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Okay, you have set a goal and made up a certain action plan but what is the best strategy that will help you with your motivation, perseverance and adherence until your goal becomes a reality?

The same strategy can apply to small goals such as an hour long hard work-out at the gym or bigger and longer term goals such as starting your own business, losing X kilos, getting a university degree etc.

For demonstration sake, let take a relatable example of a man, who sets a goal to lose 10 kilos. The reason that most people give up on their diet/goal is quite common and it is the core of the problem. It’s the focus of your attention!! The fact is that when you focus in the beginning of your journey on the end goal, i.e. the huge amount of kilos that you need to lose, it can be very intimidating, overwhelming and discouraging. The end goal may seem as unachievable, unrealistic and beyond your reach. When you perceive your goals as too damn hard and impossible to reach, then the level of your motivation, willpower and determination to stick to the difficult steps in your action plan will diminish. The result is familiar to everyone: you lose your motivation, cheat, make up excuses, slack off, look for distractions, avoid and will definitely lose faith in the possibility of achieving your goal, not to mention faith in yourself. The focus of your attention on the end goal when you are only starting will cause you to think to yourself why do even bother if I cannot achieve it?

How to change that? In the beginning stages of the process it is more beneficial to focus your attention on the accumulated progress. Thus, celebrate every little step that you made and every little progress. Instead of focusing on the many more kilos are yet to vanish, focus on every couple of grams and first kilos lost. Celebrating your achievements thus far will increase your motivation, effort and commitment to the process of achieving the end goal. The acknowledgment of each little step/success towards the goal helps empower, energize and increase self-efficacy. Focusing your attention on the progress made, not only helps increase the feeling that something is being accomplished but it also creates a more pleasurable and more positively perceived journey.

However, once your finish line seems to get closer (e.g. 20% of weight lose remained) then you need to change the focus of your attention again. This time it you need to focus on the end goal rather than all that has been achieved. By focusing on the remaining steps, you give yourself the final push, as they say, to actually reach the end line. “Smelling” and feeling the end near will increase your motivation, determination and adherence much more than focusing on all that has been already achieved. Persistence and the level of effort invested will increase the closer you get to your goal and as such the actual achievement becomes more possible. In conclusion, it is easy. By simply switching the focus of your attention while carry out your action plan, you can increase your capacity to successfully attain to goals which you set for yourself.

Do the pitfalls of focusing your attention on the end goal in the beginning sound familiar to you? Will you share in the comment box below the consequent thoughts, behaviours and emotions so others can learn from your past personal experience?

Cheema, A., & Rajesh, B. (2011), “Goal Visualization and Goal Pursuit: Implications for Consumers and Managers. Journal of Marketing, 75, 2, 109–23.

Minjung, K. & Fishbach, A. (2012). The Small-Area Hypothesis: Effects of Progress Monitoring on Goal Adherence. Journal of Consumer Research , 39 , 1-17.