I’ve enjoyed every one of Richard Wiseman’s books – the latest being 59 Seconds.
There’s so much nonsense advice handed out in the self-help world nowadays (and it’s been made worse by *some* bloggers IMO), it drives me crazy. Books like 59 Seconds or research-based blogs like PsyBlog (who has had a bunch of posts lately dealing with personal finance) are great resources for cutting through the crap and helping us figure out what really works and what doesn’t – for most people.
According to Wiseman, here’s a list of things that DON’T work to motivate you to reach your goals:
- Focusing on someone you admire for achieving so much: eg. Steve Jobs
- Thinking about bad things that will happen if you don’t achieve your goal: eg. my former tendency of thinking I would end up sharing a bowl of Friskies with my cat some day.
- Trying to suppress unhelpful thoughts: eg. avoiding thinking about how you’ll manage to avoid shopping for Christmas.
- Relying on willpower: I used to do this a lot in the beginning but switched to changing up my environment so I didn’t need to rely on willpower as much.
- Fantasize about how great life will be when you reach your goal: my guess is a lot of people that dream about early retirement or financial independence – or just being able to chuck it all and go traveling forever do quite a bit of this? I know I certainly used to.
Here’s what DOES work according to Wiseman and the research:
- A step by step plan – have a maximum of five steps with subgoals that are objective so that you can definitively say whether you’ve hit the target or not. Give yourself a reward when you’ve reached the goal. Give yourself a target time limit. Don’t listen to those people who say that goals are terrible things to have – they just aren’t doing it right and are or were too hung up in the outcome. It’s a classic throwing out the baby with the bathwater approach.
- Tell other people about your goal – heck, even set up a whole blog about it. Your readers will keep you on the straight and narrow.
- Think about the good things that will happen by achieving your goal – remind yourself of these things on a regular basis.
- Reward yourself for making progress – but not by doing anything that conflicts with actually achieving your larger goals. Like don’t have a goal to pay off a credit card and then run out and buy a new car.
- Record your progress – use net worth calculators, those little widgets for recording debt balance pay-offs or savings goals – or, use your banking software and good old fashioned spreadsheets or journals / graphs if you’re more of a Luddite type.
I’m firming up my financial goals – and processes – for 2012 right now. Goals are something that I always tackle from a broad perspective around Christmas and have been doing that for the last 20 years – with sometimes great success and sometimes not so great. Where they didn’t work, it was because I didn’t – work at them that is. They also didn’t work where I didn’t allow for the peculiarities of my personality (of which there are many) , setbacks, or obstacles.
So far, it looks like it will be “the year of the mortgage payoff” – or half payoff.
I’m setting a maximum limit on savings as well since I know I can be a little too
motivated weird that way. I don’t want to go to Hoarder Rehab – no no no.