Would you love to write or paint or play guitar every day? Would you like to kindle a meditation practice? Or a gratitude practice? Or a new eating habit?
Do you keep procrastinating on a project you want to complete? Writing that book, cleaning out your closet, putting together a portfolio of your art.
Stickers might just be your new best friend.
I got these beautiful stickers from Ben Franklin (arts and crafts store) two weeks ago. Already, eleven of them are gone! I’m so proud of myself. In a minute, I’ll tell you why.
Using stickers to motivate yourself towards your goals, especially daily goals, is a tool I often recommend to my students. They work beautifully to help you cultivate new daily habits, and they are also fabulous for taking small steps toward big projects or dreams.
Don’t worry: If you don’t like stickers, I’ll give you another option below.
Why I’m using stickers right now
I needed to revitalize my commitment to moving my body every day.
With the pandemic dragging on, and me working from home, glued to my computer at my desk, I have not been getting enough movement at all.
Add to that three months of relentless, off-the-charts, unbearable heat wave here in Northern California, and at least a month of choking smoke from gargantuan wildfires. Getting outside at all has become difficult. Which means taking walks—one of my favorite forms of exercise—has not been palatable or possible often. And dancing with others, which I used to do twice a week, has been gone completely for a year and half.
And then the gloominess of a world in chaos, and the ongoing isolation, make it hard for me to want to put on music and dance by myself or do yoga.
What’s a girl to do to keep her body healthy?
Stickers! For every day in which I do at least 20 minutes of movement—bouncing on the mini trampoline, yoga, dance, walking, lifting my miniscule weights—I put a sticker on the wall calendar. I now have eleven in a row, and I do not want to break the chain!
Plus, these stickers are so beautiful, and it’s fun to choose the one I get to have that day. A little like an advent calendar in reverse.
The stickers and the unbroken rows provide such strong motivation that I insisted Don and I take a walk before dinner a couple nights ago, even though we had already had a full day of cleaning out the garage and had things to do that evening.
In the past, I would have just decided to wait for tomorrow. But not now.
How to use stickers to reach your goals
Choose any goal which you would like to have become a daily habit or activity for a period of time (or forever). It’s helpful, when starting out, to choose a period of time to focus on. Thirty days is good. Long enough to really dive in. Not so long that you feel you can’t keep it going.
Decide on a do-able daily chunk. I encourage people to start small and build on their success, rather than set ridiculous, ambitious goals and fall apart by day three. Ten minutes is good. But you decide what works for you and your goal or project.
Get a wall calendar or print out a calendar for the month and put it up on the wall or somewhere highly visible.
For every day that you do your new daily practice, give yourself a sticker. And do your darnedest not to break the chain. (If you do break the chain—life happens—just hop right back on that horse the next day.)
For those who don’t like stickers
Men often balk at the idea of stickers as being childish, girlish, silly, or unnecessary. Which is really a shame because you are missing out on some serious fun and motivation.
But all is not lost! For you guys (and any of you who have suppressed your inner child or have a phobia of stickers), you can use a check mark or an X.
Studies have shown—for those who like studies or need proof—that doing this really does increase motivation for the goal. You get a little burst of positive hormones every time you get that sticker (or check mark), and seeing the unbroken chain is also a motivator.
Make your success even more likely
Get an accountability buddy. Tell a friend your goal for the next thirty days and report in each week—you can do that by text or email or phone. It helps greatly if the friend also has a goal—it doesn’t have to be the same goal—but it’s not strictly necessary. The key is to pick a friend who is encouraging and kind, but not too lax in letting you off the hook.
Celebrate and acknowledge yourself every single day that you do your daily goal. Really cheer yourself on. This is important.
And then, choose a reward to give yourself at the end of the thirty days. Something you would truly enjoy. Something you want. A dinner out somewhere nice or a trip to the beach. A new pair of shoes. A whole afternoon off to read trashy novels. And be sure to give yourself the reward if you make it to thirty days of stickers in a row.
Share your goals here, if you like. And I will cheer you on.