (which you can’t), advises Ben Hunt-Davis (Olympic gold-medal-winning rower).
For example, perhaps a client meeting didn’t go the way you wanted it to. Instead of worrying about the outcome – which might have been done to a number of factors outside your control, focus on how you behaved in that meeting – what was good, what could be improved and how can you build on that?
5. Create an evidence wall to help you believe
It’s not enough to have a plan, you need to have belief too. Ben’s Olympic team had a big whiteboard on their wall where they recorded what was working and why it worked. Seeing it everyday helped to build the belief that they could win.
Another, similar, technique to help you maintain your commitment to your goals is through a ‘dreamboard.’
A friend of mine – Jay Allen from True North advocates the use of ‘dreamboards’ – a collection of images or photos displayed prominently that represent what you want to achieve in your life in the next year.
For instance, I want to spend more time with my family this year (linked to a work-life balance goal I set!) – so I’ve put a photo of me on a day out with my family on my dreamboard. It’s a visual motivator that keeps me focused on my goals.
What techniques have you tried to help you achieve your goals? Have they helped? Please share your experiences.
If you missed the related article on setting your goals – read it here.