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How to Cultivate and Maintain Momentum

You know the feeling of excitement you get when you set a goal and you know that you are capable of achieving it, the feeling of knowing you are going to make your dream a reality? It’s a great feeling isn’t it! But as life might have it, sometimes our plans don’t always turn out the way we want or expect. Things get in the way and we become disheartened, we get side-tracked and ultimately give up on what could have been something wonderful. Below are some tips to help you stay focused and motivated to achieve your goal no matter what life may throw at you.

  • Think of the goal process as being on a Recumbent Bike

A recumbent bike is a bike that requires momentum, like the bikes we use in spin classes. Initially, when you get on, it may be tough to get the wheels spinning. You have to expend a little energy and work against some resistance, whether physical or emotional. But once you push past those first few tough seconds and gather momentum, it’s easy, and soon your legs are spinning away using far less energy than it took to get started. Getting started can be tough, or at least different. But once you push past the effort required at the beginning, even the smallest successes can build upon one another, creating an eventual tidal wave of momentum pushing you onward and upward towards your desired outcome. It’s what sees us through from our initial, inspired excitement to the routine of daily actions needed to keep us on course through to the endpoint at which our goal is realized. If we can keep moving on our little projects every day, stoking that positive fire regularly to keep the flames high, so to speak, it’s infinitely easier to stay focused, make great strides, blast through any obstacles that come up and achieve out big goal.

  • Avoid trying to do everything at once.

To maintain momentum, it’s important to break your main goal into small, manageable steps, and then take action, one step at a time, every single day. You will avoid overwhelming yourself with your main goal by deconstructing it into digestible parts.

  • Write down what you want.

It has been shown in several studies that people who write down goals are, on average, ten times more likely to achieve their goals than people who don’t write down goals. Write down in detail what you would like to have happen. What would I do if I knew I would not fail? Decide you want it and commit to that decision.

  • State your goal positively.

Rather than describe your desired outcome as a problem or something to get rid of (‘I don’t want to be overweight and unhealthy’ or ‘I don’t want to feel bad about myself’), frame it as a positive statement that calls to you (‘I want to be fit and healthy’ or ‘I want to feel confident and self-assured’). An outcome stated in the positive form gets your brain excited to take the specific actions needed to achieve it.

  • Focus on what you can do, not on what you can’t do.

Sustaining momentum is all about keeping your eye on the goal and focusing on what is possible. You’ll encounter obstacles, but don’t go looking for them. Keep your focus on what you can do and what is possible. Take the next step, no matter how small, that will move you forward. As Henry Ford said, ‘Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal.’

  • Make your goal seem real already.

Visualize your ultimate outcome and activate your senses. What will you see when you achieve what you want? What will you hear? How will you feel? etc. Create detail and emotion so your brain has plenty to grab onto. Our brains like sense-activated detail. To make it easier to create a perfect mental picture of you attaining your goals, you could create a collage using visual cues such as pictures or pictures of words that trigger an emotional response. It will inspire you and keep you on track. Put that creative collage up somewhere where you’ll see it every day, maybe on your fridge or on your phone as a screensaver. Look at the visual cues and really absorb them. Take mere seconds out of your day, in the morning before you get out of bed, or before you go to sleep at night, close your eyes, and really picture yourself achieving what you want. Bring up the lovely emotions that you’ll feel when you finally achieve your goal and think about how you’ll reward yourself afterwards. 

  • Carve out a consistent block of time to work on your goal.

This is especially important if you’re juggling work or other commitments. Make sure you have regular time to devote to your goal every day. Although that may be challenging, it’s doable. Consistent action is paramount for many reasons: it keeps your head clear and focused, it rewards you with a constant feeling of progress and, most importantly, it keeps the ball moving forward. Don’t wait for this free time to magically open up. It won’t. Rather, proactively carve out and prioritize a block of time in your daily schedule, make it public, and honor the commitment the same way you would an appointment. 

  • Understand what it takes to keep you motivated.

There’s intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. For example, achievement motivates some people, while social connection motivates others. Positive motivation works for many (rewards), while negative motivation is the ticket for others (avoidance). Think about what it takes to keep you motivated and then leverage that understanding about what makes you tick.

  • Surround yourself with as many positive people as you can.

Surround yourself with people who are positive and successful at setting and achieving goals. Being around supportive people is inspiring and helps you raise the bar for yourself. Their goals don’t have to be the same as yours but being around them will give you a regular reminder that you can achieve your goal and will help you to focus on your achievements rather than your setbacks.

  • Live without excuses.

Bottom line: there are always excuses. There will always be too little time, too many commitments and too many people pulling you in too many directions. Get real with yourself. If you let these excuses get in your way, you’ll never even get started and you’ll definitely never build momentum. The people who drop excuses from their lives have the most momentum and, inevitably, the most success. Focus on the fact that you will get what you want as a result of your positive actions.

  • Embrace progress.

Once you really get some momentum going, don’t be afraid of it. Instead, feel good about it and embrace it. Don’t hold back. When it comes to goal execution, the key is to get moving and keep moving. Give yourself the opportunity to be the best you can be.

  • Regularly review your overall progress and reorient toward your goal. If you were taking a trip across the country and took a wrong turn, you wouldn’t just keep going, wandering aimlessly. You’d stop, reorient yourself and get back on track. Do the same for your goal. Map out your course, keeping track of where you are and making course adjustments as necessary.

  • Celebrate your successes, big or small.

You can build on success more easily than on setbacks. Take note of every step forward, no matter how small, and celebrate every milestone. Being aware of and acknowledging your progress sustains your efforts.

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