So, you decided to make a positive change in your life. Great! Now what? How do you make sure you stick with it? How do you make sure this goal doesn’t become another one of those “good ideas” that gets forgotten about in a week or so?
Create an Action Web to support you.
An Action Web is a system of accountability, motivation, and support. It’s a network of complementary strategies—what I call strands—that reinforce each other and support you in making the desired change a reality. By creating a web of strategies, you ensure that even if one or two individual strategies fail, you don’t fail.
Strand #1: Commit to Persistence
Commit to persistence right from the start. First, accept that there will be difficult challenges on the path to your goal, and be okay with that. Second, make a promise to yourself that you’ll never give up no matter what challenges or setbacks you face. Third, when you do eventually encounter an obstacle, remind yourself that it is not a defeat, but simply a test of your determination. Finally, honor your promise to yourself and push forward.
Strand #2: Find a Partner-in-Action
Regularly spend time with someone who is already committed to the process of achieving the same goal you have. Finding someone who already takes action consistently will motivate you by their example. Not only that, but they were once a beginner just like you, so they’ve worked through many of the excuses for not taking action, and they can mentor you through your challenges. Examples would be a running partner if your goal is to lose weight, a positive and optimistic friend if your goal is to break negative thought patterns, and the top salesperson in your company if your goal is to increase your sales.
Finding a person like this is by no means easy, but it is one of the most effective strategies for achieving a goal. So search your brain, review your network of friends, family, business associates, and neighbors, and if there’s someone out there already doing what you want to do, ask them if you can join them. Most people love to be mentors (don’t you?), so as long as you are friendly and respectful, they will most likely respond positively. And if they don’t, so what? Say, “Next!” and go find someone else.
Strand #3: Find a No-Excuse Buddy
A No-Excuse Buddy is someone who will not let you make excuses, who will ask you how it’s going, and if it’s not, they’ll press you to step up and get back on track. You must be careful when choosing your No-Excuse Buddy. A best friend or spouse may not do the trick. You see, some of the things that we tend to look for in our friendships and intimate relationships—things like understanding and acceptance—can create a conflict of interest for that person. If your spouse, for example, is very accepting, he may not be comfortable calling you on your excuses. In addition, the changes you want to make in your life may threaten some of the people closest to you. These people like you the way you are, and they may be afraid that if you change your life too drastically, it will hurt your relationship with them. So they may consciously want you to change, but subconsciously they want to see you fail.
The best No-Excuse Buddy is a coach. Other options include mentors at work (a manager or more experienced co-worker), activity specific professionals (like physical trainers for exercise goals), mentors in your family (an older sibling, an aunt or uncle), or any acquaintance who you respect highly.
Curious about Success Coaching, but not sure if it’s right for you? Try a sample session and then decide! Learn more at TurnOnToLife.com
Strand #4: Find a Celebration Buddy
It is also important to focus on your successes. A Celebration Buddy doesn’t let you get away with raising the bar retroactively. This means that if you say you’re going to do something and you do it, you acknowledge your accomplishment, and you anchor positive emotions to it by celebrating. You can even plan the celebration in advance. Call up your buddy and tell him what your goal is and what you would like to do to celebrate it once you’ve achieved it. Even better, schedule a date for the celebration to create some added incentive.
About five years ago, my cousin and I committed to doing 100 push-ups. We agreed that we would give up all alcohol until we achieved our goal. Then we planned a vacation to Las Vegas to celebrate. We bought our tickets, booked the hotel, everything. You think we were motivated to achieve our goal? You bet we were. I reached my 100 two days before the trip. My cousin did his 100 push-ups in the airport.
Strand #5: The Reward (The Carrot)
This is probably the strategy you have the most experience with. There are two rules of thumb to creating effective rewards. First, the reward must be compelling enough to truly motivate. Second, the net result of your goal plus the reward should not be unhealthier than never having achieved your goal in the first place. For example, if your goal is to go running every day after work, a counter-productive reward would be to celebrate by binge drinking on Friday night.
Strand #6: The Penalty (The Stick)
As with the Reward, most of us are experienced using Penalties to motivate ourselves. Often the penalty is a denial of something pleasurable. An even better penalty is something you actually do that is painful or undesirable. As with the Reward, the penalty must be compelling. In Awaken the Giant Within, Tony Robbins relates the story of two women who wanted to lose weight. They agreed that if they cheated on their diet they would eat a can of dog food. They each purchased a can and put it in their kitchen where it would be a constant reminder of the penalty for cheating. How motivated do you think they were to stick to their diets?
Strand #7: First Do What Is Easy
Grow where the ground is fertile. If your goal is to improve your health, for example, that will require you to exercise and eat healthy. Maybe you enjoy exercising but just fell out of the habit. Eating healthy, on the other hand, is more difficult for you. No problem. Forget about eating healthy for right now and start exercising. Once you’ve created a habit of consistent exercise, you will feel better about yourself, and you will get more excited about your goal—improving your health. You will look for other things you can do to get there faster, things like eating healthy. In that way, modifying your diet will grow naturally out of your new habit of exercise.
Strand #8: Make It Fun
I’ll be honest with you. I did not want to sit down today and write this article. So I asked myself, “What can I add to the experience that will make it enjoyable?” I turned on some extra lights to brighten my work space, threw open the windows, put on some upbeat instrumental dance music, and now I’m rocking! I’m sitting here bobbing my head to the beat, and tapping away at the keyboard. Hardly feels like work at all!
So ask yourself this: What can I add to the process of pursuing my goal that will make it more enjoyable? And keep asking until you get an answer. And then keep answering until you’ve added enough things that the process becomes fun.
Strand #9: Do At Least One Thing Every Day
Think writing a 90,000 word novel is hard? It’s easy. It’s just writing 1 word at a time—90,000 times. Most of the time when we fail to achieve our goals it’s because we took on too much too soon. It’s like pulling a muscle. Instead, try committing to just five minutes each day. You will have absolutely no excuse not to work on your goal. Everyone can spare five minutes, no matter how busy they think they are.
Depending on the goal, five minutes may seem ridiculously insufficient. Shift your thinking for a moment and allow yourself permission to be a beginner. Commit to consistency, and acknowledge that the first step is creating a habit of pursuing your goal on a daily basis, even if the individual five-minute actions seem inconsequential. Once the daily habit has been created, you can leverage it and increase your time commitment each day.
Remember, success by the yard is hard, but by the inch it’s a cinch.
I’ve written a Special Report called Create (or Break) Any Habit in Only 5 Minutes that walks you through an effective process for doing just that. Here’s what Neil Higgins of Millis, MA had to say: “Create (or Break) Any Habit in Only 5 Minutes is perfect—great message, exactly what I needed. I really like your take on things, and I think a lot of others will too. This is needed!”
Learn more at TurnOnToLife.com
Strand #10: Record and Track Your Progress
It seems to be in our nature to ask, “What’s next?” It’s useful to focus on the next step in any given process, but only when it doesn’t also blind us to our past accomplishments.
One of the biggest obstacles I had to overcome in my own personal development was that I never had any feeling of progress. I had a mental habit of immediately discounting every step forward once it was completed. I’d take a step forward and almost instantly take that step for granted. This had an interesting effect. Each subsequent step became a new Step 1 for me. For example, if I completed Step 1 of a ten-step process, then you’d say I was at Step 2, right? Wrong. From my distorted perspective, I was now at Step 1 of a nine-step process. You can imagine how disheartening it is (or maybe you don’t have to imagine) to always feel like you’re at the beginning. The solution is to record and track your progress, so that you can always see exactly how far you’ve come since you started. It’s a huge boost to your self-esteem and motivation level to see the difference between where you are now and where you started from. Use a spreadsheet to make a graph of your sales commissions, take a “Before” photo so you can see how much weight you’ve lost, or mark an “X” on the calendar each day you go for a run. Just see how your motivation increases when that calendar starts filling with X’s!
Strand #11: Become a Mentor
The best way to take your learning to the next level is to teach. You cannot teach something effectively until you truly understand it yourself. Mentoring increases your responsibility to commit to the action in question. In addition, it’s good for your self-esteem to see that you are not at the bottom of the learning curve. Too often we focus on the people who are “better” than we are at something, who are further along than we are, and we compare ourselves to them, when the reality is that there are people at every stage. The strongest person in the gym was once weak. The best golfer on the golf course was once a beginner. The richest self-made entrepreneur was once poor. No matter where you are in the process of achieving your goal, there is someone “behind” you who could benefit from your experience.
Strand #12: Make Your Commitment Public
Tell people about your goals and that you are absolutely 100% committed to achieving them. Tell your immediate family, your friends, your co-workers, your neighbors, the guy you meet at the Post Office. When you talk about your goals it forces you to confront your internal hypocrite, the talker, the part of you that talks big but doesn’t like to follow through. Another idea is to hang up copies of your goals in your house, in your office, even keep a copy in your car. You’ll also find that the more you make your goals public, the more people will ask you about them. If each week you see your friend, John, and he asks you if you’ve achieved your goal yet, I bet you’re going to get real tired of making excuses week after week.
Not only will making your commitments public spur you to action, but you may very well find like-minded people with similar goals. You might even find someone who wants to help you achieve your goal. Goals inspire people, and the bigger, the better. As Jack Canfield says, people want to join quests.
Build a Web of Support
Of course, not all of these strategies will be appropriate for every goal you want to achieve. But the more strands you create, the harder it will be to flake out on yourself, to talk yourself out of taking action, to sell yourself short, to fail. Double or triple up on some strands if others are not feasible. Be creative and come up with new strands. Now, go create an Action Web for your each of your top goals. And remember to share your success stories with me at TurnOnToLife.com!
©2005 Curtis G. Schmitt