How to Achieve any Goal

How to Achieve any Goal

Written by Professional Academy Management and Leadership Tutor, Kathryn Knights

What was the last goal you set yourself? Did you achieve it or did you lose momentum? Writing down your goals and relying on willpower alone isn’t enough to get you over the line, so what can you do to achieve success?

Why you can’t rely on willpower to reach a goal

According to the definition of willpower is: ‘control exerted to do something to restrain impulses'.

Psychologist Roy Baumeister’s chocolate-and-radish experiment (1998) set out to look more closely at self-control.

Subjects in a room were offered chocolate and radishes. Some were told they could have the chocolate while others were told they could only eat the radishes. All subjects were then asked to solve an impossible puzzle. The radish eaters gave up in half the time than the chocolate eaters because their willpower had been depleted.

According to Baumeister willpower operates like a muscle. It can be strengthened, but it can also be easily exhausted. Every choice you make throughout the day depletes your willpower. This is the reason why some successful people (Steve Jobs being a great example) wear the same set of clothes each day, because it stops your willpower reserves from depleting.

Taking this study, long with other research, into account it seems clear that willpower alone is not enough to help you reach a goal. This is where motivation comes in.

How motivation helps you achieve your goals

There are three key steps to achieving a goal. Most of us are good at the first two but struggle with the third:

1) Identify your goal

2) Write your goal down

3) Stay motivated Motivation trumps willpower.

Motivation can be defined as the reasons one has for behaving in a certain way. The key to motivation (and therefore achieving goals) is to do two things:

1) Increase your reasons for keeping going

2) Decrease your reasons to stop i.e. remove obstacles

Five ways to maintain your motivation

There will be times when your routine is broken through unexpected circumstances or general feelings of doubt. To achieve a goal you need to create a system and have a toolkit you can rely on to sustain your enthusiasm, even when the going gets tough.

1) Write down your ‘why’

Are you motivated by pain or pleasure? Focusing your ‘why’ on the pain that will be created by not taking action is more sustainable in the long term. So rather than writing down the positive outcome you want to achieve focus on the negatives.

2) Create a ritual

If you follow a daily ritual you will train yourself, in around four to six weeks, to carry it out without even thinking about it. All you need to do is set in place four elements. For example, if you want to lose weight through running you could establish the following ritual:

  • Trigger – a water bottle by your bedside table to brink first thing in the morning (something that starts the process)
  • Ritual – going for a run (the ritual itself)
  • Reward – a nice breakfast (something special to do after the ritual)
  • Tools – having a pair of trainers (the essential things needed to make the ritual work)

3) Don’t break the chain

A young comic once asked Jerry Seinfeld for advice on how to write comedy. Jerry suggested putting a chart on the wall and then placing a cross on each day that the comic took action and wrote. The challenge was to not break the chain. Do the same with your goals by taking action each day, logging it and not breaking the chain.

4) Get accountable

Have the right people in your life who can hold you accountable to your goals. If you want to write a book, start hanging around authors, if you want to get a promotion hang around with people who have already succeeded in getting themselves promoted. Learn from them and feed off their success.

5) Get a coach

You don’t have to employ a formal life coach. Simply identify an individual who can be your guide and help you work through problems.

If you need further advice, get in touch via LinkedIn.

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