How to Stick to Your Goals

Two Parts:Working Towards Your GoalsSolving Potential Obstacles

Almost everyone has set goals that they never achieved. While this is unfortunate, it doesn't have to be the case if you learn how to stick to your goals. Once you have your goals, learn effective strategies for working towards them and completing them. Realize that you may encounter obstacles along the way. Be prepared and know how to handle common pitfalls that may come your way. Sticking to your goals is possible with a little preparation and perseverance.

Part 1
Working Towards Your Goals

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    Set short term goals and deadlines. Having smaller, more manageable goals can increase your motivation and make it more likely that you'll stick with them. You'll also be able to track what's working and what's not. Reaching smaller deadlines will also give you a sense of accomplishment.
    • If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by large projects or goals, breaking them into smaller steps makes it less intimidating.[1]
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    Take it one step at a time. Do you find yourself frequently getting excited about projects only to not finish them? Chances are, you've taken on too big of a project or started too quickly. Take your time and slow down. Try to take one step at a time and remind yourself that you are working towards your goal.[2]
    • For example, if you have a few large projects you'd like to accomplish, don't start them both at the same time. You may find yourself stressed for time or overwhelmed. Instead, choose one project to break into steps. Put your energy towards that project before starting the next.
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    Track your progress. Measure your actions and achievements against your list of goals and the calendar. This is a great visual reminder of what you've already accomplished and how far you've come.[3] You may also want to evaluate your goals and deadlines.
    • If you're finding your goal schedule too demanding, consider breaking them up even further into more goals and sub-steps.
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    Put in the time. You may need to put in more time every day or week, depending on your goals. Or, you may only need to meet a deadline or step every few months or years if it's a long-term goal. Decide in advance how much time you need to devote towards your goal and hold yourself accountable.
    • For example, if you want to learn to play a certain song, you might give yourself a goal of playing an hour a day. After you've played the hour, track the time in a calendar, notebook, or tracker application on your phone. This will let you see not only what and how much you’ve done, but also when you did it or what was going on if you didn’t do it.[4]
    • Give yourself some flexibility for things that may come up during the week. For example, if you want to put in an hour a day, but can't do it one particular day, simply hold yourself accountable for making it up.[5]
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    Reward yourself through reinforcement. When you meet goals or deadlines, reinforce that successful behavior. There are two types of reinforcement, positive and negative. Both are rewards that should keep you motivated and dedicated to achieving your goals. With positive rewards, you add or earn something desirable. With negative rewards, you remove something unpleasant.[6]
    • For example, if you get a cookie every time you complete a task, you'll be more likely and willing to complete the task in the future. This is positive reinforcement.
    • With negative reinforcement, if you don't have to do an unpleasant chore every time you complete a task, you'll also be willing and likely to do the task in the future.
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    Implement consequences. While punishments aren't as effective as rewards, it may hold you accountable for sticking to your goals. There are a few different ways to use punishment. With positive punishment, you add something unpleasant to prevent you from missing your deadlines or goals. With negative punishment, you remove something desirable.[7]
    • For example, if you didn't meet your goal of not eating dessert, you could punish yourself positively (by making yourself do 50 sit ups) or negatively (by not letting yourself watch your favorite television show).
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    Journal to reflect on your goals. Set aside 15 to 20 minutes every day to write down your thoughts about your goals. Write down your ideas, concerns, and questions. Don't worry about punctuation, complete sentences, or grammar. Instead, write whatever you feel like. This can reduce stress and help you come up with solutions to your problems.[8]
    • Your journal is also useful for evaluating your goals. For example, maybe you're unsure why you have to accomplish a specific step or small project. If you refer to our journal, you might be able to remind yourself how that small project is needed to complete a larger goal.
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    Share your list of goals and objectives with a friend. Simply let your friend know what you're trying to accomplish and why. Studies have shown the positive effects of accountability and public commitment in goal achievement. People who share a written list of goals and weekly progress reports with others accomplish more than those with unwritten goals.[9]
    • Letting a friend or several friends know about your goals is an especially good idea if the goal is social in nature. For example, if your goal is to smoke 5 fewer cigarettes a day, let your friends know, especially if you usually smoke together.

Part 2
Solving Potential Obstacles

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    Give yourself the right tools to complete your goals. This might include cleaning up a physical space or even using applications on your phone. For example, if you're trying to learn another language, you could download a language app and use it as a reminder to keep you on track.
    • Physical space is important towards achieving your goals. For instance, if you want to improve your painting skills, you'll need to have a study that's already prepared for you to start painting. If it's already set up with the needed supplies, you'll be more likely to work towards any painting goals.[10]
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    Redefine poorly created goals. If your goals aren't specific with defined steps, you may feel unsure about what you're trying to do. This is especially true if your goal is long-term and there's no immediate reward. Return to your goals and break them into smaller, manageable goals. This will keep you motivated.
    • For example, if you're working on a book or an advanced degree, which can take years, break down the goals. You might try spending 6 months collecting research materials, then another 6 months interviewing people, and the following 6 months into combining the interviews and research.[11]
    • If you feel lost or unsure about what your goals are, remind yourself of what you've already accomplished. This may tell you what you're doing well and what you need to improve on.
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    Use your time wisely if you can't complete your goals. Some days, you may genuinely find it hard to put in time towards your goals. But, if you find yourself frequently having trouble meeting your goals and steps, learn to use your time more effectively. You may want to develop a schedule to get more done and keep you focused.
    • Try setting deadlines. These are important for creating a sense of urgency with your goals. Set several small deadlines to make larger projects or long-term goals manageable.[12]
    • Create a daily routine to add structure. This can help you develop a sense of momentum and reduce your stress. It can help you feel on track since you can keep track of your progress.[13]
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    Have alternative tasks for when you're not in the mood. You may find that you're not in the mood to complete your daily routine or tasks. Maybe you're feeling sick, have other things on your mind, or simply can't focus. These are understandable obstacles to sticking with your daily goal. Have alternatives to work on for when you're in these kind of moods. This way, you can keep working towards your goal.[14]
    • For example, if you're trying to learn a new language, but don't feel like putting in an hour towards vocabulary and translations, try an alternative. You might watch a documentary about the country where the language is spoken or watch a foreign movie in that language, with the subtitles.


  • If you develop a greater sense of inner control over events, rather than feeling like you have no control over what happens to you, you'll be more willing and motivated to set goals.[15]

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Categories: Goal Realization & Problem Solving