Personal Improvement

One Simple Trick to Achieve All Your Long Term Goals

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long term goals
Table of Contents  
  1. Outsmart Your Brain
  2. Discipline, Not Motivation
  3. Timing is Important

I get the appeal of New Year’s resolutions.  We all like a clean slate, and a fresh start and nothing is fresher than a brand new year.  We start out excited and have all of the things in place to help us achieve our new long term goals.

New work out gear, a fridge full of fruit and veg, finely tuned budgets in Mint, nicotine patches at the ready.  But those are all the fun parts.  Slogging it out day to day is what is hard.

And honestly, have you had the same hand full of resolutions for years now?  What makes you think this will be the year you achieve your long term goals if you don’t do anything different?

Outsmart Your Brain

Resolutions fail because while we may have all the physical things in place that will help us succeed, the new running shoes, the cookbook full of healthy recipes, those things don’t do much to change the way our brains work.

Most of us have what I call a “scum bag” brain.  Every feels nauseous, and out of nowhere visions of greasy food start dancing in your head?  And you’re like, “Who’s doing that?”  Or you don’t even want a cigarette but some little voice, coming from somewhere, somehow, talks you into it?  That’s your scum bag brain.

There are lots of cute little tricks to try to outsmart your brain.  Go to sleep in your work out gear so you can pop of bed ready for the gym!  Tell all your family and friends you’re going to stop drinking so they can shame you if you don’t!

All that shit is for people who want to feel good about their goals but actually will quit after a month. Those people are weak. My method is for the strong and determined amongst us.

Discipline, Not Motivation

That’s it. That is the one simple trick to achieve your long term goals. The people at Life Hacker hate me!

Some people think they fail to realize goals because they aren’t motivated enough.  That’s bullshit.  Motivation is easy.  We all have it at the beginning of a goal.

It’s also available everywhere.  You can get motivated from listening to a song, a podcast, watching a movie, reading a book, seeing a hot boy at the bar.

Anything as readily available as motivation is not that valuable.  Lacking motivation is not the problem.  Motivation waxes and wanes that is the problem.

What your sorry ass needs are discipline.  Now that is in short supply and hard to come by.  But that doesn’t matter.  It’s harder to shirk than motivation.  Oh, I don’t feel like cooking today, I’ll just eat fast food.  You didn’t feel like doing something so you didn’t!  The easiest get out of jail free card ever.

Discipline is only available from one source, you.  And probably also the military but that is a kind of extreme solution to losing some weight or saving some money.

But even though the source is limited, it is available to anyone.  Few people are naturally gifted at anything.  That’s what lazy people tell themselves about people who achieve so they can get through the day with their self-esteem intact.

Discipline is the secret behind those “gawd given talents.”  To think otherwise diminishes a successful person’s achievements and convinces you that those same achievements are not available to you.

Discipline is what will see you through to reaching a goal.  There are no excuses.  You just set the parameters, and that is the end of the internal debate.  You will get up at 6:00 four days a week to work out.  You will spend three hours on meal prep Sunday evenings, so you have healthy, cheap food to eat during the work week.

Discipline is how you build habits and forming habits is how you achieve goals.  Discipline removes choices, and it removes emotion.  Should you hit the snooze?  That isn’t a choice available to you.  You’ve disciplined yourself to get up at 6:00 to work out.

You had a lousy day at work.  You feel sad, upset, stressed out, whatever.  You know what would make you feel better?  Shopping!  No.  Feeling sad and stressed out are emotions and emotions have no place in the discipline.

You didn’t make a budget category labeled “Buying Shit I Don’t Need Because I Felt A Feeling And It Made Me Uncomfortable.”  You’ve been here before anyway.  You spend money or eat or drink too much to make yourself feel better and end up feeling worse because you let yourself down.  And then the spiral continues down and down.

Not a problem for you anymore.  You are disciplined.  I’m not saying it’s easy but just because something isn’t easy does not mean it’s beyond the realm of human capability.

Discipline is like a muscle.  The more you use it, the stronger it gets.  You don’t have to wait until you “feel like it” to do anything.  You can do it now.  Maybe “feeling like it” will never come.

I hate winter so I rarely “feel like” going out in the cold dark morning to run.  But I do it anyway, and I’ve done it for so long now, that it’s just a reflex.  I built up that muscle, and it’s strong.

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Timing is Important

No excuses but  I’ll also point out that I never feel January 1 is the best time to start certain goals.  Particularly health-related goals.  It is cold to run in the park in the winter.

The produce available is not as yummy in the coldest months of the year.  Who would rather have grapefruit  instead of some berries or a peach?  Who would rather eat broccoli than a vine-ripened heirloom tomato?  I’d rather eat a big hot bowl of pasta than a salad when it’s 30 degrees out.

Eating and drinking out is the primary focus of socializing when it’s cold and dark at 4:00.  I’d instead meet my friends for a hike than a meal out, but I mean in June, not January.  So if you know that it will take you some time to build up your discipline in those areas, waiting until spring to start is not the worst idea.

However, if your goals are more money, family or career-related, the time of year and the weather make no difference.  Your time is now.

That’s it.  No top ten list of ways to stick to your resolutions.  Just one thing you have to remember.  Discipline over motivation. Don’t let me catch you back here next year.

Candice Elliott - Senior Editor
Candice Elliott is a substantial contributor to Listen Money Matters. She has been a personal finance writer since 2013 and has written extensively on student loan debt, investing, and credit. She has successfully navigated these areas in her own life and knows how to help others do the same. Candice has answered thousands of questions from the LMM community and spent countless hours doing research for hundreds of personal finance articles. She happily calls New Orleans, Louisiana home-the most fun city in the world.

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