Find the tools to achieve your goals

Becoming a “lifer” at a telemarketing company doesn’t happen overnight. Rather, the path crystallizes from day to day as you continuously fail to improve your condition, through laziness or stubbornness, without realizing the effect of each small decision.
Each day is a struggle. It’s up at the alarm, snapping out of a deathlike trance, performing morning rituals and heading to work. It’s making decisions, acting appropriately and checking your impulses. It’s forgoing the brownie for dessert, the extra hour of sleep and the opportunities for distraction.
With all the tangents beckoning you, the actual time put forth toward your goals might be much less than it first appears. A pile of schoolwork might sit idle for months. Every time you glance at it, the task seems overwhelming. How could you possibly sit down and tackle all that work?
Your body is flabby and out of shape. But liposuction is expensive and dangerous. Months of changed eating habits and increased exercise are the only answers to the creeping obesity — a daunting task even for the diligent.
Your dream guitar hangs on the store racks, snidely eyeing your vacuous wallet. But most of your money is spent on rent, books and car supplies. At 30 bucks a month, saving for ownership seems impossible.
For many of us, each one of these goals is so mind-bogglingly large that it sucks the energy right out of our feet and sends us back to bed. It is simply incomprehensible that we would perform all the right decisions to reach the goal.
Those of us in this boat simply must find techniques to circumnavigate our established hesitation and allow us to tackle bite-sized portions of the larger task. We must force our brains to focus and ignore all other distractions.
With one little behavioral trick, it is often possible to completely revamp your life. If you can find the tools to rein in your mental energy and channel it toward achieving fulfilling goals, you can propel your life forward.
Time-management books are full of various techniques that attempt to break through procrastination. One way to focus the brain is to design a time schedule for your day with blocks set aside for homework and exercise. Even with a generous lunch break and other nods to your temptations, you will likely get more done.
Another benefit of a schedule is that it can prevent distractions from taking over. Ideally, you would stick to the chart and ignore the television, turn off the telephone and forget about eating until your work is done.
Lists are also useful for many people. Whether a small list of chores to be performed in the next week or a list of your lifelong dreams, they can help make concrete your fuzzy ideas and clarify your commitment to achieving them. Tape it on your wall to remind yourself of what really is important to you.
An important step is to break down the larger goals into something that you can tackle. Even a reasonable goal, like finishing a report, has many smaller components. Write them down: read chapter two, search the Internet for information on cheese, interview a cheesemeister. Then each step can be completed in one sitting.
Find the time each day to sit and think about your progress and the status of your life. Your mind will strengthen as it is continuously reminded of what you’re working toward,and your vision for your life.
During this meditation time, form a very complete picture in your mind of where you will be if you stay on target. Picture yourself in a new job. Picture all your co-workers and the fun you will have with them. Picture the money and the new clothes and the compliments. Let yourself feel the happiness that will be available once you earn it.
Now take the opposite tack. Envision driving the same old car to a job that you can’t stand with people that make your eyes glaze over with boredom. Picture the dread you feel every morning and the weariness that hits you at night.
Realize all you have to lose if you don’t work for what you want. Keep it poignant with constant reminders. While plodding through homework, suffering an internship or exercising on a hot day, let your goal fuel you and pull you toward it.
Each successful completion of a milestone will bolster your self-esteem and convince you of your power to change your life. Future efforts won’t spawn dismay as you remind yourself that you’ve tackled tougher feats.
The years will pass whether you bother moving ahead in life or not. The past will slowly blur together, and you won’t be able to pinpoint any particular mistake you made. But you will know you did something wrong when you repeat, for the thousandth time, “We have a special offer for people in your area.” Don’t let it get to that point.

Brian Close’s column appears on alternate Mondays. He welcomes comments to [email protected]