Every year, folks use January as a time to reframe and recommit themselves to be better than before.  I would argue that every day is equally relevant as a marker to try to do better than before, but perhaps a longer time scale, of a week or month is simply better to be able to measure and mark achievements, rather than waiting a full 365 to decide whether you measured up to your pre-set standards or not.

If you want to make sure you do better today, this week or this month, you need to make specific, measurable goals, and pick a equally relevant time frame in which to measure progress.  Why? It’s simple- motivation is a three legged stool.  In order to stay on track and stay motivated, you need:

  1.  A worthwhile goal- something you really want to do or achieve-it’s gotta be attractive to keep you going during the tough times.
  2. You have to believe it will take a realistic amount of effort to achieve your end point- in other words, it’s within your power to get there;
  3. You have to be confident you can obtain the goal- and have the tenacity to get there-your mindset is critical.

The reason why goal setting and reaching that goal is tricky for everyone, is that we make mistakes with one or more of these elements.  For example, if I LOVE football/Indy 500 racing/Ballet, maybe as a woman in her mid-40’s, becoming a professional quarterback/driver/ballerina is not in the card.  However, can I get a piece of that dream in another way, by choosing a more attainable goal?  Probably.  Maybe a goal like attending a pro football event, going to the Indy 500 or a NASCAR event, or the NY Ballet is a more reasonable goal, for which I can do research, and save the required funds to obtain that goal.

The next common error folks make is not constructing steps and intermediate rewards to keep you on track towards the big goal.  Maybe if you want to lose 50 lbs, setting up an attractive sub-reward for yourself at each 5 lb step towards that goal, will keep you on track towards reaching the big goal, rather than losing confidence somewhere in the middle and settling for “good enough”. (Yes, I am super guilty of this, or changing the goal to something squishier like “eating better.”  If not tangible and well defined, you will start to cheat on your goals at the margins, until you no longer recognize them at all.)

The next step that derails so many people is accountability.  Many of us with blogs think that if we announce our goals to the world, that makes us accountable.  After all, we articulated them to the world, but in the end, who do we really answer to?  I am seriously in favor of finding someone in your life who you both trust and who is enough of a nudge/jewish mother/pain in the ass that you trust them to bug the crap out of you and send you reminders/nag notes/motivation until you get to your goal.  Without this sense of having to be accountable for our actions, of having something on the line to risk, motivation wanes rapidly.  Sure, there are electronic reminders and the like to rely on, but those are easy to ignore as well.  Pick someone in your life who will hold you accountable, and who knows how to balance the commiseration/support/drill sergeant/ double dare you to succeed you will need to get there.  This is why we have friends in the first place.

Instead of the three word approach this year, I am setting three goals or mission statements for myself:

1. I will not take on any more volunteer projects without dropping one that I already have (one for one switch)

2. I will do a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis- written down and saved to Evernote- before accepting new projects.

3. I will do a list of things to be accomplished, at least once a week, and hold myself accountable for getting them done, one by one.  No more leaving things on the back burner indefinitely.

These all come down to one word, really- accountability.  And I hope that motivation and accountability will be my themes not only for the year, but for each and every day/week/month this year.

What will you do to maintain your motivation?  What are your intermediate steps towards reaching your goals?  How can others, including me, help you reach those endpoints?