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Start, then finish (DW#320)

While some of us have a hard time starting things, there are others of us who are "chronic starters". We are high achievers, we aim high and we always have a ton of projects on the go.

Finishing those projects, or completing those goals, however, is another story (again, don’t ask how I know this . . . ). Perfectionism greets us along the way and uses every tactic under the sun to block us from getting to the finish line.

I just finished reading a great book by Jon Acuff: Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done. It is full of practical ideas on beating perfectionism and completing projects. And it is SUPER FUNNY (was laughing out aloud throughout J )

Here are the three things that I am working on, inspired by this book, to get to the finish line:

Cut your goals in half
This sounds contrary to what we have been talking about, but it is not. We tend to overestimate what we can do in a given amount of time (in the future, that is, not in the present). We always think we will have...

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Get in motion (DW#319)

Do you remember Newton’s First Law of Motion?

"An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by some outside force."

This is also known as the law of inertia or the law of momentum.

How does it apply to us with regards to goal setting?

Well, some of us have a hard time getting started towards our goals. We have a case of ‘paralysis by analysis’. We think and think and think and think without taking any action. We plan and think of obstacles and do ALL of that.

And we get the booby prize for goal setting. The prize for knowing the most theory and having the most knowledge (please do not ask me how I know this)

There is however, no actual change in our lives. Oooops!

Life, in turns out, only rewards actual effort. And movement.

Here’s the good news though. Once we take that first step, we are in action and then Newton’s law kicks in. The moment we take a little bit...

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Dream big – then get real! (DW#318)

It is important to dream big and visualize success when we are setting goals.

There is, however, a potential downfall of such dreaming.

The mind is a strange and powerful thing. When we continue to dream about achieving our goals, we begin to feel good, right? Well, this tricks the brain into believing that we have already achieved the goal!! In essence, feeling good about our progress can make us reduce our effort.

So what should we do instead?

WOOP your goal.

Gabrielle Oettingen is a world-class researcher who has spent her career studying the science of making your dreams come to life.

In her book Rethinking Positive Thinking, she explains that although it’s very important to start with a vision of our ideal lives, it is not enough. In order to keep moving forward, we then need to "rub the vision up against reality."

Here is her WOOP formula:

W is for Wish
O is for Outcome (or benefits—the "why")
O is for Obstacles
P is for Plan

Start with the Wish. What do you want in...

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Get support for your goals (DW#317)

Should you tell others about your goals? Or should you plod along on your own, not telling anyone in case you do not manage to achieve your goals?

There is a good deal of research that social support (encouragement, information or help) that we receive from others is an integral part of reaching our goals.

A 2008 study demonstrated how social support helps when we encounter hurdles. The lead author of the study, Simone Schnall, said "We showed that when a friend was actually present, or when participants merely thought of a supportive significant other, a steep hill looked less steep. This suggests that people rely on close others when considering how difficult tackling a given environment might be."

Wow. It turns out that our loved ones can support us in achieving our goals even when they are not physically present!

We can also access social support for our goals in other ways of course. We could join an in-person support group (such as weight-watchers or toastmasters) or a virtual...

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Between discomfort and delusion (DW#316)

Goals worth achieving are not within our comfort zone. If they were, we would already have achieved them.

However, they cannot be so far outside our comfort zone that they are in the zone of delusion.

If you have never walked a single kilometer, setting a goal to do the Boston Marathon this year might be delusional. Making a daily habit to walk 5 kilometers might be in the discomfort zone but it is doable.

If you have not written a single article, writing a 500-page memoir this year might be in delusional. Starting a blog and committing to publishing an article a week will be a stretch but it is possible with the right planning, scheduling and accountability. It may, of course, lead to a 500-page memoir in the future . . .

If your bank account is at zero (or negative) right now, putting a down payment on a condo this year may be delusional. However, committing to saving 10% of your monthly income will feel uncomfortable but it is achievable if owning your own home has meaning and...

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Are you setting goals that you think you should? (DW#315)

Are you setting goals or making resolutions because you "think you should"? Or because others think you should?

If so, these goals are not very likely to be achieved.

Here is what some experts said in the Journal of Personality: "When goal pursuit is fueled by personal endorsement and valuing of the goal, commitment and persistence will be high. In contrast, when goal pursuit is the outcome of pressures or external contingencies, goal attainment will be comparatively less likely."

So instead of setting goals that others think you should, or that you think you should, just pause for a moment and ask yourself: if you did were not scared, doubtful or anxious, what would you like to achieve this year? If you knew you couldn’t fail, what would you go for? What is your heart longing to achieve?

Write that down. Those are goals that are likely to have meaning for you and are aligned with your life purpose.

Setting goals like these are likely to help you realize your full potential....

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Know your why (DW#314)

If you are planning to achieve something significant this year, you will lose inspiration and motivation along the way. Almost guaranteed.

So what will keep you going?

People who keep going after the initial inspiration has waned do so because they recognize and remember the meaning and purpose of their goals.

In other words, the reasons WHY they set the goal as they did are front and centre in their minds. This is what keeps them going when the going gets tough.

Research in psychology shows that meaning and purpose are strong motivating factors for people. In one study, for example, two groups of mountain climbers rated the difficulty of climbing certain hills. Those climbers who had a strong sense of purpose thought that the hills required less effort to ascend and weren’t as steep as those who did not have this sense of purpose.

What can we learn from this?

If we want to achieve something big this year, we need to ask
ourselves what it means for us to get this done, to...

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Set yourself up for success (DW#313)

Many of us believe that we need lots of self-control and willpower to be able to achieve our goals and keep our resolutions.

It turns out that the people who end up achieving their goals have no more willpower or self-control than the rest of us. They achieve their goals by setting up their environment for success rather than relying on willpower or self control.

Studies on willpower and self control show again and again that the spaces and situations we find ourselves in can keep us on the path to achievement or nudge us toward failure.

So the people who appear to have lots of willpower take steps to minimize temptations rather than give their self control a workout. They put their smart phones away, they do not buy junk food and they leave their credit cards at home.

When such people want to instill a habit or start doing something new, they set reminders on their calendars, set out their workout clothes the night before and keep their food journal on the kitchen counter.

They...

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The difference between resolutions and goals (DW#312)

Most people talk about making resolutions at the new year, while some of us focus on setting goals.

What is the difference between the two and is one better than the other to bring about change and growth?

Let us take the example of health and fitness as this tends to be the number one domain of goal setting and resolution-making in January.

If you want to drop 25 pounds, it is a goal. A measurable achievement. Goals have a definite and precise endpoint. You will know when you have achieved your goal. (On a side note, when you do, it is important to take time to pat yourself on the back and celebrate!).

If on the other hand, you intend to work out 5 days a week and cut out processed foods, it is a resolution or a habit-goal. A resolution is a promise to yourself, a habit that you want to adopt, and it is more open-ended than a specific goal. It is a way to bring about a permanent change in lifestyle rather than simply a one-off event.

People who successfully make changes in their...

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Take your goals out of your head (DW#311)

What is the one thing that makes it 42% more likely that you will achieve your goals?

It is writing them down.

Here are some reasons why it is a good idea to get your goals and resolutions out of your head and onto paper.

  1. The act of writing down your goals clarifies what you really want
  2. Seeing the written goals motivates you to take action
  3. Writing down the goals gives them a concrete reality and helps to overcome resistance
  4. It invites focus by helping you to filter out other opportunities which distract from the written goals
  5. It allows you to see and celebrate your progress as you achieve these goals
  6. Writing and keeping your goals in view reminds you what you need to work on.
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