A little life hack for keeping your goals alive, every day / by Jonas Caruana

Ironman Canada swim goal: 3,800m in 3,800 seconds. Which means I need to be able to hold it down in this lane. And I'm reminded of it, every time I check my phone.

Ironman Canada swim goal: 3,800m in 3,800 seconds. Which means I need to be able to hold it down in this lane. And I'm reminded of it, every time I check my phone.

If you can see it, you can believe it.

And if it's out of sight, it's out of mind. 

What are the most precious pieces of real estate in your environment? The ones you see all the time:

  • The back of your front door
  • The lock screen on your phone
  • The door on your fridge
  • The wallpaper on your computer's desktop
  • The wall behind / beside your desk
  • The password to your email
  • The back of your medicine cabinet door
  • The centre of your car steering wheel
  • Your bedside table
  • etc.

Why so precious? Time is the most valuable thing we have, and anything that captures our attention – for even small slices of time in our day – is valuable.  Each of the above is a piece of prime real estate that you can use to bring your goals alive on a daily basis and drastically improve your win-rate when it comes to achieving them. Read on.

Goals alive, goals not-so-alive

Earlier in the year I had a lot of conversations about goals and what it means to actually live them. Setting goals was common, but setting up to actually live them every day wasn't. By 'living them' I mean: you're thinking about them weekly if not daily, you're checking in on progress, and changing things if you're not on track. I remember starting 2015 with a stellar goal list and finishing 2015 having achieved some, and completely forgotten about others. Where was the miss?

When I looked back on what goals I achieved and why, success was directly related to the frequency with which my attention was brought back to my goals. And to be fair, that was happening more by accident than on purpose. Examples:

  • For a financial goal (around savings + investments + repayments), I had Mint as a reminder. I've used Mint.com for a couple of years and it has an app which I tend to open almost daily, and it shows me how I'm tracking.
  • For my fitness goal ("In 2015: I ride 7,000+ kms. Stretch goal: 10,000+ kms"), I had Strava. After every workout I upload the data to Strava which also tells me exactly how much I've ridden in the year, every time I visit.
  • For a health goal ("I floss 330 days this year" – I know, I know; no, I never used to floss...)I promised my dentist I'd floss daily and knew that I'd totally quit without something to keep me honest. So I put a calendar up on the inside of the medicine cabinet door in the bathroom and every day I floss, I get to highlight the day. If I miss, it's a big bad "X".

So for the first two, there was already something set up to bring those goals to my attention, and for the flossing goal, I made something to ensure I'd keep that goal in mind and work towards it. Once a goal had my attention, it was only natural that I thought about how I was progressing and whether I needed to course correct. And if a goal didn't get any attention – it didn't get any action.

It's all about attention.

We lead some of the most distracted, interruption-driven lives ever. I won't try and solve that beast of a problem in this post but I do have a simple 'hack' that will help you distract some of that attention away from Instagram and toward what matters (your goals).

Here goes! Go grab those goals you set earlier this year. Think about the prime real estate in your life (like the examples listed at the beginning of this post). Now get busy printing goals, framing them, writing them on Post-It notes, and otherwise finding creative ways to put reminders of your goals in those places that you see all the time. Prioritize your most important goals first and allocate space accordingly. You can post reminders about the same goal in multiple spaces – make it work for you. The more creativity and personality you put into these reminders, the more of your own attention you'll grab, every time you see them. More quality attention on your goals = this is a good thing!

Here are a few of mine (I'm not super artsy so visually, they're a bit boring... but words totally do it for me):

  • Core Commitments and 2016 Goals posted on my fridge door (artwork generously donated by my 4-year old niece!)
  • Annual Training Plan and Workout Purpose Check-In on back of my front door
  • Floss goal (and calendar) posted on the back of my medicine cabinet door
  • 2016 goals and Annual Training Plan posted on the wall beside my desk
  • Ironman swim goal on my phone lock screen (above)

Now that you've got your attention...

What you're doing here is creating positive ways of re-focusing your attention on the things you've declared as important to you. You're filling your headspace with thoughts of whatever represents the big things you're working towards in your life, and you're doing that more often.

What you focus on grows bigger

With your attention on the goal, you open up an opportunity to check & adjust. Regular check-ins on progress matter especially for the big goals: they can seem insurmountable in the beginning but when broken down, it's just a series of little steps in the right direction, and staying checked-in allows you to see how you are (or are not) making headway. And then, you have the opportunity to adjust, to change what you're doing, if required: "No, I can't take that trip to Tofino because I haven't budgeted for it""Yes, I will go to the pool at 8pm on a Sunday night to hit my planned training hours for the week". (Both real examples...)

It's a positive spiral

You wake up in the morning and walk around your place – and the first things you see are reminders of your goals. As you go about your day, you're being reminded of what you're working towards. You're checked-in and thinking about what the next steps are.

You meet up with a friend who asks "how's life?" and because it's in the front of your mind one of the first things you mention is about the progress you're making toward one of your goals. That inspires them, they talk about it with your mutual friends, and now everyone's asking you about it next time they see you, which creates positive reinforcement for you. You become even more motivated and committed to your goals... and it's a positive spiral that's really setting you up to achieve big things.

All this from simply hacking your attention and directing it toward your goals more often. Try it – commit to it for three weeks – and see if it works for you.

Because if you can see it, you can believe it, you can live it, and you can achieve it.

A few bonus links:

I absolutely hate it when I'm reading a post online and it's riddled with links to read something different, every other paragraph. Do they even want me to finish the current article? Now that you've had a chance to actually digest this post without me sending you off in a million other directions, here are a few articles related to the theme of this post, that I think you might find valuable: