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I have often written about the power of numbers to motivate. One way of building your business or increasing your liquid assets is to set yourself the goal of making £10,000. Then see how fast you can do it. Once you have achieved the goal, see if you can achieve the next £10,000 even faster. After you’ve achieved ten of these goals in turn, you can then move to seeing how quickly you can make the next £100,000!

One little known fact is that it is more motivating to count down rather than to count up. If you were going to set goals for yourself in the way I have outlined above, always think in terms of how much you’ve still got to go. Don’t say “I’ve made £6,000” instead say “I’ve got £4,000 to go”. This focuses your mind on the end result.

You can use the same principle in all sorts of different ways. If you are aiming to lose weight, don’t say “I’ve lost 5 lbs”, instead say “I’ve only got 2 lbs to lose to my target weight.” Counting down in this way will encourage you to keep going right up to time you reach the target, rather than be content with just losing a few pounds.

Reader Comments (3)

Mark, this gives me an idea for counting repetitions in a workout.

For a while, I've been counting repetitions as a "ladder." For example, if I am going to lift something fifteen times, instead of counting 1 to 15, I count first 1 to 5, then 1 to 4, then 1 to 3, then 1 to 2, and then a final 1. I find this much more motivating than counting 1 to 15. The nice thing about it is that you are always about to finish up a small mini-set, just as when you are jogging a long distance and you keep targeting a nearby landmark: "I'll just run to that one," and upon reaching it you find another and then another.

I did play with counting down from fifteen to one, and I found it better than counting up, but not as good as the ladder.

However, as a result of your post, I am now wondering about counting *down* within the ladders: 5 to 1, 4 to 1, then 3 to 1, then 2 to 1, then 1. I expect it will make the beginning phase move along better. I will try it!
April 24, 2011 at 16:30 | Registered CommenterBernie
I do something similar when trying to sleep. I count down from 10, then from 20, then from 30. One count per slow breath, with deep breathing exercises each time I reach 0. If I lose track I think, "Good. I'm almost asleep," and pick up from wherever feels most comfortable. Counting down gives a sense of finishing, which is good at the end of a day. The sense of completion is good. I rarely get past 40.
April 24, 2011 at 19:13 | Registered CommenterCricket
I wonder if the best thing to check changes part way through. Maybe at the start it is better to say "5% complete" (hey, I've done something!) rather than "95% to go" (aargh, I've hardly done anything!), but towards the end it is better to think of what is left?
August 14, 2013 at 14:09 | Unregistered CommenterKeith Collyer

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