I believe that anyone can achieve great things, using interim goals and incentives as a way to move forward along a challenging path. The trick is – not anyone can use just any incentive. You have to find the right one(s) for you.
For the most part, I’d be labeled a goal-oriented individual. It has served me well in my career as a Project Manager. What I like about project management is the ability to take something challenging and break it into manageable pieces, or milestones.
A big project might seem overwhelming at the get go. By decomposing the “big nasty” into smaller efforts, a team can understand and tackle a bit at a time to gain forward progress. Done right, a project doesn’t feel nearly as challenging in pieces as the whole looks at the end.
Being a project manager, I originally thought that my methods would work to achieve any goal. Then I tried to lose weight. Sounds simple enough. I’m a goal-oriented over-achiever. I just need to want it and it will happen. <insert annoying buzzer sound here>
It was not enough to want to lose weight. I needed an incentive. Remaining employed has been an incentive for every project I’ve managed in the last 20 years. What’s the incentive to lose weight?
My husband tried to tell me I should exercise more and eat right because I want to live a long and healthy life. Well, that just wasn’t enough for me. I thought about it for a while and came up with an idea. As a kid, my parents could get me to do all sorts of things I’d rather not do with the right incentive. Want me to clean my room? Let me take the car out for a drive. Why wouldn’t that idea work as an adult?
At 30 lbs overweight, I was not overly interested in shopping. I LOVE to shop, so the idea of going shopping and enjoying it again was very appealing. I told my husband that if I lost weight, I’d need new clothes. So, the incentive I created was to go shopping with each 10 lbs I lost. The dollar amounts increased with each 10 lbs, because if I got to 30 I’d need a new wardrobe anyway.
The goals worked to drop the weight. While my husband didn’t agree with the incentives I used, he did agree with the result. That’s when I figured out that each of us can do just about anything – if we have the right incentives and create achievable goals along the way.
Identify incentives aligned to your goal and your interests
When you look for an incentive to help drive you towards a goal, it should be aligned to something you enjoy or really, really, really want. I love shopping, but hated it during my struggle to lose weight. When I decided on shopping for my incentive, it was something I was interested in, but i needed to make sure it was aligned to my goal. The only way I could get the enjoyable shopping experience I wanted was to lose the weight I wanted. Shopping without the weight loss didn’t interest me, so my goal and incentive were tied.
Consider your goal and possible incentives that are appealing to you. Ask yourself – are they linked? Is the incentive enough to motivate you to spend your time and energy trying to achieve it? Keep thinking about it until your answer to both questions is “yes.”
Create short-term rewards
Looking ahead at 30 lbs was a little daunting. A friend of mine had over 100 lbs she wanted to lose. Knowing that the end result would take a long time to achieve, we both followed a similar method of targeting smaller amounts at a time. In my case, I shopped for clothes for every 10 lbs I lost. Because my friend had more weight to lose, shopping was not yet appealing to her. On the other hand, she loves jewelry. Every time she lost 10 lbs, she bought herself “a little something.” In six months, she had already dropped 70 lbs…and had some new bling to show off too!
Consider your long-term goal and ask yourself if there are shorter-term goals you can set to help get you there. If you are writing a book, it could be every 10 pages of content you write or edit. If you are building your online presence, it could be a number of comments on your content or shares. Every time you accomplish one of your short-term goals, reward yourself!
You don’t need to be a project manager or naturally “goal-oriented” to achieve great things. By identifying short-term goals, you can achieve “quick wins” that will give you a sense of accomplishment and forward progress. Once you start “winning,” it becomes contagious. Before you know it, you’ll be well on your way to your end goal. Just remember to reward yourself for all your hard work along the way!