Modern life is quite busy and fast paced. Today we may conceive of a new idea, take an important decision or tell ourselves to adopt a new habit. But tomorrow we may find ourselves forgetting why we decided to do any of this in the first place.
It’s good practice to regularly remind ourselves of why we are doing what we are doing. Exciting goals can become stale and pointless habits unless we maintain the ‘flame’, the connection to our deeper ‘why’. Hence the importance of committing our goals to paper. Many coaches will tell you to ‘write your goal down, or it didn’t happen’, as the mind is quite inventive in shifting and changing anything you haven’t put in writing.
The main reason we set goals is because we expect to derive success, satisfaction and happiness from achieving them. However all too often when a goal is reached, we are not satisfied. We are left longing for more, or wondering if we could have done better. Prof Steve Peters gives a remarkable example of this in his excellent book ‘The Chimp Paradox’. Athletes who set themselves the goal of breaking the world record, sometimes show little satisfaction after achieving it. They will say things like “Well this is not a good world record, this is just a weak world record“!
A bigger goal is usually broken down into smaller goals, so called ‘milestones’ in order to make achieving it more manageable. E.g. if your goal is to make £10000 of sales each month, then it’s useful to know how many sales this corresponds with per working day, or even per working hour.
Once an important milestone has been achieved, it is important to celebrate it. Celebrations are best agreed in advance to ensure they take place. ‘When I lose 2kg, I will treat myself to a cinema visit. When I finish writing the first chapter of my book, I will open this bottle of wine I was gifted. When I will have worked at least two hours non stop, I will allow myself 30 minutes of playing my favourite video game. Etc.
When you celebrate achieving your milestones, two things are happening:
- you teach your brain to be grateful for these achievements rather than normalizing them and taking them for granted
- You remind yourself of the value and importance of your overall goal
In order to create a mindset of gratitude for what you are accomplishing, rather than discontent for the things you could have done better, there are a few things that can be of great help. You can start your day with a 5 minute gratitude meditation as soon as you wake up (there are plenty of Youtube videos or scripts you can find online for this). Or you can end the day by writing down three things you were grateful for today.
Remember, gratitude is not a finite resource. If you had a disastrous day and can’t think of anything to be grateful for, then think of your day on a higher, more abstract level. Are you still alive? Are you (relatively) healthy? Are you able to put food on the table? Are you still loved by someone, whether it’s your spouse, children or anyone else? Then you have reasons to be grateful for.