6 Psychology-Based Techniques to Help You Reach Your Goals

Published on 3/17/2021

Everyone has goals. Those goals differ significantly, as some of us want to be CEO’s, some of us want to start our own companies, some of us just want to make a living from our passion. We all have different goals, and yet we all share in the drive to achieve those goals.

That’s where psychology enters the chat, as through studying and researching human behaviour, we can see what makes someone succeed and what makes someone fail. There are many shared traits familiar to successful people, and there are many techniques used in becoming this way. Here are six of the easiest, psychology-based hacks that can help you to reach your goals. They don’t require more time and effort, simply reframing the lens you use to view those goals. Let’s get started.

1. Be held accountable

We hate to be embarrassed. We hate for people to know about your failures or weaknesses. I’m not saying this is a good thing or a healthy way to look at things, but just that we can use this to our advantage when it comes to chasing our dreams.

Humans are social animals at their core, to the extent that social pressure can make the difference between a win or a loss. Consider football matches and how the home team is more likely to win, so they often give the other team perks to make up for it.

As terrifying as it is, you need to hold yourself accountable for your goals, or rather, you need other people to hold you responsible. What can this look like? You could sign a contract with someone stating what you aim to achieve and how you plan to get there. Or even just discuss your goals openly, post about them on social media or bring them into a conversation.

This could be your to-do list for a specific day (e.g. tweeting the word count you hope to hit) or regarding your overarching life goals. We don’t tell people about our goals in case we fail, so if we told them, we’d have no choice but to succeed.

I never use to tell people that I wanted to be a published author. What if I didn’t make it? Everyone would know and be laughing at me. I realised three things:

1. No one cares if I fail.

2. No one will remember if I fail.

3. I’m giving myself the option to fail.

So I started promoting my writing. I started discussing it with friends and people that I would meet. I made my own blog, and I started a Twitter account dedicated to sharing my work. I feel invigorated and more determined than ever to succeed. I don’t have a choice anymore, do I?

2. Don’t aim to achieve

This may sound highly counterintuitive, but let me explain.

Don’t aim for a performance goal, but instead choose a learning goal, or an effort goal. Instead of saying that you want to lose ten pounds, which is vague in terms of your input and how you’ll get there, decide that you’re going to exercise four times a week or cut sugar.

By choosing learning-based goals, we hold ourselves accountable unconsciously. We draw a path to our goal, and it becomes manageable and straightforward. If we fail at a learning goal, we know where we went wrong, and we know how to adjust our goal accordingly. If we fail at an achievement goal, we can shift blame too easily.

Instead of saying that you want to double your earnings on this platform next month, consider the output you’ll produce. How many articles will you write? How frequently will you publish? How much time will you dedicate?

Give yourself goals that you can achieve, rather than ones that could be passed over to circumstance or external factors. Hold yourself accountable and look in term of skill and effort based goals. It also feels so much better once you achieve them.

3. Find the value

You need to want the goal you choose. That may seem obvious, as who doesn’t want to earn more money or improve their health? But succeeding in a goal starts with the goal you choose and ensuring that it aligns with your life values.

Goals and values are very different things. Psychology Today explains this perfectly:

“Values are not the same as goals. Imagine you’re sailing a boat on the ocean. Goals are like the islands on the horizon that you’re travelling towards. Values are like the North Star that points you in the right direction. Not everyone’s North Star is the same when it comes to values. It’s important to know what big-picture things matter to you overall so they can help you navigate.”

Just because other writers talk about wanting to publish a non-fiction book on Amazon, that doesn’t mean that the same goal will work for you or bring you satisfaction. Just because other people want to lose weight, that doesn’t mean you should try to. Your goals need to be centred around your specific values.

If you’re looking at monetary goals, consider what you’ll do with that money; why do you want to earn more? If it’s about exercising more, do you want to be healthier? Do you want to be fitter? Do you have dreams of running a half-marathon?

The goals that are achieved are the ones that are rooted deep within an individual. They can’t be shaken, they’re worth any sacrifice, and they are stuck on the horizon, guiding you. I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was about eight years old. It isn’t about money; it isn’t about fame; it’s about sharing the words that clutter my mind with others. I know I want this, and so the days dedicated to it, the events I miss, the rejections and more, they’re all worth it to me.

Consider listing the benefits of your goal so that you know how to picture your goal, and you have that extra boost for the difficult days.

4. Positive not negative

We’re suckers for hope. It may not feel that way, given how negative we can be and the state of the world we’re living in, but it’s true. We thrive off positivity, and we find it far easier to work towards a positive goal rather than a negative one.

What does this mean in terms of setting goals? It means that you should try to give a positive purpose to your goals. Instead of focusing on losing/reducing, focus on increasing.

I want to lose five kilos → I want to run four times a week.

I want to eat fewer desserts and fatty foods → I want to eat three more portions of vegetables per day.

Focus on what you can introduce to your life rather than what you have to say goodbye to. This makes your goal feel more attainable and less of a sacrifice. You’ll find it easier to stick to it and reach your goals quicker. Even if you do need to reduce something that you’re doing, there’s always a manner to give it a positive spin.

I need to spend less time on my phone → I will add a phone-free hour to my day.

I need to drink less alcohol → I will add three alcohol-free nights to my weekly routine.

This may seem minimal, but it has been shown that a positive mindset will make you twice as likely to achieve the goal you intended. You also won’t suffer from a goal burnout, as you’re adapting your routine and adding to it, so you’ll find it easier to keep it up. It’s like how dieting isn’t a successful form of weight loss, as you put the weight back on as soon as you return to ‘normal’. But a changed mindset around food or exercise plan is a more sustainable method of staying healthy.

5. Break it down

Remember when you would have a huge essay to complete for school? Maybe your thesis, an extended essay or another task. You’d have this massive word count looming over you and no clue how to get there. Many would leave it until the last minute, as they felt unable to face that mountain. Others would pretend to be working their way up but simply procrastinating.

When there’s a massive mountain in front of you, it’s not tempting to start climbing. But when it’s a little hill, followed by a slightly bigger hill, and so forth, it feels manageable. You can see the way forward, and that way is doable.

I used this technique a lot when training for my half-marathon. Going for a jog after work or studying and knowing you have to run twelve kilometres is rough. You’ll likely stop and not even bother. Instead, I would aim to run three kilometres. That’s my focus, and that’s what I measure towards. When I reach three kilometres, I feel proud, and I feel ready to tackle the next three, and so forth. Breaking your goal into bite-sized pieces ensured it doesn’t become overwhelming or too taxing.

If you aim to write six thousand words today, don’t just write that down on your to-do list, as you’ll likely end up avoiding it and feeling unmotivated. Instead, write down that you want to write two thousand words three times. This gives you three separate goals out of one and three chances to feel proud when you achieve it and tick off that box - what a satisfying sensation!

If you want to be a published writer, consider all the steps that lead up to that point. If you want to make a living off of blog writing, how many blogs do you need to write per week? How much time should you dedicate to research and so forth? Break your goal down so that you can approach it and start, break it down so that you feel motivated to go and get it.

Every essay, no matter how large, starts with an introduction and topic research. Once you overcome that hurdle, the rest is a piece of cake. Work out the steps to your own goal and start the journey there.

6. Celebrate your wins

If every accomplished goal is met with a new one, if it is never enough for you, you’ll eventually run out of steam. You’ll grow tired or impatient, leading your focus and drive to drop. Part of having a goal is making it worth it. As mentioned, this involves including value to your goals and catering them to what you need. But it also reflects the entire process.

You need to recognise when you need rest when you need a time out. You need to recognise that it takes trial and error, good days and bad days, wins and losses. And you need to enjoy the process as much as the result. Don’t spend your life working for tomorrow, as too many of us discover that tomorrow might never come.

When you do reach your goal, however small or ordinary it may seem, make sure you celebrate it. Sharing your success doesn’t mean you’re bragging or blowing your own horn; it’s merely acknowledging it and allowing others to do the same. When you achieve a goal, take a moment to stop and enjoy the view, as you’ll never be at this point for the first time again. Take an evening off, treat yourself to dinner, raise a glass with loved ones. Whatever makes you feel good and proud of yourself, do it. Because then you’ll have an additional motivation to reach the next goal!

Each of these techniques could be implemented today, and their effects can be felt as soon as tomorrow. So take five minutes after finishing this article to sit down, write down your goals using these new learnings, and know you’re doing your part to make them happen. It starts with how you frame your goal, and it ends with how you celebrate that win. But we never have just one set of goals, and there is no concrete finish line, so use these six techniques to succeed in each goal and the ones that will follow.

Curious about implementing your own micro habits? Or check out how I write on the days I feel depressed.



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