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So what is the secret to following through? Let us consider a formula of motivation, willpower, planning and reflecting. Put simply, without motivation, there is no direction – so without it, all of the willpower in the world and even the most detailed plan would be for naught. Without the will to actually do something, motivation is not more than an honorable intention. Without a plan, even the best of motivation and willpower will be undirected and scattered (as Churchill once noted, failing to plan means planning to fail). Add self-reflection to this list of essentials, as to not have goals that are detached or only loosely related to one's overall aims in life, and the chances are quite high that the goal will be achieved. Therefore, we focused on exactly these factors: Motivation, volition (i.e. willpower - including making plans) and self-reflection.
Then, we need to give thought to what obstacles may arise: Thinking of several possible and realistic challenges and having a plan for action for every single challenge is crucial to avoid getting caught off guard by everyday challenges. Furthermore, we can use many smaller strategies to facilitate reaching our goal. Possible strategies might include enrichment (making the goal more appealing, i.e. rewarding ourselves after achieving milestones) or using pressure to our advantage (e.g. signing up for a half marathon when deciding to run more often). And finally, we naturally evaluate our achievements constantly, however, there are more and less constructive ways of doing so. Comparing our achievements to a set of criteria (i.e. a pass grade in an exam) or the achievements of our peers is by far less motivating than comparing our current achievements to our past achievements. This allows us to perceive our progress and makes us independent of external judgments.
To conclude, when New Year's resolutions fail, it is indeed not because the fault was in our stars - it might have rather been in our motivation, willpower, planning or reflecting. And by gaining clarity over all four factors, it is not only the first step of that journey of a thousand steps we can take successfully, but also the remaining nine hundred and ninety-nine.
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