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Motivation gets you started, but what keeps you going?

Updated: Sep 30, 2021

We’ve all been there. It’s January 1st and we’re extremely excited about our new goals for the year. They’re all laid out in pounds to be lost and money to be earned. But why is it that somewhere around mid-February, all these rock-solid resolutions are nothing but faint memories?

This is such a common phenomenon that researchers at the University of Scranton did a study about it. They found out that after only one week, 23% of people had already quit their resolution. And only 19% were able to keep it for more than 2 years. There are many reasons for this lack of commitment. One major reason is that the change is something you think you are supposed to do, yet not something that you want to do. Or the fact that these new habits, will take the place of activities you enjoy. And maybe that’s not a trade-off you are happy with in the long run. Other reasons for abandon are low self-monitoring and lack of planning. But guess what. There is a simple tool that can help keep track of that. It’s as simple as keeping a journal.

Journaling is a commitment that is relatively easy. At least it’s easier than driving to the gym, running 2 miles, or working 5 hours extra to get that new business up and running. We often lose motivation after that initial excitement because boredom creeps in. It becomes tedious. So, we have to create ways to make our goal fun. By journaling you can set up your goal in baby steps. In this way, you can attack one step at a time and celebrate your win when you cross it off. You can be your own cheerleader and reward yourself each time you reach a baby goal. If you make the commitment to write in your journal—even on the days when you feel like giving up—you are sending signals to yourself that you are sticking to the goals. You will want the story to end well.

Another fantastic way to keep on track is creating a vision board containing your goals, photos of what you want to manifest in your life and mantras for example. This is not some type of woo-woo, wishful thinking trend, popularized by the film “The Secret”. Positive effects can easily be explained using our current knowledge of the human brain. Neuroscientist Tara Swart likes to refer to them as “action boards” since the goal is to create something. She explains that the difference between a vision board and a normal to-do list is a brain process called value-tagging. This is a function that human beings use to filter out the millions of impulses we receive every day, keeping only information deemed necessary. Images are assigned a higher value than everyday tasks on a paper. And the more you look at them, the higher the value gets. Looking at them before falling asleep has an even more powerful effect according to Swart.

Even if your imagination is a powerful tool, all that “dream stuff” isn’t going to show up on the doorstep simply by staring at a board. You have to imagine that you are achieving your goals by visualizing them. Activating the senses by imagining how it would smell, taste, feel, or sound like, when you win the bidding round on your new dream house! It has been scientifically proven that the body reacts in very similar ways when imagining a scenario and experiencing it in real life. This is why top athletes use visualization to prepare for competitions.

And what do they visualize? Winning! They recreate every single step over to that finish line. Another benefit is taking away discomfort. Human beings are scared of the unknown. But if you visualize yourself successfully making that presentation at work, you will become familiar with it. When things are familiar, they become safe. This is why it’s recommended to keep your vision board where you’ll see it regularly. But you don’t need to start cutting out magazine photos and gluing photos on a board. We’re in the digital age so you can keep one on your computer desktop or even as your cell phone screensaver. Whichever way suits your lifestyle. The most important parts about visualization and journaling are to start creating habits that stick and to have fun with it.

Keeping it fun is what will make every day like January 1st.

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