If you’re like most people out there with goals or intentions for a new year, it’s likely that you might get caught up in the trap of motivation. While motivation does help you move forward, your goals are no sooner reached with copious amounts of sheer motivation.

This thinking prompts us to think we need to feel motivated before we take action. If you wait for motivation, you may never gain traction towards your goals. It’s committed action that comes first. And motivation follows.

Action precedes motivation.

This is not just any action, but committed action in line with your values. These actions should be consistent with your life values. These are consistent with the type of person you see yourself becoming.

You just have to start. Just take a small step, then see what happens.

This does a couple of things. First, if the action is small enough, you will feel immediately successful when you do that action. Next, once you feel successful, you might be motivated to keep doing it – even when there are obstacles in your way. Once you have done this small action for some time, you will begin to gain skill in this area and be able to add on, all the while working towards your long-term aspiration.

Your mind will steer you away by saying things like, “I can do it later” or “You won’t be able to do it.” Your mind say, “You’re not good enough.” Those voices are not true. The mind never stops talking. It’s time to just put things into action, which may seem impossible until you do it.

In order to get motivated to work towards a goal, there is really only one step. And that is to take action. Figure out the key values in your life and build actions that will get you closer to your aspirational goal. Then plan small, sustainable, doable steps to get you closer.

You may notice that motivation was all a myth.

Design Sticky Goals

One of the keys to achieving goals is to design them to be permanently sticky goals. Here are strategies you can use for doing that.

  1. Be Selective
    No matter how much we want this to be different, we simply can’t do everything at once. Prioritize things and be discerning in the goals that we choose to pursue. Make it easier to support your activities by making just a few important goals and avoid constantly adding new goals, or even changing existing ones.
  2. Work Backwards
    Start by visualizing what the achievement or attainment of that goal would look like in a year or two from now. Imagine yourself as a healthy person, or a wealthy executive, or a person living in the mountains. Whatever your dream, visualize the result vividly, to help maintain focus and motivation and walk “backwards” to get there.
  3. Start Tiny and Break It Down
    We gain traction, and therefore motivation, by taking small actions and completing them. Each time we complete another one, we get more momentum. So, break down your goals into small, manageable tasks or milestones. Never plan to achieve a goal with one giant step. It rarely works. Smaller tasks not only make the goal less intimidating but also allow you to track progress more effectively. Consistent action is key to achieving long-term goals.
  4. Learn from Errors
    We must use feedback, from what is or isn’t working, to adapt. Setbacks and are part of the journey. Instead of viewing them as failures, consider them as opportunities to learn and grow. Analyze what went wrong, adjust if needed, and use these experiences to move forward.
  5. Leverage Self-Compassion
    If you are learning something new, it might be quite discouraging. While we cherish and remember the successes, the negative thoughts stick with us a lot longer than do the positive. Reflect on the good moments and let them stay in your thoughts. Forget the rest. Self-compassion and patience means recognizing that mastery takes time.
Make Your Goals Count

To achieve success, remember that we can only really manage a few new challenging goals at one time.

It’s easy to lose momentum and get frustrated by struggling in one area. Be discerning about what you pursue. Build in a support system. Success is based on your care about the outcome plus your effort.

Remember that progress takes time. It is okay to have moments of slow growth, no noticeable change at all, or even temporary setbacks.

Finally, be kind to yourself as you stay devoted to your goals.


I work with mid-life men and women who want to feel younger through improving their relationship to food, movement and mindfulness.

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