When we set ourselves a goal, we usually do so in a flush of enthusiasm and optimism. It can be a New Year’s resolution to get that beach body for the summer holidays, or a determination to finally achieve that long-held career ambition.
But, a few months later, we’re guiltily brushing cookie crumbs from our still too-tight pants, or still in the same workplace rut that we vowed to escape from years ago. How did that motivation and self-discipline evaporate so quickly?
When you set yourself goals, you need a robust plan of action and a realistic timetable to give you the best chance of achieving them. A popular and powerful framework to help you to do this is to set SMART Goals. In a nutshell, your goals need to be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time bound, and you need to know what common goal setting mistakes to avoid.
If your dreams are particularly ambitious, you probably know that making them come true will likely be a long-haul journey. So, how do you stay the course when times get tough and those goals look as distant as ever?
We threw that question out to you, our friends and followers on social media. We asked, “How do you stay motivated when pursuing long-term goals?”
The majority of your replies fit that old management scenario, “How do you eat an elephant? Answer: one bite at a time.” Here is a selection of your top tips:
Adaobi Olasunmade, an HR specialist from Abuja, Nigeria, advocated breaking down a major goal into smaller, shorter-term targets. She said, “Create short term goals leading to the long term one. When climbing a ladder, getting to the top of it is our long term goal, but we need to take several steps that will lead us to the top.”
Adaobi’s advice was echoed by fellow Facebook friend Mike Roberts, from Ontario, Canada. He said, “I’ll have micro goals that I can achieve almost instantly, like cleaning the bathroom as part of decluttering my house, or doing an extra few reps at the gym as part of my goal of coming in first at a dragon boat festival in a month.”
Rachel Cox, a managing director from the north of Scotland, suggested another popular method of staying motivated: rewarding yourself for passing each milestone. She said, “I create a long term plan with short term milestones or steps. I believe that times of reflection are really important in this and celebrate each step and small achievements when I am working towards a long term goal.”
Gloria Eloji, another HR consultant from Nigeria, responded on LinkedIn. She said, “Always see the picture of the future represented as your long term goals, that will motivate you to follow through your goals with necessary actions. Secondly, pluck the low hanging fruits and celebrate the little successes.”
As always when we ask you for your thoughts and comments on a subject, Twitter users respond with plenty of excellent bite-sized #mindtoolstips. Here are few of them:
- @HeathAnneF: “It’s so hard! I guess understanding why you want to achieve the goal? The ‘Why’ is an important part!”
- @Dwyka_Consult: “By focusing on what I need to do TODAY to reach that big, hairy, audacious goal.”
- @ChloeWooles: “Break them down into smaller goals and celebrate successes along the way.”
- @JoeDonRoss: “Look at them every single day and take one step (even a small one) towards them.”
- @Globallioness: “I write them down and post them where I can see them.”
- @OrganicLeaderVB: “I stay motivated with mini-celebrations of short term victories that pave the way to long-term goal.”
- @carenfeldman: “Ways to persist on a long-term goal: find meaning, stay optimistic, make it a habit, and find purpose.”
Thank you to everyone who responded. And if you’d like to share your opinion, or respond to any of the suggestions you’ve read, you can do so, below.