I listen to a couple of entrepreneurial podcasts as part of my playlist, and the subject of goals comes up in them quite frequently. They have a lot of good advice, much of which has helped inform my efforts to lose weight – set definable goals. Break those goals down into daily actions that you can measure. Probably the only bit of advice I haven’t incorporated is “set a deadline”, because I don’t see my efforts to lose weight and get in shape as something with a deadline. It’s an ongoing process, a series of habits I’ll need to build and maintain and continue to do throughout my life. Because if I don’t, I’ll be back to four hundred pounds within a year of reaching my goals.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not denigrating deadlines. They’re good for a whole lot of things. Not just this. But, I digress.
One of the bits of advice these various discussions about goals has is to “find your why”. Figure out why you want the goal, and then make it as real as you can. Visualize it as if its already real, incorporating all of your senses, and then work backwards to the actions that led you to that stage. And yes, that’s great. You should certainly do this thing, because it makes it real and concrete in your head. But you know what? I’ve never heard anyone talk about “finding your how“.
Now, I don’t mean this in the context of “how do I achieve this goal”. You’ll find that everywhere. What I mean is “how do I use this why to motivate myself?”, which may not be the clearest of statements. So, let me illustrate: I had a why. I’ve had several whys, actually. I love spelunking, although I haven’t done it since I was a Boy Scout. I’ve got a wife I love, and who I want to spend a long life with. I’ve got high blood pressure, and I hate taking pills for it. I’ve got a four-year-old son, and I want to be able to keep up with him now and I want to be there for him. I love riding bikes, even though I haven’t owned one since my mid-twenties.
Any of these is a single good “why”. But, none of them motivated me. I always found an excuse: “I’m tired.” “I don’t want to do this today.” “I’m not that out of shape.” And so on and so forth. All of these whys were visualized in great detail. I could see myself as an old man, retired and spending time with my wife. I could see myself as a proud father, watching my son graduate from college. I could see myself as a prouder grandfather, spoiling my first grandchild rotten. I could see myself crawling through a cave, or riding a bike, or hiking a mountain. But I never did anything about it.
Because I had no real idea how to connect those goals – daydreams, really – to reality. I wanted them, but I didn’t believe them. I didn’t think it was possible, and it took my terror of going blind from diabetes to kick me into action. In this case, the answer to “how do I connect these goals to reality” was “fear”. And then it became “determination to succeed”.
How do you get motivated to start on your dreams? Find something that makes you believe in your ability to succeed. God. Your inherent self worth. Your desire to get promoted. It doesn’t matter what it is, really, as long as it works. And you don’t even have to believe you’ll succeed. You just have to find a way to make yourself believe you can succeed, to believe that it’s possible. Because once you believe your goals are possible, even if you’re not so certain you’ll succeed, you can get started.
Then, once you get started, you can have a little success. That little success will reinforce the idea that you can succeed. And then, if you have enough consecutive little successes, you can start to believe that not only can you succeed, you will succeed.
There’s no magic formula to success, after all. “Success” is just the accumulation of day upon day of little behaviors that contribute to your goal. It’s daily sweating and aching and complaining about the effort, until you look up and realize that you’re sixty pounds lighter. Or that you just ran that half-marathon. Or that you’re wearing those jeans. Or any one of a hundred things that, not too long ago, seemed impossible.
Whatever it is, you can do it. Just let yourself believe you can. And then work your butt off.