Everyone has dreams. Yet, for most people their dreams won’t ever make it to truly becoming goals and will forever remain just dreams. What’s the difference between a dream and a goal?
A dream is a “nice to have.” You can dream about making a million dollars, about finding the perfect someone, about quitting your job, about learning to play guitar – But it will never actually happen until you take concrete steps to make it happen.
A goal on the other hand is something completely different. A goal is a definite statement of intent, followed by definite action to bring it into reality. When you have a goal, you’ll be able to check your progress against the real world to see if you’re on track.
Goals, once you’ve written them down and started to take concrete steps to make them happen (even if they’re tiny steps,) have a very invigorating and motivating quality. You can actually feel the progress in your life. That’ll inspire you to take even more steps forward and make even more progress.
Why Written Goals?
There’s a big difference between an ephemeral mental goal and a concrete written goal.
A goal, once written down, becomes real. It can’t be simply forgotten. It’s easy to “commit” to a goal when you’re feeling inspired and motivated, but it can be very easy to just forget a goal when you hit hard times or when other areas of your life distract you from your goal.
But if your goal is written down, it’s still right there. Even if things get tough, you can still see your commitment on paper in front of you. It makes a huge difference.
The Harvard 3% MBA Study
The Harvard School of Business once conducted a study where they surveyed all the students in a class about their numerous habits, including whether or not they had any goals.
Most students had some sort of aspiration or dream of where they wanted to go in life. But only 3% actually wrote their goals down.
Ten years later, when the class was again surveyed, the researchers found that the 3% who wrote their goals down earned more than the other 97% combined.
This is just one illustration of the power of writing goals down.
What Constitutes a Good Written Goal?
In order for a written goal to have a truly motivating impact, it must:
1. Have a time element. You need to set a concrete time by which the goal is to be accomplished.
2. Be specific and measurable. Don’t say you “I want to make a lot of money,” say “I want to be earning $10,000 a month after taxes.”
3. Be within your range. If you’ve never earned more than $3,000 a month in your life, don’t try to earn $10,000 a month next month.
4. Be actionable. You should be able to write out specific actions to take you closer to accomplishing your goal.
Write down your goals and make sure they meet the four criteria above. Make this a life habit and you’ll find your self-motivation level soaring.
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How a Partner or Mastermind Group Can Build Motivation
There’s no rule in the book that you have to stay motivated all by yourself. One of the easiest ways to maintain motivation in any venture is to find an accountability partner, business partner, mastermind group or team to help you stay motivated.
Why Do Partnerships Help Motivation?
For one, when other people expect you to succeed, it becomes very hard to let them down.
They can help you take action, rather than just feel motivated.
For example, people may very strongly feel that they want to lose weight, but just can’t muster the necessary discipline to diet every day.
But with the help of an organization like Weight Watchers, which is primarily an accountability partnership organization, many people succeed. There’s no “magic diet” involved, it’s just the fact that having another human being committed to your success drastically increases your chances of succeeding.
Where to Find Accountability Partners and Mastermind Groups
The first place to look is your own personal networks.
If you’re having a hard time feeling motivated at work, try finding a co-worker or two who you really feel is your ally. See if you can take on projects together, or at least hold each other accountable to results you want to achieve in separate projects.
Also look in your personal life. Is there a friend who you feel like you can share anything with, who won’t let you off the hook easily? Talk to him or her about what you want to achieve and see if they’d be willing to be your accountability partner.
Finally, you can meet a lot of people who’d be interested in brainstorming and teaming up in various ventures and projects at networking meetups. Try going to networking events, cocktail parties, etc in your area to expand your circle. Also look on Meetup.com and Craigslist.com for groups to attend.
What to Look for in an Accountability Partner or Mastermind Group
First and foremost, you should have similar interests. If you’re trying to muster up motivation to lose weight, try to find others who are also trying to lose weight. If you want to improve your chess game, try to find other chess fans.
Your accountability partners should be supportive. There’s a big difference between someone who’s holding you accountable and someone who beats you up for your mistakes or failures.
Finally, a great partner or group should be totally committed to your success. In return, you’ll usually have to be totally committed to their success.
Motivation Builds on Motivation
One thing that tends to happen with partnerships and groups is that motivation builds on motivation.
Alone, you might not have the motivation to lose weight. Nor would the other person, on their own. But when you come together, the motivation multiplies and sticking to your guns suddenly becomes easy.
In “Think and Grow Rich,” one of the most influential self-help books of all time, Napoleon Hill talks about how almost every major success in history had some sort of mastermind group behind him or her.
It’s no co-incidence: Having partners or groups to support you will boost your motivation and follow through to levels hard to achieve on your own.