How often have you started out with a goal, but then abandoned it in the face of a hectic life? It’s an almost universal experience, so the first thing to know is that it’s not inevitable – you can reach your personal goals.
Take Andy Ramage, a co-founder of One Year No Beer who has walked the walk of a life transformation after going from being a burnt out, overweight, heart-disease raddled City worker with no motivation, to a healthy, fit motivational expert.
He has looked into the psychology of motivation in his new book ‘Let’s Do This’ – read on for five quick hacks to boost your own motivational powers…
1. Not So S.M.A.R.T.
For Andy Ramage, the S.M.A.R.T. goal-setting advice, beloved of Human Resources departments everywhere, misses the point of what considering your own potential should be about. It’s the ‘realistic’ part of this acronym that Ramage takes issue with, in his book Let’s Do This.
‘Goalsetting is about letting yourself dream big without reality holding you back… Somewhere in the space beyond your comfort zone and before you reach the impossible zone lies the growth zone, where all the best goals reside.’
You don't have to set massive goals but thinking this way phase you up to consider where you might want to take your personal development, and is exhilarating.
2. Pick One And Stick
Once you're free do you mind to come up with some truly inspiring ideas, then they may all come crashing in at once. But don't be tempted to tackle all of them at once, says Ramage, who highlights research from Sophie Leroy of University Of Minnesota.
‘When you switch tasks your full attention doesn't follow part of your brain is like thinking about the previous task, which creates an attention residue…’ You’re then underpowered at everything, resulting in a ‘big pile of overwhelm’.
Instead, get take a leaf out of computer scientist Cal Newport’s book and learn the superpower of ‘deep work’: ‘The ability to go deep on just one piece of work or go without the distractions of the modern world will allow you to make the breakthroughs in life and business that others can't because they are continually distracted.’
’It pays to turn your new behaviour or habit into a core value’
3. Habits Are Good But Values Are Better
Forming a daily, or weekly, habit is the first step to fulfilling a goal. This builds up a practice until it becomes something you do largely without thinking about it, freeing up your mental energy. For Ramage the 28-day mark is always significant.
But don’t think that’s the end of the story. Ramage talks about someone giving up smoking who replaces an 11am cigarette break (his trigger) with a coffee break instead. He has swapped a habit routine, which really works, until, that is, the new routine is sabotaged or disrupted and the smoker returns to smoking.
Instead, it pays to turn your new behaviour or habit into a core value. If you no longer see yourself as a smoker, if you turn being a non-smoker into a core value it is much more likely to stick. ‘they don't see themselves as a former smoker – They just don't smoke. Why would they? If the coffee machine is broken, it's irrelevant. They go without coffee,’ says Ramage.
4. Own Your Goal
In 1996 England footballer Gareth Southgate missed the penalty kick in the shootout that put the team out of the Euro 96 tournament. It was all on him. Fast forward to 2018 and he was in the manager’s seat for The 2018 World Cup and he was determined that history would not repeat itself.
He hired sport psychologist Dr Pippa Grange. She coached the team in handling high-pressure moments with visualisation to own each stage, from the moment they walked towards the penalty spot, to the moment they struck the ball.
When the time came the players were able to block out the noise of the crowd and all the other external pressures and execute to the best of their ability. After drawing 3-3 with Columbia the dreaded penalty shoot out took place, but Eric Dier stepped up and scored to take the team to their very first penalty shootout victory. ‘We talked long and hard about the process of owning the process of a shootout,’ said Southgate after the win.
‘Create your own personal accountability centre that will keep you showing up every day’
5. Plan, Or Your Programming Will Take Over
Whether you are trying to carve out an extra hour in your day to start that new project, or simply aiming to reduce the number of calories you eat, you will be fighting against your evolutionary responses.
We are evolved to survive in a hostile world, hunter gathering and fighting off threats. This doesn't really apply in your local streets, where food is plentiful and you’re unlikely to be randomly attacked.
But we are still geared to slip into survival mode grabbing that doughnut and responding to urgent ‘emergencies’ as they happen, even if that’s just a work deadline, which crowds out our longer-term goals.
As Ramage says: ‘Remember, if you don't have a plan, evolution has one for you – and so does everyone else… So, what's the plan? Set up the daily rituals so you do not have to think you just do. Create your own personal accountability centre that will keep you showing up every day.’
‘The only way to live a spontaneous life is to plan it.’
WHAT NEXT? Want to become more awesome? Of course you do – find out how to upgrade your mental software in our review of the Doctor of Happiness’s new book…
Follow this article’s author on Instagram @The_Adventure_Fella
You can buy Andy Ramage’s book *Let’s Do This here*
Comments are for information only and should not replace medical care or recommendations. Please check with your Doctor before embarking on exercise or nutrition regimes for the first time.