Tips and Tools to Help You Stick to Your Goals

The pandemic presented many unwelcome circumstances, but it also provided an opportunity for people to consider their life choices and adjust course as necessary to move toward more fulfilling lives. The Great Resignation is not only a thing, but a big thing.

“We’re not supposed to just be unhappy and burned out all this time. Work should be about more than just getting a paycheck,” says Danielle Boris, founder of ConnectFor, a platform to prevent boredom and burnout and help people love their work.

ConnectFor helps managers create strong teams based on employees’ interests and skills, but what if you don’t know what their strengths are? You can read a tried-and-true book like What Color Is My Parachute?, which has been updated for 2022; you can hire a career coach; and/or you can start with some online resources.

CareerTest offers an online quiz ($9.99 for adults, $6.99 for students) that identifies career personality, career interests, and career aptitude.

Free tests include High5Test, which helps users find their top five strengths, and CareerFitter, which provides insight into your “work personality energy” and “what drives your actions,” with a premium, 10-page report available for $19.99.

So What Gets In The Way?

The short answer is, a lot of things get in the way. Natalie Dattilo, a clinical psychologist and instructor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, says, “The foundational and fundamental skill in life is, ‘How much self-awareness do you have?’ And some of that is trial and error.”

When we try things that don’t work, it’s not necessarily that we failed. If we set up a morning workout partner and one person doesn’t stick to the commitment, that’s not a failure but rather an invitation to explore how we’re wired, and what some of us discover is that we’re more accountable to ourselves than to others.

Dattilo says that people say they want to be motivated, but what they really want is to be inspired. She says it’s important to evaluate what matters most in your life, and recommends a values clarification quiz, such as this one, to identify what we want to honor this year, though she recommends limiting it to three top goals. Once we’ve identified our values, we can have sturdier boundaries and an increased chance at living our best lives.

“Our motivation to do just about anything is contingent upon the belief that whatever effort we put into something will pay off,” Dattilo says, “And the more guaranteed the payoff the more motivated we are to do it.” It seems so obvious, but she also says that the belief our effort will pay off is built on previous achievements: how successful we’ve been in achieving the goals we set for ourselves, and also how guaranteed—and how far out—the payoff is.

For this reason, Dattilo suggests setting small, attainable goals. “Set a goal, cut in half, and then cut in half again,” she says. Small wins build confidence, optimism, and self-efficacy, which is the belief that we can achieve what we set out to achieve. The dopamine system is complicated, but dopamine hits motivate us because of the anticipated payoff.

When it comes to goals, Dattilo offers the hack of all hacks. “If the only goal you ever have is to learn something,” she says, “you’ll never fail. You’ll always succeed. You’re going to learn something about yourself and you’re going to learn something about the world. You’re going to learn something.”

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