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How to Trick Your Brain into Doing Hard Things

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Author

Cameron Kennerly

Nobody likes doing hard things.

Sure, that’s an obvious statement but it’s also a true one. Difficult tasks and goals require a higher level of effort, and unfortunately that higher level of effort can be a filter for many of us.

How many times have you chosen a goal (lose weight, pick up a new instrument, learn a new language, etc.), worked at it for a while, then given up when things got tough?

That’s the filter of a steep learning curve at work.

It’s easy to get started, but finishing is a whole different beast entirely.

Looking to drop 30lbs?

Get in line. 

Embracing and giving up a new diet is one of America’s favorite pastimes—especially around the New Year.

So, how do people accomplish the difficult tasks they set themselves to do?

The answer is surprisingly simple:

They maintain their motivation.

Here’s how to make doing hard things easier… 

Identify Your Goal

A tattooed man sitting at his deskFirst things first, you need to settle on exactly what you want.

Consider this a general rule in life but if you don’t know what you’re looking for, you’ll never find it. That means you need to get specific about your goals and the outcomes you wish to achieve.

One of the best ways to look at goal setting is using a system called SMART goals. Essentially a SMART goal is a typical goal with just a wee bit of extra planning.

Here’s how it breaks down…

Step 1: Make Your Goals Specific

Though we already covered this a bit above, you need to get detailed and specific about your goals. For example, if you want to lose weight, you should be asking yourself “how much weight do I want to lose and in how much time?” Being this specific about your goal can help you plan how to execute it. 

As a result, don’t be abstract with goals like “I want to eat healthier” or “I want to be more active.” Having subjective goals like this will lead to a lack of concrete planning and execution, which will ultimately mean an unaccomplishable goal that you’ll eventually quit.

Step 2: Make Your Goals Measurable

Again, if you want to accomplish your goals, you need to be able to track and measure them. Going back to the weight loss example, if your goal is “I want to lose 30lbs in three months” you know that you need to lose 10lbs a month.

Stemming from there, if you wish to lose 10lbs a month, that means losing 2.5lbs a week. And following that, you can measure how many calories you’re currently eating, set your goal weight using an app like MyFitnessPal, and determine how many calories you need to cut to drop 2.5lbs each week.

See, now you’re setting yourself up for success already.

Step 3: Make Your Goals Time-Sensitive

There’s nothing like a sense of urgency to get you up and going, and your goals need the same love. Notice how in the example above, we set the weight loss time limit to three months.

The reason for that is because, without a clear deadline to hold yourself accountable, most people will kick the can for as long as they’re able without holding themselves accountable to their goals.

By making your goals time-sensitive you set yourself up for greater personal accountability to meet your goal.

Step 4: Make It Your Own

This one is a big one. You can’t find the motivation to complete a hard goal if the goal isn’t yours. If your wife/husband wants you to lose weight but you’re not jazzed about it, it won’t happen.

Why?

Because you’re the only one that has to sit down and do the work. If you don’t believe in the greater purpose of your goal (for your own life, we mean), you won’t have the necessary motivation to follow through when things get tough.

And lastly…

Step 5: Write Them Down

A goal that isn’t written down is a goal that won’t happen. 

Seriously.

If you don’t write down your goals, they’ll be VERY difficult to remain top-of-mind long enough to stay in your head when distractions come knocking.

We recommend putting your goals down on notecards and attaching them somewhere you can clearly see them to remind yourself what you want and why.

And now for the fun part…

Research, Research, Research

A woman staring at her laptopKnowing what you want to accomplish is only the first part of the battle. The second, and most important, is motivating yourself with enough information to pursue your goals through any obstacle.

Fortunately, the solution to longer-lasting motivation is quite simple:

You need to sell yourself on why it’s important.

Let’s say you’re trying to diet and lose weight.

Deciding that you want to lose 30lbs in three months may not be enough—especially when you have to hop on that treadmill or go running when you’re tired, exhausted, and just want to relax with a nice meal.

Instead, you need to know why losing weight is a future you cannot pass up. 

In doing your research, maybe you learn that being 30lbs overweight can have significant consequences for your cardiovascular health. Maybe you discover that a loss of 30lbs can make you more attractive or improve your mood.

Whatever the reason, you need to have a solid why to what you’re doing so that when things do get tough on your journey, you have a good reason to stay motivated.

Now, Get After It

Whether you’re experienced or just getting started, it’s always better to start from where you are than wait for the perfect opportunity. If you have a difficult task ahead of you, arm yourself with the knowledge you need to succeed, and start NOW.

A year from now you’ll be glad you got the move on early, and doing hard things will come easier than ever.

DID YOU KNOW?

One of the most important aspects of goal setting is being specific with the goal and the timeline of it.

DID YOU KNOW?

One of the chief ways to maintain your motivation in difficult times is to arm yourself with a strong sense of "why."

 

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