How do you remain committed to your goals? It’s not easy for most of us and the fact so many people don’t is why we scoff at New Year’s resolutions. Yet without goals we lead directionless lives taking us to nowhere land. People need goals. When we have goals we feel connected to a sense of meaning and purpose in life. How can we stay committed to our goals making sure that sense of meaning and purpose is experience every day? Here are some things you can do:
- The first way to Foster commitment is by making sure your goals are actually connected to what you believe is meaningful. Most psychologists find experiencing meaning and purpose within the small tasks required to reach your goals keeps you committed to what needs done. Even when unfavorable the belief your work is connected to your purpose in life causes you to commit more strongly to what’s required to accomplish your goals. Sometimes we unintentionally ingest other people’s goals and convince ourselves they’re our own. Let me explain how easily that can happen. I can’t want to be healthy because my spouse insists it’s something I should do, I have to want to be healthy because leading a healthy life has meaning and purpose for me. For example, I might believe living a healthy life allows me to take care of my family. That’s something meaningful to me and because of that I’ll stay committed to the goal. I won’t stay committed to that goal if it’s merely to make someone else happy. Look over your goals and determine whether or not they’re something you determined for yourself or something you elected to do to please others.
- Another thing you can do to develop a stronger sense of commitment for your goals is transform your “shoulds” into “wants.” Just like finding meaning and purpose helps you complete undesirable tasks and stay committed to your goals, turning “should” statements into “want” statements transforms how you think about what needs done as well. When we think of the things we should do we unconsciously identify them with negative experiences. We like to experience ourselves as free agents able to choose what we want to do in life instead of existing in a world of determinism requiring us to do certain things. Should statements can’t provide that sense of freedom we long for and which energizes us so we can accomplish our goals. However, by turning should statements into want statements we experience a sense of exercising our free will. While what we’re doing may not be ideal, by turning it into something we want to do we’re empowering ourselves to reach our goals through our own volition. Let’s face it, we may say we “Have” to do something but the truth is we are choosing to do it to get the results we want.
- A third thing that helps us remain committed to our goals is acting on them. Not only does believing shape our behaviors but behaviors shape our beliefs. Start behaving like someone who has already achieved his or her goals. If you want to be a writer, write something every day. If you’re planning to be a psychologist, you should study human behavior, thinking, and mental experience at whatever level you can. By acting on your commitments you Foster a greater connection to the end goals you’re seeking to accomplish.
- A fourth way to deepen your commitment to your goals is to publicly discuss them with trusted friends and family. There are some interesting studies around the public profession of marriage vows demonstrating the value of expressing commitments and goals publicly. When a couple engages in a public marriage ceremony they’re more likely to stay together and be committed to one another through difficult times. Couples who don’t have a larger public ceremony are more likely to separate and divorce, particularly when things get tough. Part of this has to do with the fact the couple making promises and commitments before witnesses develops a subconscious desire to keep that promise because they’re accountable to their social group in some way. We have an innate desire to keep our promises when they become public. This same principle applies to commitments you make toward your goals. If you say you want to be a professional soccer player, publicly stating that goal makes you psychologically more committed to what needs done to accomplish the task. Making public statements about your goals is an important step for remaining committed to them.
- A fifth component for fostering commitment is to be ready to reevaluate your strategy for achieving your goals. A willingness to reevaluate your strategy makes you a solution focused person instead of a problem focused person. Being solution focused means being ready to change what you’re doing and how you’re doing it so you can overcome problems and keep working toward the end result. Being problem focused means constantly focusing on what’s keeping you from getting to where you need to be and never taking the time to explore ways around the problems. In a sense you become paralyzed by the problems never finding solutions. Being solution focused means being ready to reevaluate your strategy and stay focused on your goals.
- Finally, remaining committed to goals requires finding ways to maintain hope. I’ve often said hope is a seed of life planted in a desert of despair. When you maintain hope you can overcome the small mundane tasks required to achieve your goals and you overcome any setbacks you experience. Hope keeps you motivated and enables you to be drawn toward what you want instead of getting stuck in the muck of the present.
Goals are important and when we don’t have them we meander around in a life of instant gratification instead of striving for the greater things God created us to be. A directionless life often causes us to fall into the trap of living only in the moment which while useful for certain aspects of happiness can become the sole focus of living and destroy the potential we have to flourish. Living in the moment is meant for us to savor what we’ve achieved, while focusing on and accomplishing goals provides the very achievements required for that process. Find ways to stay committed to those goals and when you become the person you were intended to be step back, breathe, and savor what you’ve accomplished.