There are a number of ways to maintain positive thoughts about your goals. The key to many of them is the concept of the locus of control. Basically, a person’s locus of control determines how he or she views life.

If I have an internal locus of control, I believe myself to be responsible for most of the events in life that I experience. If I have an external locus of control, I tend to see forces outside of myself determining what happens. Obviously, an internal locus of control is healthier and more productive. There are several ways you can help strengthen an internal sense of control.

Visualization

Like positive thinking, visualization is really a matter of using your imagination for self-improvement. The subconscious doesn’t differentiate between real events and imagined ones, so many times we worry that something’s going to go wrong, and our negativity is reinforced when it does. Several people I know well have made it a habit to “picture the worst that can happen” as a defense: nothing ever really turns out that bad, so reality is easy to take.

Visualize winning. — Gary Player, South African golfer

On the other hand, if you visualize yourself working towards and attaining your goals, your subconscious processes it just as if you’ve actually done it, which makes the actual goal easier to attain.

Baby Steps: Setting Intermediate Goals

A better approach is to gradually increase the exercise. I may want to swim fifty laps, but that’s impossible in my present state. If I want to achieve that goal, I have to break things down into smaller pieces. I can do five laps comfortably. Great! Now I could be negative about this: “That’s not going to do any good;” “I’ve got no endurance.” Or I can celebrate the fact that five laps is more than I’ve done in years, and slowly add a lap each time I go to the pool.

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And don’t underestimate the power of positive thinking and visualization. Every time I’m in the pool, I visualize myself swimming those fifty laps. If I can get a friend to swim with me, that’s even better—it adds a social aspect, and I have the added motivation of having made arrangements to meet someone at the pool. Before I know it, I’m swimming fifty laps, and feeling a lot better about myself!

Goals are dreams with deadlines. — Diana Scharf Hunt

Positive Affirmation

Attaining a goal is often a difficult process. (It wouldn’t be a goal if it was easy, right?). We can use a variety of tricks and techniques as motivation for working towards our goals. It doesn’t matter how silly a technique may sound to others, as long as it works for you.

I know a teacher who, faced with piles of boring English essays to read, rewards herself with half a chocolate bar for every three essays she grades. It gives her an incentive to keep going!

If chocolate isn’t a motivator for you (kinda counterproductive if you’re trying to lose weight), try another technique like rewarding yourself with a new CD, DVD or book. You could also treat yourself to a massage or a new outfit. Rewards are individual, so decide what works best for you!

Time Management

With the hectic bustle of today’s lifestyles, it’s essential that we learn to manage our time effectively if we’re going to attain our goals. Fortunately, there’s a wide variety of websites, self-help books and motivational audiotapes that can teach us how to manage time successfully (let’s face it: time management is a goal unto itself!).

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You can also combine time with a success image for a powerful combination. Find a one-hour hourglass. When the sand runs through it completely, stop what you’re doing and look back over the hour. Acknowledge how much work you’ve done towards your goal in that hour. If you look back and see that you’ve done very little, remind yourself that pauses are necessary in any journey, and resolve to do more in the next hour. Instead of being overwhelmed by an eight or ten hour day, break down your day into these one-hour pieces that you can value and assess without feeling that you've lost an entire day.

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