How Do You Stay Motivated for Long-Term Goals?

How Do You Stay Motivated for Long-Term Goals

This blog post is a little different. I want to hear your thoughts on motivation. Because when it comes down to it, motivation is probably the most important part of getting out of debt (and accomplishing any other long-term goal, for that matter).

Without that spark – that initial desire to reach the goal – the end result would never happen.

But what happens after that initial spark has faded? How do you persevere and keep on pushing toward the goal even though it is hard? These are very important questions that we all have to deal with when we’re working on difficult long-term goals like paying off our debt.

Like I said, I want to hear your answers in the comments below. But to get the conversation started, I’ll highlight some of the lessons I’ve learned while paying off my debt and while striving toward other long term goals:

Accept that Failure is Part of the Process

“I haven’t failed. I’ve found 10,000 ways that don’t work.”

–Thomas Edison

Maybe you made a New Year’s resolution and haven’t quite committed to it the way you hoped. Or maybe you created a budget last month and you spent more than you had planned. We’ve all been there. We’ve all had moments of failure.

And speaking from experience, I know that it is really hard at those times to stay committed to the long-term goal because it feels like you’re just not meant to get there. When I was paying off my credit card debt, I had months when I went over budget, and what I learned is that if I berated myself for failing it only made things harder.

Instead, I had to learn to give myself credit for all the things I was doing well. In my mind, I began highlighting the ways I had saved money and affirming my ability to reach my goal. This is the best way to strengthen your motivation, in my opinion.

Find Somebody To Lean On

“Friendship doubles our joy and divides our grief.”

–Swedish Proverb

This one is simple. Humans are social creatures. No matter what your personality is, having someone to confide in and someone who is willing to encourage you during tough times makes a world of difference.

The important points to remember are (A) don’t take your friends and loved ones for granted, and (B) don’t be too proud to ask for help when you need it. People are almost always willing to lend a sympathetic ear and offer words of encouragement to you when you need it, and oftentimes that is exactly what you need to keep you going.

Focus on What You Can Control

“Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.”

–John R. Wooden

In most difficult journeys there are things that affect you which are outside of your influence. You cannot change them, so you have to learn to live with them or navigate around them. For people getting out of debt, this means letting go of whatever got you in debt in the first place.

The past is out of your control now, so focus on what you can control: your future actions. You will feel much better being proactive about shaping your future than worrying about past events that cannot be changed.

Enjoy the Challenge

“It ain’t about how hard you can hit. Its about how hard you can get hit, and how much you can take, and keep moving forward.”

–Rocky Balboa

If you are reading this, that means you have a long-term goal. And any long-term goal by definition is not easy. It can seem intimidating and daunting. Maybe even impossible. But there’s a way to embrace the challenge that will leave you feeling more motivated: take pride in the glory of what you’re attempting to do!

Think of yourself like Rocky fighting against impossible odds, surpassing expectations, pushing yourself to keep on going. When you give yourself credit for the magnitude of what you’re trying to accomplish, you will be inspired and you will begin to enjoy the challenge.

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Stay Faithful to Your Vision

“To sit patiently with a yearning that has not yet been fulfilled, and to trust that, that fulfillment will come, is quite possibly one of the most powerful “magic skills” that human beings are capable of.”

–Elizabeth Gilbert

Having a vision is the foundation of your success. The more clearly and vividly you see your vision, the more likely you will be to carry it through. Your vision can be very specific: you can picture yourself making the right choices that will lead you to meeting your budget this month; you can envision yourself celebrating the day when you become debt free.

These pictures in your head will continue to drive you forward and will light the path ahead of you so that you don’t feel like you’re stumbling into the future but rather walking resolutely toward a destination. A destination you have chosen.

That’s my advice. Now what’s yours? Share it in the comments below!

Image credit: joshjanssen

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  • John S @ Frugal Rules

    Any post that quotes Rocky & Thomas Edison is good in my book. 🙂 . I love your thoughts about focusing on what you can control. There’s a time to regret and focus on your past actions and once you move past that the present & future are what need to be focused on. What helped me was keeping in front of me what life would be like without debt…that sealed the deal for me.

    • Haha, I’m really glad you liked the quotes, John! And you are so right about the power of keeping that picture in front of you to keep you motivated and moving forward. It is so important.

  • Also like the focus on what you can control. I also like to track progress towards goal. I think that’s critical, but I’m a big metrics guy.

    • Yes, tracking progress is such an important part of it. That’s something we believe in strongly at ReadyForZero and it is a big part of our tool. We’ve found people love being able to track their progress as they get closer and closer to being debt free. Thanks for your comment!

  • Cait Flanders

    These are all great points, Ben, but the last one might be my favourite. To stay motivated, you need to remember that nothing happens overnight. Some days are tough, some are even tougher… but you’ll accomplish your goal eventually.

    • Thanks, Cait! Really glad you liked it. Maintaining that perspective to get through the hard days is so crucial. It is the long-term vision that helps to continue on through those times.

  • Ruben Omega

    To stay motivated, starting last year, instead of doing a ‘new year’s resolution,’ I came up with monthly goals (like “lose 2 lbs each month” and lately I just added “pay down $XX in debt per month”) and I asked my 2 best friends if I could share my progress with them each month, since I know they won’t judge me if I fall behind. Each month, I call or e-mail them with my metrics and they give me feedback, motivation, and encouragement. Overall it’s worked well in keeping me focused on long term goals even after the initial spark has faded.

    • Nice! I like that idea of having monthly goals and checking in with your friends at the end of each month to give you a sense of accountability. What a great way to approach it. Would you be interested in writing about that experience for our blog? If so, we’d love to feature a guest post by you! 🙂

  • The big one for me is to keep review my goals and to ensure that I am staying on the right track.