February already! How are you getting on with your New Year's Resolutions? Are you one of the focussed few who manage to keep them? Or are you one of the whopping 92% who put them in a drawer and forget about them until it's time to re-write them? Here are 10 Top Tips to help you maintain your focus and keep motivation going throughout the year!
1. Take time to set a goal that excites you! And make it crystal clear - what will you see? What will you hear when you reach the goal? How will you feel? Find a compelling reason for reaching that goal - what will you able to do? What problems will you avoid? I have found out - through personal experience - that it is easy to wander through life haphazardly, with no idea where you are going: I also know how much better it is to actually take control and know that you are travelling towards an amazing, inspiring destination!
2. Once you have your goal - and you know exactly what it looks like - then write it down! Put it somewhere visible - on your mirror, on a post-it on the fridge - somewhere that you will see it regularly and it will be kept at the front of your mind. We all have so much to do that we can easily forget our ultimate goal because we are too busy taking the kids to school/walking the dog/doing the housework.... By putting it somewhere visible we will make sure we remember what we are working on!
3. The next step is to break the big goal down into mini milestones. This means we won't get bogged down by the size of the goal but can focus on manageable chunk size steps, each of which will take us closer to that ultimate aim.
4. Motivation is easy - we can all feel motivated for a period - it's the maintaining the motivation which is challenging! We need to translate motivation to action by planning our steps and putting aside time in our diaries. Deciding when and where you will take specific actions to reach your goal can double or even triple your chances of succeeding. Over 100 studies demonstrate that people who explicitly state when and where the new behaviours are going to happen are much more likely to stick to their goals.
5. It's normal to feel overwhelmed at times when we are juggling many different balls. Sometimes our to-do list can be ridiculously long! When you are at risk of thinking it is all too much, take time to separate your 'must do's' from your 'nice-to-do's' and keep them on separate lists. Prioritise your must do's and put the top 4 or 5 on the list you are dealing with at any one time. Keep the actions short and visible. Steven Covey's GOLD TIME PLANNING MATRIX is a great tool for helping you make sure you spend time on the right activities. By prioritising time spent in the second quadrant you can ensure that you progress towards your goals.
6. I've written about our negative self talk before - I really do think it's an issue for a lot of us. Again, in order to keep your motivation, listen to your self-talk and start changing it into something more positive. Watch out for things like, 'I always...'; 'I can't....'; 'I never....'. Negative self-talk is a self-fulfilling negative pattern which we can, thankfully, control. Replace your negative language with more positive thoughts: 'I'm starting to...'; 'I managed to...'; 'I used to x but now I'm getting much better!' Also pay attention to your metaphors - they have real impact on our state of mind - are you struggling to get through life or is every day a party?! How do we speak about our challenges? Are they 'huge'? Mine always are!! By becoming more aware of our language patterns - perhaps my problems aren't so huge after all... maybe they are more like molehills! - we can improve our mindset and maintain motivation.
7. Create an affirmation. Mine is 'creating my future with courage and confidence'... some mantra which encapsulates how you want to live your life, how it will be when you reach your goal. It may feel strange at first but when you practice it and focus on it - go over it a few times each morning or when you are feeling a bit lost - and you will grow into it!
8. Make up a back-up plan. Realistically, things will go wrong - there may be some days when we cannot make progress because life gets in the way. If you have a back up plan structured around if... then you can get back on track without too much of a detour. For example, 'If I am too tired to go to the gym after work, then I will get up earlier tomorrow and go first thing'; 'If I ate too much junk food at lunch, then I will just have fish and vegetables for dinner'. This structure is great because it means that you won't be hard on yourself for lack of progress because you are taking control and making sure that you get back on track as quickly as you can.
9. Talking of not being too hard on yourself - a great tip is to show some self-compassion! We really do speak to ourselves much more harshly than to friends and family. Life can be challenging for everyone, it's part of being human: be kind to yourself, know that everyone suffers setbacks, and decide to get back on course as soon as possible by using that 'if.. then...' technique.
10. Sometimes we set a goal, reach it and then are so busy setting the next goal that we forget to celebrate. So, my final tip is notice your achievements and take time to celebrate! Be aware of the progress you make along the way - look weekly at how far you have come. On a daily basis, ask yourself what went well? Plan your achievements in advance - picture what you are going to do well the next day, what steps will you make towards your goal, how will you be improving from the day before? For me, this has to be one of the most important tips - what's the point in making progress and growing if we don't recognise and celebrate our achievements in some way, however small... What have you done well this January that you could recognise... and what steps will you take in February to make more progress towards your goals? I'd love to hear your thoughts!