Back in August 2010 I wrote about procrastination and what we can do about it:

I also wrote about how a technique called double-think can be used to our advantage and you can read about that technique here:

The final part in the jigsaw will help you remain motivated to reach your desired goals. So much self-help has been written on this field. The airways has been full of people purporting to show you techniques that can make you slimmer, give up smoking or get the job of your dreams. Do they actually work though? May be on occasions they have; however, the vast amount of imperial evidence would suggest that these techniques don’t work. And a lot of money has come their way as a result.

What follows are strategies that empirical evidence shows do work. 5000 people were asked from all over the world to vote what strategies they had experienced were successful in helping them reach their desired goals and what had proved unsuccessful. From the analysis that followed the overwhelming data supports the following five strategies. There may well be reasons behind the outcomes that we get and that’s where I come in! However, if you just want to increase your motivation and likelihood of reaching your goals the following strategies will get you there. In general they fall into the ‘Captain Obvious’ strategy. In other words, they work and anyone could have told you that. May be so. How is it then that there are so many best seller books on helping you reaching your goals?May be they have another motive…

Excited and want to know more about reaching your goals, for free?! (Am I doing myself out of an income here?!) Then read on…

Strategy 1
You need a plan.

Author Zig Ziglar famously wrote that people don’t tend to wanted around and end up at the top of Everest! You may also have heard of the famous quote: ‘Fail to plan, plan to fail.’. Make sure that your goal is specific though. Vague goals such as ‘I want to lose weight’ won’t help you reach your target. Be specific. ‘I want to lose 2 kg by June, 2011’ is much more specific.

From your specific goal create a series of step-by-step stages that have stages that are:
Specific once more (I will lose 1 inch)
Measurable (In this case use a tape measure!)
Timed (By Feb 1st)

‘Havent I heard this somewhere before? SMART targets?’ I hear you cry. I said is was ‘Captain Obvious’!

Strategy 2
Let others in on the aims: accountability.

An article published ‘Self-Reinforcement Effects. An Artifact on Social Setting’ identified accountability as a key concept in motivation and commitment. In an experiment people were asked to record how long they thought a series of lines were (they had to estimate, as they had no rulers.) The people then had a choice as to whether they submitted their results to the person administering the test or keep their results to themselves. The findings were remarkable. Those who submitted their results were far more motivated by the outcomes of the test than those who kept their results to themselves.

What might be the reasons for this? It seems that this lies in the following three statements:

We want to belong
We want to be right
We want to stay the same

The above is my ‘laymen’s terms’ summary for what psychologists refer to as the 3 Universal Goals of Affiliation, Accuracy and Positive self-concept. We want people’s perceptions of us to be positive, accurate and crucially to remain so. We are so committed to these desires that submitting results will keep us focused. Giving our desires and goals to someone else is one sure way of us remaining committed to our cause. In our mind the commitment was high when we gave them our goals. Therefore, we will do all that we can to sustain that commitment as the days, weeks and months pass by. Yes, it’s true the feelings will fade if this was the only strategy to use. That’s where the remaining stategies and come in.

Strategy 3
Regularly remind yourself of all the benefits
You may have heard of the strategy: WIIFI or What’s in it for me? Recognising all the benefits that we’ll receive as a result of reaching the goal is a strong motivational factor. It encourages us to look forward too. Literally, ‘looking forward to…’ will help create the emotional state that helps to keep us on track. In contrast, merely imaging what we want to achieve without the specific benefits often lacks the emotional commitment required.

Strategy 4
Reward yourself

Put in place small but significant rewards at all of the step-by-step stages and always remain positive about rewarding yourself. Guilt about treating is not helpful. Treating yourself every day, all day might not be the way to go though!

Stategy 5
Express all of the above stages:
Your specific plan and sub-plans (step-by-step strategy)
Your support structure (who you’re telling)
Your benefits (WIIFI)
Your rewards (success treats)

in writing. How that form of writing takes is entirely up to you. Some people like notes on the fridge. Others email their plans to their team. Some people post it on Facebook. Still others write it in a journal by their bed and read it every morning and night.

The form of writing that it takes is largely irrelevant. Just ‘Put it in writing’. A verbal agreement might be legally binding in some States but it doesn’t work anything like as effectively on your mind as putting it down in writing. The simple act of writing it down also consolidates and clarifies your thoughts and increases your commitment to them markedly.

So, there you have it. Five strategies to increase commitment in just over 1000 words. Just think how many self-help books are out there with countless many more words in them, and might not work as effectively anyway.

I would be so appreciative if you could let me know in this blog how you got on using these strategies. Please do post your comments below. I look forward to reading them.