How do I stay motivated to achieve long term goals?

Ever ask yourself, how do I stay motivated to achieve my long term goals? I am sure you have. Unfortunately, our brain does not like pursuing long term goals.

The Brain is Focused on Instant Gratification

When it comes to pursuing long term goals, we run into problems because our brain is focused on instant gratification. It is motivated to seek out any goal or activity that promises a more or less immediate reward.

When you consciously desire something that is truly meaningful and valuable – even if it is a fantasy – this too will stimulate the motivational center in your brain. Dopamine is released and this increases your conscious ability to plan a strategy to achieve that goal.

However, if the the goal is long range, you need to “reward” yourself daily, weekly, and monthly as you progress. Holding your vision starts the motivation process and pleasurably rewarding yourself along the way keeps those motivational “juices” flowing.

How Do I Stay Motivated

Part of this motivation will come from achieving small incremental goals along the way to your longer term goal. Additional motivation will come from the following Pleasure Board exercise that I am about to introduce. The combination will keep you motivated towards pursuing your long term goals.

The Pleasure Board Exercise

The Pleasure Board is an idea pioneered by noted neuroscience researcher, Mark Robert Waldman.

To make a pleasure board, write down every pleasure – large and small – that brought you deep joy and happiness in the past. Write down your most powerful pleasant memories. List all the experiences that make you smile, either now or in the past.

Mindfully meditate on this list and circle all of the small pleasures you still enjoy.

Commit to Giving Yourself Pleasure Every Day

Once you have identified what still gives you pleasure, commit to consciously add pleasure to your work day. Set a mindfulness clock to go off once an hour. Stop for 10-60 seconds and do something pleasurable from your list.

Additional Resources

If you found value in this post, you will likely also enjoy these two other similar posts:  How Can I Motivate Myself, and Savor Your Achievements

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Four Quick Tips from John Assaraf

Four Quick Tips from John Assaraf

Want more success in life? Here are four quick tips from John Assaraf, CEO of Neurogym, that you can put into action today.

Here are tips on:  1) reducing stress, 2) vision boards, 3) utilizing mental contrasting, and 4) writing down your goals.

Three Minute “Innercise” to Reduce Stress

Stress is bad for you. When you feel it starting to weigh on you, take three minutes and “innercise.” Allow the stress to evaporate. Innercise is John’s term for mindfulness. It is to your brain as exercise is to your body.

3-Minute Innercise to Reduce Stress

Some stress, when it comes to performance, may be good for you . . . but too much will drain your energy and overwhelm your willpower. This simple 3-minute Innercise can dramatically reduce stress levels so you can relax and feel more focused and productive.

Posted by John Assaraf on Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Create a Vision Board

Create a vision board and look at it frequently throughout the day.

Vision boards contain pictures of your goals: what you want to become or want to have in your life. When you see these images, they turn on the dopamine receptors in the brain.

When you take those visions and see yourself doing the things that you need to do to achieve your goals, you activate the release of dopamine which causes you to feel  motivated and seek even greater goals and rewards.

Do Vision Boards Really Work?

Do vision boards really work? It’s a question I get asked all the time… and my answer is YES! Here’s why: It works because when you see images of the things you want to achieve, or do, or become, you're actually activating the dopamine receptors in the brain, the feel-good chemicals in the brain. And when you take those visions and you see yourself behaving in ways that are required to achieve that vision, you're actually activating the left prefrontal cortex, which is the CEO, genius part of your brain.Do you currently have a vision board?

Posted by John Assaraf on Monday, July 2, 2018

Utilize Mental Contrasting

Mental contrasting is a technique used by astronauts, navy seals, CEO’s and others to motivate themselves to take action towards their goals

To do mental contrasting, take a goal you want to achieve. Write down what that goal looks like when you achieve it and what it feels like.

Next, close your eyes and see yourself as you are today and see yourself as you want to be, achieving that goal.

When you create this mental contrast, you will motivate yourself to start taking action automatically.

Why Navy Seals and CEO's Love Mental Contrasting

Astronauts, Navy Seals, and successful CEOs all use mental contrasting. Why? Because it helps you achieve more of your goals!Here's how to put it into practice…-Pick a goal you want to achieve-Write down and think about how it will feel once you’ve achieved your goal. Really hone in on the positive aspects and emotions.-Now, write down and think about several obstacles that may make achieving this goal difficult.-Finally, close your eyes and visualize where you are today and see yourself overcoming those obstacles and actually achieving your goal. Do this frequently and you’ll start training your brain to automatically start taking action towards your goals!Let me know in the comments one goal you’ve been wanting to achieve…

Posted by John Assaraf on Monday, June 25, 2018

Write Down Your Goals

Write down your goals and review them daily.

Recent research indicates that writing down or typing our goals, makes us up to 42% more likely to achieve them.

Why? This happens because the process of writing them down, forces us to get clear about what we want. It also gives our brain a clear direction that this is something that is important to me. This is what I want to achieve. We need to figure out how to do this.

So don’t leave that goal in your head. Write it down on paper and achieve it.

Have Goals? Then Do This Now!

Here's this week's goal setting tip. In this video, I share one exercise that recent studies show will help increase your chances of achieving your goals by up to 42%. Commit yourself to doing this exercise this week and then let me know how the process made you feel.

Posted by John Assaraf on Monday, June 11, 2018

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More on the importance of self-talk

Several weeks ago I wrote a post on the importance of self-talk. It addressed research reported by Jeff Hadon in The Motivation Myth. You can find that post here.  Today, I would like to expand on that post and give some additional examples of how self-talk impacts our lives.

Eliminate choice in your speech

Believing that we have a choice presents a huge obstacle to achieving our objectives, because having choices forces us to decide what we want to do. The brain is naturally lazy and it doesn’t want to waste its limited energy making these kinds of decisions. Your brain would much rather follow a rule that has been converted into a habit.

For example, if you say, “I want to” rather than “I have to,” you are much more likely to get to work on time, workout, and eat the right foods. By changing what you say to yourself, you have eliminated choice. The task is now nonnegotiable, and you do it.

Another example. Stop saying “can’t” and start saying “don’t.”

How to use self-talk to overcome temptation

Can we use self-talk to overcome temptation? We most certainly can.

When we tell participants to say “I can’t, they give in to temptation 61% of the time. When we tell them to say “I don’t” , they only give in only 36% of the time.

In another experiment, participants were told to set a personal long-term health and wellness goal. When their motivation flagged, one group was told to say, “I can’t miss my workout”. Another group was told to say, “I don’t miss my workout”. A control group was not given a strategy.

Ten days later the researchers found:

• Three out of ten control group members stuck to their goal.
• Only one out of ten told to say “I can’t” stuck to their goal.
• Eight out of ten “I don’t” group members stuck to their goal.

Not only was “I can’t” less effective than “I don’t”; “I can’t” was less effective than using no strategy at all.

Why does this occur? If we say, “I can’t”, we give ourselves a way out. When you “I can’t,” you automatically start to look for excuses, reasons why you can.  Saying “I don’t” encourages the brain to find ways to ensure that you do because that is the person you have become.

The morale of this story

The morale of this story. Be careful what you tell yourself. Someone important is listening. Eliminate choice. Make it clear to your brain what you will do.

Next Steps

If you enjoyed this post, make sure that you check out some of our other posts on this website. Here are some posts that may be of interest.

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Eight neuroscientific secrets of financial success

The formula for making more money is entirely different from the strategies that will bring you happiness.  Making more money is simple but it’s not easy. Noted neuroscience researcher, Mark Robert Waldman, has identified eight neuroscientific secrets of financial success that I will share with you today.

You can incorporate these strategies into your day to help you double or triple your income.

Eight neuroscientific secrets of financial success

Here are the eight secrets:

1. Just dreaming about your desires will not make them come true. You need to know WHAT motivates you to make money and achieve goals. What do you REALLY desire, and even more importantly, WHY?

2. You need to VISUALIZE the goal and then VISUALIZE the way to achieve it. Most people forget the second half of the visualization process.  According to Oettinger, you also need to visualize how you are going to overcome the obstacles that stand in your way.

3. You need to CRAVE the expected reward. Otherwise, you won’t be motivated to work for that goal.

4. You need to work MUCH HARDER AND LONGER than you are neurologically programmed to do. The brain is lazy so you’ll need to be creative to keep your energy high and your motivation strong. Achieving little successes through out the day will get you releases of dopamine that will help keep you motivated.

5. You need to train your body, mind, and brain, to work more EFFICIENTLY. This requires EXTENSIVE KNOWLEDGE of your field and your skills. If you don’t have the needed skills you must learn and acquire them.

6. You need to keep your STRESS levels low. This involves exercise, relaxation, taking pleasure breaks, and eating well.

7. You need to triple your OPTIMISM and interrupt your DOUBTS on an hourly basis.

8. You need a TEAM. Success requires colleagues, partners, teachers, and coaches…the best you can afford. None of us can achieve financial success solely on our own.

Next Steps

Again, what you need to do to make more money is simple. However, it is not easy and not everyone will take the time to make it happen. Spend a few minutes now and assess how you can use these neuroscientific secrets of financial success to drive your income higher.

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How can I motivate myself? The Real Truth

Do you often find yourself asking how can I motivate myself? Are you having trouble taking action? Are you looking for that spark of motivation that will get you going (again)?

Unfortunately, motivation is NOT the spark that will get you moving. Motivation is a result. It’s the fire that is lit after you take action.

The Truth About How Can I Motivate Myself?

Each time you take action, and either achieve a small goal or at least learn from the try, your brain gives you a shot of dopamine as a reward.

Motivation is something you get, from yourself, automatically, from feeling good about achieving small successes. Accomplishing something, no matter how small the task, makes us feel better about ourselves and more ready to take on additional tasks.

The Best Way to Get Motivated

Real motivation comes after you start. Therefore, the best way to get motivated is to “break a sweat” and get started. That is why John Assaraf is constantly telling us to chunk down a goal into easily eaten bites and to do less to completion.

The secret is to start.

So today, list three things you can do to today to move towards one of your goals. If you cant think of three, at least list one. Then take action and do it.

Do this and you will find quickly that you have even more motivation to do more.

The above is based on the book, The Motivation Myth: How High Achievers Really Set Themselves Up to Win, written by Jeff Haden.

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Tips for Improving Willpower

Here are some brief tips for improving willpower from Jeff Hayden’s excellent book, The Motivation Myth . These will help you accomplish your goals without needing to depend on willpower, a resource that dwindles throughout your day.

What is Willpower?

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, Willpower is the ability to control yourself . It’s a strong determination that allows you to do something difficult (such as to lose weight or quit smoking). At its essence, willpower is the ability to resist short-term temptations in order to meet long-term goals.

Willpower is a limited resource

However you define it, willpower is a limited and dwindling resource.  You start the day with a certain amount and it fluctuates throughout the day and generally declines over time.

Willpower can be compared to a muscle that becomes fatigued with overuse. Studies show that repeatedly resisting temptation drains your ability to withstand future enticements.

Exceptional willpower is not a quality you are born with. Rather they’ve found ways to make decisions that don’t require willpower and determination.

Six Tips For Improving Willpower

Step 1: Eliminate as many choices as possible.

Choice is a problem because it forces you to decide what it is that you want to do. The more choices we need to make during the day, the harder each one is on our brain and the more it depletes your willpower.

The best way to eliminate choice is to develop good habits so that your brain can operate on automatic. This is what the brain does by default. Whenever it finds that it needs to so something again and again, it creates a new neural network to make repetition more efficient. Your job is to oversee your brain and make sure that this new habit supports you in the pursuit of your objectives.

Step 2: Make decisions at night so you need to make them tomorrow.

Pick easy decisions that will drain your store of willpower and make them at night before you go to bed.

The idea is to take as many decisions off the board as you can the night before, because that will allow you to conserve tomorrows mental energy for making decisions that really matter.

For example, lay out your clothes for tomorrow so you don’t have to decide or look for what you need. Also, if you want to workout first thing in the morning, have your workout clothes and shoes set out so they will remind you. Also make your to do list before going to bed. This will get the needs of tomorrow off your mind as well as set your priorities in advance.

Step 3: Do the hardest things you need to do first.

You have the greatest mental energy early in the day so focus on doing your most difficult challenges first. Don’t waste time reading email or the newspaper. Save your willpower for the crucial things.

Dive right into one of your highest impact activities and complete it. The feeling of getting it done will motivate you to accomplish even more.

Step 4: Refuel Often. 

Your willpower is tied to your blood glucose levels.

Maintaining steady blood-glucose levels, such as by eating regular healthy meals and snacks, may help prevent the effects of willpower depletion. So take periodic breaks to eat or snack.

Step 5: Create reminders of your long-term goals. 

Create tangible reminders designed to pull you back from the impulse brink. Post little stickup note on the refrigerator reminding you that you are not the kind of person who eats late night snacks.

Step 6: Remove temptation altogether.  

Control your environment to help your self-control. Make it automatic to follow the right routines.

If you are trying to lose weight, get high caloric snacks and deserts out of the house. Similarly, if you are attempting to eliminate alcohol or tobacco from your life, get them out of the house. “Out of sight, out of mind.” Don’t leave temptations around to “tempt” you.

Additional Information

For more information on Willpower check out this excellent resource from the American Psychological Association.

Turning Worries Into Solutions

Do you have worries? Undoubtedly you do. If you are alive, you have problems. We all do.  Are you interested in turning worries into solutions?

Of course you are. In this post, I am going to describe one of the most effective evidence-based strategies for dealing with negative feelings and thoughts that hold us back from realizing our goals and dreams.

This process is based on a decade of cognitive/behavior research and neuroscience. A majority of successful business people and entrepreneurs currently practice it.

The Three Step Process

Here is a basic three step process for turning worries into solutions:

1: identify a specific worry and write it down.

2: Reframe the worry as a real-time problem.

3: Ask yourself: “How do I solve this problem and overcome any obstacles that stand in my way?”

This allows you to create a PLAN you can set into ACTION.

Want to Take It to The Next Level?

If you would like to supercharge the earlier three step process, use the WOOP process based on the latest research of Gabriele Oettingen (Rethinking Positive Thinking: Inside the New Science of Motivation):

1. First visualize your goal or desire in great detail. (Wish or Desire)

2. Visualize in great detail all of the benefits if you achieved that wish/desire/goal. (Outcome)

3. Visualize and write down all of the obstacles that are stopping you from attaining that goal). (Obstacles)

4: Visualize a plan or strategy that will move you toward your goal. (Plan)

If you don’t have a solution, you’ll need new skills or coaching to see if your plan is realistic. If not, focus on a different wish/desire.


The Five Second Rule

Do you have trouble motivating yourself to take action?  Do you press the snooze button? Do you have trouble starting that big project? Do you fail to strike up a conversation with that attractive single across the room?  If these ring true, the Five Second Rule is for you.

It may sound ridiculous, and perhaps simplistic, but Mel Robbins “Five Second Rule” is the answer. It’s a simple mental “hack” that will enable you to take action.

Your brain wants to keep you safe. That is its primary function. As a result, the brain places much of your life on auto-pilot, following habits that your brain has created to keep you safe and stuck in your comfort zone.

To overcome this auto-pilot, you have approximately five seconds in which to take action. After that, your auto pilot kicks in. If you can take action within that short period, you disrupt the habit loop that is running and are able to take action.

Using the Five Second Rule, you regain the choice to go from auto-pilot to decision-maker in your life. Are you up for taking control?  Five, Four, Three, Two, One … GO!

Listen as Mel Robbins explains the the Five Second Rule in this extraordinary interview with Tom Bilyeau. Incorporate this hack into your life.

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