Chrissy Scivicque outlines seven strategies for staying motivated, committed and productive as you work towards your goals
In the mad dash of the new year, career goals are often set with great intention and enthusiasm.
But unfortunately, by February, the vast majority of people have already forgotten about them. In fact, studies show that only 8% of people who set goals for the new year achieve them. For those attempting to do the math, let me help: That means 92% of people fail, and the research shows they typically do so within the first 30 days.
If you’re already off track with your 2018 career goals, have no fear! It’s not too late to fire back up and make some real progress. Thankfully, there are many proven strategies to help you. Experts have been studying successful people for decades, and the evidence is clear. There are very specific things you must do to achieve your goals. Here, we’ll explore my favorite strategies and how you can implement them in your own life.
However, allow me to first offer a quick note: These strategies are focused on goal achievement. But, before you can achieve anything, you first have to set your goal. This is an entirely different process and equally important. If you don’t have a strong goal that meets certain criteria, your chances of success are dismal right from the get-go. So, take some time to set the right kinds of goals for yourself before you do anything else.
Once you have well-established goals, these strategies will help you stay motivated, committed and productive as you work on achieving them.
1. Visualize the Desired Outcome
Athletes have long extolled the value of visualization. Every victory begins with a clear mental picture of the successful performance. Runners see themselves crossing the finish line first. Gymnasts see the perfect floor routine. Divers see the perfect dive. It’s one of the most powerful components of their preparation.
You don’t have to be a star athlete to leverage this tool. Visualization helps you stay focused on your target, pulling you toward it with invisible force. Just like when you’re driving a car, you naturally drift toward whatever you’re looking at. Plus, a powerful mental image can invoke feelings of pride, satisfaction, fulfillment and joy—inspiring emotions that help keep you motivated.
2. Plan Your Course
Most important career goals can’t be completed in a matter of minutes, hours or even days. They require a number of different steps to be taken over an extended period of time. Think of each goal as a project that must be managed as any other.
The best way to approach a complicated, multi-step project is to break it down into small bite-sized pieces. Productivity experts call this “chunking.”
Once you know the various steps involved, you can schedule them out and block time on the calendar to work on them.
I prefer to do this step on a weekly basis, rather than planning it all out ahead of time. Every Friday, I review my goals and determine the next step required. Then, looking at my schedule for the next week, I add time to the calendar where I can.
This allows me the flexibility to work my goal-related tasks in around my existing schedule and day-to-day priorities. Additionally, by doing this on a weekly basis, I’m keeping my goals front-and-center in my mind. I’m able to constantly verify the practicality of what I’m aiming for based on everything else that’s on my plate. So, it also helps ensure I’m keeping a realistic perspective.
3. Develop a Routine
Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit.” Many goals require us to take new actions on a regular basis, thus creating new habits. For example, if you want to lose weight, you may need to start exercising a few times a week. If you aren’t in the habit of that, it can be difficult to get going.
Routines can be helpful for this because they reduce decision-points. Every decision-point is an opportunity to fall off track. For example, if you have to decide every day whether or not you’re going to go workout, you have an opportunity to decide against it every day. However, if you create a routine for yourself—such as working out every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday—you remove the daily decision point. Now you know what your schedule is, so you don’t have to think about it. All you have to do is follow the routine you’ve established.
Suppose you have a professional goal to start arriving at work an hour early a few times a week. To develop your routine, you’d pick the days you want to do this and outline exactly what your morning should look like. Define everything you need to do from the time you wake up to the time you leave the house. With these clear instructions, you’ve removed all your decision points, and your chances of success are dramatically improved.
4. Find an Accountability Partner
According to the Association for Talent Development, people who utilize accountability partners achieve their goals 95% of the time. That’s an astounding success rate!
Here’s why this works: When you have to report on your progress to a partner, you experience an enormous increase in personal responsibility. Most people are highly driven by pride, ego and social pressure. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, especially when it propels you to achieve your goals. No one wants to look like a “failure” to others. So, when you have another person watching you, you’re more likely to follow through on your commitments (as opposed to doing it on your own, where your failures remain private).
The right accountability partner can also help keep you motivated by offering words of encouragement when you’re feeling stuck. They can help you overcome obstacles and, should you happen to get off track, they can gently and compassionately remind you of why your goals are important. This is one of the many roles I play as a career coach, and it’s one I find highly rewarding both personally and for my clients.
5. Track Your Progress
This strategy comes from the belief that people play the game differently when they’re keeping score. Most of us are naturally competitive (even with ourselves). That’s why the Fitbit is so popular. When you’re tracking something, you naturally tend to get better at it—whether you’re counting steps, watching your spending, measuring your water intake or anything else. Data provides motivation and information, and it helps you make better choices.
The key here is to track your actions—not just the results. When it comes to achieving goals, it can take a while to see the impact of your efforts. But inevitably, the right actions will create the right outcomes. So, you want to track the things you’re doing to get to the desired destination.
A lot of people get this wrong. For example, when trying to lose weight, they track their weight. In reality, they should be tracking the actions they’re taking to lose weight—their exercise, calorie count and so forth. If those things are on track, the weight loss will naturally come.
6. Establish Rewards
Because of that delay between actions and results, it’s a good idea to reward yourself in small ways as you’re working toward your goal. Otherwise, it’s easy to get disillusioned. Rewarding yourself as you go helps celebrate your work even when the final goal is still far away.
I prefer rewards that are inexpensive but enjoyable at the same time—things like a hot bath, a foot massage, a new scented candle for my living room, and so on. Basically, anything can be a reward if that’s what you want to call it. The key is that it’s something you like but consider a minor indulgence, so you don’t do it all the time.
7. Remember Your Big Why
Finally, as you work on your goals, remember why you care. It’s not just about losing weight; it’s about being healthy. It’s about being able to toss your grandkids in the air and catch them. It’s about living a long, happy life with your family.
When it comes to career goals, it’s not just about the money, the recognition or the promotion. It’s about the fulfillment, the challenge, the deeper levels of engagement and the expanded skills you’ll develop. Professional accomplishments help create what psychologist Abraham Maslow called, “self-actualization.” In other words, you’re able to realize your full potential, leverage your true talents, and be the best version of you. That feeling is the real reason we set career goals, and it’s the most powerful driver of all.
As a career coach, I am a firm believer in the power of goal setting. However, I also know from experience that merely having a goal does not ensure success. The goal is just the beginning; the real work comes after that.
It takes discipline and persistence to be successful. Inevitably, almost everyone will get off course from time to time when pursuing goals. The 8% of people who actually achieve them don’t use missteps as an excuse to give up. They simply figure out what happened, learn whatever lessons they can, and then immediately get back on track.
With these strategies, you now have everything you need to be part of the 8% this year. This is the year you will achieve your career goals!