So you want to lose weight, buy a yacht, or retire young and in good health?.
Imagining success helps, but it isn't enough. Positivity and optimism help too, but probably not enough to get you through the inevitable setbacks.
Here's my summary of the best evidence available - from researchers who have tested various techniques on large numbers of goal-strivers.
Recognise some things you are doing already? Good, but 'I knew that' is also a trap. What really matters is whether we are making the most of those ideas - using every one that's relevant to us.
Let's be realistic. Achieving goals is hard, unless the goals are so easy they're just a 'to do' list. Most people give up within a few weeks. People whose goal is to change entrenched behaviours, such as smoking, usually need several attempts.
We improve our chances if we see achieving goals as a process, not an exam that we pass or fail. Use the list to stay focused.
Let's say you are at a meeting, presenting at a conference, or in a job interview. The conventional advice, 'just be yourself' sounds plausible. It's built on the idea that it's vital to be authentic.
But which you are we talking about?
Is it the grumpy you, the frustrated you or that part of you that's resentful because your boss turned down your idea? Clearly not.
We have many versions of us. If we are in front of others we must select the version of us that's most appropriate for the occasion. That's in our interests, but it's also in the interests of our colleagues at the meeting, our audience at the presentation or the job recruiters.
Is presenting our best selves less than authentic?
Only if it's false.
Is it an act? In a sense, because it's only a selection from the various versions of us. But it's still us.
And there's something else.
We can use the act to practise cultivating the professional us. We can use it as a benchmark, so we can remind ourselves of the professionalism we showed at the meeting, the conference and the interview and strive to keep being that best version of us.
Just being ourselves has a big downside.
Like the person who throws out tactless personal criticism and says, 'I'm just being honest'.
Or the one who won't change other unsociable behaviour, 'because that's just the way I am'.
Want to be authentic, build rapport with your audience, but still you?
Give away a bit about yourself. Be human. An academic whose work I follow, wrote recently that when he goes through automatic doors he likes to imagine that he is opening them with his mind.
Silly? A bit child-like? Fair enough.
Do you like him more? I do.
Interested in a workshop on emotional Intelligence for your team? (It's about thriving at work)
What about a workshop on employee engagement? (For your leaders or for your teams)