Tricks to motivate yourself to reach your goals

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 Tricks to motivate yourself to reach your goals

finish lineSometimes motivation needs to come from within. Reuters Pictures/Kim Kyung Hoon Motivation often comes from outside sources.

Maybe your boss has set a due date for a project report or your personal trainer is shouting at you while you power through push-ups.

But sometimes motivation needs to come from within. Your boss won’t always be hovering over you asking for status updates on your project report — you have to make the personal choice to work on it.

Because pushing yourself to work toward your goals is anything but easy, we checked out the Quora thread, “How can I motivate myself to work hard?” and rounded up the best advice.

Read on for the tips.

02

8 Creative Ways To Motivate Yourself To Reach Goals

“Self-pity is our worst enemy, and if we yield to it we can never do anything wise in this world” – Helen Keller

From the moment our kindergarten teachers asked us what we wanted to be when we grew up to the job interview question that asks us to envision where we see ourselves in five or ten years time, everyone seems to want to know what we’re doing (or hope to do) with our lives. Some of us have detailed road maps in our minds, with mile-markers for each goal: Obtain a college degree, land a dream career, start a family, visit Mars, achieve world domination—whatever. Others like the scenic route. We have a vague picture of someone in the distant future who looks like us and is doing amazing things, but they’re too far off in the distance for us to see just what those amazing things are. Whether you’ve had your entire life planned out since you were 5 yrs old or are just winging it, we all need a jump start from time to time to keep us moving in the right direction—or any direction. Here are eight creative ways to motivate yourself to reach your goals.

1. Sing to yourself

Seriously. Like laughter, sunshine, and fresh air; singing elevates our moods and increases our well being. It can even be a useful group exercise to enhance collaboration in the workplace. Read more about it here. Studies have shown that singing triggers a release of endorphins, which are the body’s natural way of chemically relieving pain and stress. When we’re happier, we get more done. This might be why Snow White likes to whistle while she works.

2. Visualize your success

According to Dr. Frank Niles, visualizationis a simple but useful motivational technique because when you form a picture of succeeding in your mind, you begin to see the possibility of reaching your goal. When I was working on my dissertation in graduate school, there were days when meeting the daily writing goal I’d set for myself seemed insurmountable, let alone finishing the entire book-length project that sat in my stomach like a baby with an unknown due date. When I began to feel overwhelmed, I’d often visualize the moment of achievement, walking across the stage, receiving my degree, finally earning those three letters at the end of my name that I’d poured so much blood, sweat, tears, and vodka into. Six years and quite a few drinks later, I managed it.

3. Speak about achieving your goals in definitive, positive terms

Instead of saying, “if I get married,” “if I get that raise,” “if I quit smoking,” say “when I get married,” “when I get that raise,” “when I quit smoking.” This shifts your focus from possibility to actuality. Spiritual teacher and best-selling author Dr. Wayne Dyer has written and spoken extensively about the “I Am” discourse, which is a form of positive thinking that takes its name from Judeo-Christian Scripture but is portable in any walk of life. Dyer tells us humorously that God didn’t introduce himself to Moses as “I will be,” or “My name is I hope things will work out.” No. He said simply “I am.” Using this affirmative vocabulary in our own lives, argues Dr. Dyer, can help us to visualize our goals and keep our eye on the prize.

4. Use sticker charts

We all remember the thrill of achievement when we rushed home from school to show our parents the shiny gold star we’d received on our homework assignments in school. Who’s to say this positive reinforcement can’t work for adults too? Draw up a chart of your goals, with various benchmarks. Each time you achieve a benchmark, give yourself a gold star, or a smiley face, or a googly-eyed cat. Whatever gives you a sense of accomplishment. This ties into the visualization technique as well, because charting the trajectory of completion gives you verifiable proof that you’re making progress.

5. Keep a goal diary

Like creating a chart with eye-catching visuals, writing down your goals and reflecting regularly on their progress helps you to both focus on the desired outcome and holds you accountable. In 1979, a study conducted in the Harvard MBA program asked students if they had goals and if they’d written down those goals. 3% had written down their goals, 13% had goals but hadn’t written them down, and 84% had no clearly defined goals. Ten years later, the study revealed that the 3% who had written down their goals were the most financially successful. While financial stability is only one quantifiable way to measure success, the study still points to a link between clearly defining one’s goals and achieving them.

6. Find a “study buddy”

While this can be a useful way to motivate students to complete homework, it can also work well for anyone who has a hard time settling down to work. I used to notice that I graded papers much more efficiently when my boyfriend was sitting in the other room doing the same thing. While this might not work for everyone, I’ve always found that glancing up now and then to make a comment about something I’ve read does more than allow for a break in the action. The other person becomes a sounding board to bounce my ideas off of. Even Sherlock Holmes relied on Watson’s insights to solve his cases.

7. Keep a corkboard in your workspace or someplace visible, with empowering quotations

Personally, I find Yoda a great inspiration. It’s hard to quit anything when you’ve got “do or do not. There is no try” staring you in the face. Turn to your favorite books and movies, or your role-models. Pick your favorite inspirational quotes and keep them close to remind you that you can do whatever you set your mind to.

8. Daydream

It might sound counter-intuitive, but I’m going somewhere with this. You probably remember being told off in Biology class for staring into the fathomless blue eyes of your lab partner instead of concentrating on the frog you were supposed to be dissecting. However, according to Margrit Tarpalaru, there’s a way to procrastinate “consciously, creatively, and, most importantly, guiltlessly.” Tarpalaru, a teacher who uses this technique to plow through grading, refers to it as the “micro-break,”which many of us probably think of as that reflexive urge to check Facebook for five minutes, only to look up twenty minutes later and wonder how we got sucked into the social media vortex. Instead, Tarpalaru suggests techniques like a quick daydream. Glance up from the computer screen and spend a few minutes thinking about all of the glorious things that await you once you’ve gotten through the day, or the week: biking with your partner, having drinks with friends, the summer cruise you’re planning. Like the other visualization techniques we’ve talked about, this practice keeps your eye on the prize, and it’s a conscious form of procrastination because you can’t have that drink, or board that cruise ship unless you meet that deadline, which inevitably forces your mind back on work.

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How do you motivate yourself? Can you think of any other useful tips? Share your thoughts in the comments!

03

The Get Off Your Ass Manifesto: How to Motivate Yourself to Actually Achieve Your Goals

Starting something new is hard. It can even be a little terrifying. Maybe you don’t know where to start, or maybe you’re scared of failure. But the only way you’ll ever get anything done is if you just get up and do it. Here’s how to conquer those fears, get off your ass, and actually achieve those goals.

We all have unfinished projects, and a lack of motivation is one of the biggest reasons we don’t accomplish them. Maybe it’s that book you’ve been planning on starting for National Novel Writing Month, maybe it’s the new job you always find excuses not to search for, or maybe it’s the abundance of artistic talent you waste sitting on the couch watching a Netflix marathon. These things are all daunting at first, and they’re easy to continually put off in favor of keeping the status quo. But as Mythbusters host Adam Savage points out, when we set our minds to something, we all go through the same process:

Article preview thumbnailHow Can I Recharge My Depleted Motivation?Dear Lifehacker, Lately I’ve been completely unmotivated to do anything. Getting things done…

Read more Read(1) I don’t know how, (2) I can’t afford to pay someone else to do it, (3) I have to do it, (4) hey, that wasn’t so hard!

Getting off your ass and getting things done is not easy-nor will it ever be-but it doesn’t have to be hard. If you have the right plan and attitude, you’ll be a lot more likely to succeed. In fact, getting off your ass and doing something is incredibly easy and only requires a few steps:

  • Find your goal: You don’t even have to do anything-just sit and think about what you want to do.
  • Research: The more research you do, the easier the task in front of you is going to be. Heck, you can do anything if all it takes is following directions.
  • Set deadlines and stick to them: Setting deadlines is easy, just pick a date. Keeping yourself to them is a bit harder, but you can work a rewards system into it to keep you on track.
  • Give yourself the time to work: At least 15 minutes a day. That’s easy, right?
  • Start: Seriously, all you have to do is start into it-if you enjoy what you’re doing, you’ll keep it up.

The whole process of getting off your ass and motivating yourself really is that easy. But if you’re struggling with it, lets take a look at some of the tricks you can use to keep yourself going.

Find Your One Goal and Write Your ManifestoIt seems simple, but if you’re in a rut and don’t know what to do, it’s important to figure that out first. Start with a single, concrete goal. If you have trouble focusing your goals, the hierarchy of goals can help. Don’t go overboard, either-you’re more likely to accomplish goals when you stick to just one. So, pick the one thing you’ve been wanting to do for a long time-that novel, the new job, or that art project-and just think about it for a while. Creativity site 99U calls this your “thinking” time. Don’t act yet, just think:

Article preview thumbnailFocus Your Ambitions with the Lifehacker Hierarchy of GoalsSetting goals is easy, but prioritizing them is hard. Humans suck at properly weighing what we need …

Read more ReadIt is no coincidence that the motivation to think and the motivation to act seem to strike us at different times. Research by psychologists Arie Kruglanski, Tory Higgins, and their colleagues suggests that we have two complementary motivational systems: the “thinking” system and the “doing” system-and we’re generally only capable of using one at a time.

This is where the manifesto comes into play. When you’re thinking about what you want to do, write out a manifesto that describes your goals. A personal manifesto might sound over the top, but it’s a great way to get your goals and motivations in check while pumping yourself up enough to get started. The entire point is to declare your principles and create a call to action-in this case, that call is to yourself. The Art of Manliness suggests you pick your topic, set down your principles, and use affirmitive language in your manifesto:

I didn’t use phrases like “I want to exhibit strength and control…” I used the more powerful “I WILL exhibit strength and control…” This may seem minor, but if you use active language, you’ll take it much more seriously. You may wish to punch up the language even further, by using the present tense: “I exhibit strength and control.”

Your personal manifesto should concentrate on your goal-the one thing you’d do right now if you knew how to do it. Don’t think about the “how” yet, concentrate on the “why” and the “what.” Don’t worry about length, and don’t worry about grammar. This isn’t a document for the world. It’s for you to figure out what it is that’s driving you to get off your butt and start something.

When you’re figuring out your goal, think small, and don’t start doing anything until you have an idea of where you want to end up. Once you’ve got an end goal, it’s time to figure out what you need to get there. Photo by lululemon athletica.

Research What You’ll NeedDropping into a project or goal without research is a recipe for disaster. But it’s also important that you don’t overdo the research and talk yourself out of starting something. Figure out what you need to get started and get to it.

Of course, what you’ll need depends on what you’re working toward. Books are always great for things like home improvement and DIY, as is YouTube. For computer based skills, our Night School guides will get you started on a ton of different projects.

Article preview thumbnailHow to DIY When You Don’t Know Where to StartDon’t go grabbing that crowbar and sledgehammer just yet. You must learn the DIY basics before …

Read more ReadFor more ambiguous projects-say, that graphic novel idea you’ve been sitting on for years-it’s not a bad idea to hunt down forums or dig through Reddit’s creative subreddits to find like-minded people to ask for help. Photo by: Nadina Helen Bakos.

Set Deadlines and Stick To ThemDeadlines and goals are one of the best ways to keep yourself on track regardless of what you’re aiming for. When you tell yourself, “I will finish this by [date]” it not only gives you the deadline, it gives you something concrete to work toward.

If you’re struggling to meet that deadline-or you just can’t seem to take a self-induced deadline seriously-you might need to try a few different things. One of the best ways to meet deadlines is to tell your friends or family, or if you have to, do the whole project in the public’s eye. It’s also good to work in a reward if you meet the deadline so you can celebrate when you’re finished.

Article preview thumbnailUse Relatives/Spouses to Give Yourself Firmer DeadlinesBeing a procrastinator isn’t a job-destroying trait—unless you’re unable to actually…

Read more ReadYou have to figure out a way to make your own arbitrary deadlines work for you. It’s easy to talk yourself into delaying your own deadline just like you would to a pushover boss-but try not to, and stick with your plan. Remember: progress is a better motivator than money. Photo by Dafne Cholet.

Article preview thumbnailStick to Self-Assigned DeadlinesWhether you’ve set personal goals for the new year or you’re self-employed, sticking to…

Read more Read Give Yourself the Time to FocusWork on your project every single day, regardless of how much time you can dedicate to it. This is one of those instances where Jerry Seinfeld’s advice to not break the chain of work is really helpful: make a calendar on your wall and give yourself a check mark every day you work on your project. It’ll keep you motivated to continue.

Article preview thumbnailHow Seinfeld’s Productivity Secret Fixed My Procrastination ProblemI’ve long been overwhelmed by an unwieldy list of goals that would sit, unaccomplished, in a…

Read more ReadThe easiest way to stop a project before it even starts is to claim that you “don’t have enough time” to dedicate to it. But in reality you don’t need as much time as you think. Writer Mark Frauenfelder suggests even 15 minutes a day is enough:

Article preview thumbnailDedicate 15 Minutes a Day to DIY ProjectsDIY projects are time-consuming and more often than not, it’s easier to just go out and buy…

Read more ReadWhat if I gave myself 15 minutes a day to get away from the computer and work on a project? And I think almost anybody can give himself 15 minutes a day. But it really adds up and after a month or so, that’s a considerable amount of hours that you’ve been able to devote making things.

15 minutes, of course, isn’t much time. If you can afford more time, do it. One way to find that time is to program your schedule in a way where you’re forcing yourself to work on your goals every day. Depending on what type of project you’re working on, remember that your body has optimal times of the day where it’s better at certain tasks than others. For instance, if you’re working on that NaNoWriMo book, you’re probably better suited to do so at the beginning of the day. Photo by Lisa Yarost.

Article preview thumbnailProgram Your Day to Defeat Distractions and Stick to Your Daily RoutineWe live in an age where a thousand things vie for our attention, to the point that sometimes, basic …

Read more Read Just Start WorkingWhen it boils down to it, no amount of preparation is going to do you any good unless you sit down and get to work. We’ve talked about this before, and it still holds true: getting started is everything. Give yourself 10 or 15 minutes every day to work on your goals or projects, and start doing it no matter what. If it’s not clicking after those 15 minutes of minimum activity, you can walk away knowing you at least accomplished something. Chances are, though, you’ll actually make some significant headway, and once you’ve started, you’ll be shocked to find how quickly that time adds up. Before you know it, you’ll have actually gotten something worthwhile done. Photo by Chris Thomson.

Article preview thumbnailGetting Started Is EverythingNothing’s better than sinking your teeth into a satisfying after-hours side project—or what I…

Read more ReadTitle image remixed from: Leremy (Shutterstock).

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