Gold starI’m convinced that deep down inside, and as social beings we want recognition from those we most care about.

Somewhere in there, we want Mommy to be proud of that artwork on the refrigerator.  We want to get a gold star sticker for accomplishment.

This is important in understanding your own motivations.  I recently had a client tell me that she got a tiny burst of adrenaline every time she was able to check something off her to-do list.  Of course she knows that the act itself is rather meaningless, but still there’s something which she craves deep inside to give just a little bit of positive feedback.

I often joke with my clients that the real value of tracking action items is just so they can feel good about declaring, “look what I’ve done!”  It’s also very true.

This is powerful when setting goals.  The trick is to declare, to someone you care about, what you’re going to commit.  Let’s look at those three parts.

Declare:  You have to actually verbalize it or write it down.  Until you do that, it’s just a fuzzy concept inside your head, and this gives you all kinds of latitude to make excuses for why it didn’t happen.

Someone you care about:  Imagine that you walked up to a random person on the street and told them that you’re going to be a millionaire five years from now.  Well, first, they’d slowly back away from you, thinking that you’re just a bit crazy.  But second, there’s no impact on YOU for doing this, because you’ll never have a conversation with that person again.  It doesn’t matter that you’ve made a promise to them.

It would actually be more powerful to seriously declare this to yourself in the mirror.  Because you care about what you think of yourself – that’s often how daily affirmations work.  But even more powerful would be to declare this to your best friend or respected family member.

What you’re going to commit:  This has to be about visible action, something that we can both agree either happened or didn’t.  If you declare that you’re going to be happier tomorrow than you were today, great.  But when I ask you about that tomorrow, it’s real easy to declare that you’ve improved your state of mind without having any internal confidence at all.  But when you say you’re going to paint the room tomorrow, we can both see and celebrate the progress.

We’re all looking for gold stars, to be recognized and feel better about making a difference in the world.  You can use this to your advantage, whether it’s in managing your own goals, managing employees, or helping friends.