How to Use a Daily Goal Card Practice to Achieve Your Next Goal

A goal card combines the powers of planning, self-affirmation, visualization, and repetition. Here’s how to fill out yours.

If you’re unhappy with something about yourself — whether it’s your health, financial situation, relationships, self-confidence, work ethic, or a bad habit — change it! No matter what area of your life you want to improve, you can use the same method for setting your goal, planning the path there, and visualizing your breakthroughs. Creating and using a goal card keeps you on the right track.

Yes, there are some circumstances and events beyond our control — accidents, mistakes, illnesses, death, injury. While you can’t control all of your major life events, you can control your self-image and mindset surrounding them. And that means you can turn things around: go from fat to thin, from weak to strong, from low self-esteem to confidence. A goal card will be your best friend in this process.

A goal card is a tool for describing your goal, mapping out a plan for getting there, and visualizing your new reality, all in one place. It’s a powerful practice because it combines the utility of planning with the mindset-altering effects of visualization and affirmation, with plenty of repetition to help things stick.

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The traditional way to make a goal card is manually, with pen and paper. On the card, you write about your goal(s) and how it will feel to achieve them, along with an “exchange statement” describing what you will give (or give up) in order to achieve this for yourself. Once the card’s been created, you read and reflect on it at least twice a day.

Little by little, this practice starts to change your behavior. You start to see yourself in a new way. You stay accountable, because you are constantly reminded to make decisions that take you closer to your goals. You know what those decisions are, because you’ve already planned them.

In other words, a goal card practice gives you the mentally and emotionally transformative power of a daily affirmation with the utilitarian, nuts-and-bolts approach of a laid-out plan. It’s also totally free and requires only time and concentration.You have nothing to lose, only progress to make.

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The more consistent and accountable you are with your goal card practice, the more effective it becomes. Your goal card reminds you of the person you want to be and what you need to do to make it happen. It also helps you see yourself as this person — an essential part of making changes that last.

Moving throughout your day, you do the small things to become the person you want to be. The goal card plays the role of reminding you who that is, what you need to do, and why you want it. Reading and embracing the goal card takes on the power of autosuggestion, and acts a guidance system by prompting visualization and reminding you to keep your self-image high.

For example, if your goal has to do with building strength and changing your body composition, you’ll start the day visualizing that reality, and itemizing the steps you need to take. Later that day, you are faced with a decision: happy hour, or the gym. What’s the right thing to do? Your goal card — which is meant to be kept right in your pocket for times like these — is your guide to better behavior.

This works for any goal, not just those in the health and fitness department. Let’s say you want to grow your business by offering a new service. Will you set aside time to work on your plan and continuing education? Or will you forget all about it and burn through your Netflix queue? A few minutes of reflection with your goal card empowers you to tear yourself from the screen. With the goal card’s statement fresh on your mind, you’re compelled to take the correct action. You’re more likely to do the right thing.

Through daily discipline and good behavior, eventually, you will embody the live you’ve pictured. Change is difficult, and your old self-image will fight it, but focusing with the goal card help you hold the course. By adapting your self-image and cultivating mindfulness, you’ll start making better decisions.

Creating a Goal Card

If you’re doing this the traditional way, you can use a paper index card. Pick something that will fit into your bag or pocket so that you can have it with you. For best results, use sturdy materials or take other steps to mitigate wear and tear.

Better yet? Turn your phone into your goal card — you always have it with you anyway, and it’s a good way to turn that mindless phone-gazing we’re all guilty of from time to time into something productive. Download the Goal Control mobile app (free on Google Play and the App Store) and create an account.

Step 1.) Define Your Goal. What will it feel like when you achieve it?

Here’s where you want to reach high, write in the first person, and be specific. Who do you want to be? You deserve the best, so don’t be shy. Setting ambitious goals is exciting and scary, but it’s a great sign to feel that fire in your belly. Goals should scare you. This is because real change taps into the emotional, subconscious level.

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When you start describing your goal, imagine a scenario where you’ve already achieved it. Revel in your success in the first person:

“I am so happy and proud that I lost fifteen pounds of body fat. I’ve also ran my first half-marathon in under two hours. I am thinner and stronger than ever. I overcame a sedentary lifestyle.”

It seems strange to write like this, but it’s an important part of the process. Repeating this kind of self-talk over and over again is a powerful autosuggestion technique. You start seeing yourself as the person you want to become — a non-negotiable part of making behavior change sustainable in the long run.

Also, remember to be specific as well. Notice we didn’t say, “I am skinny and fit.” It’s important to talk about the detailed realities of your goal scenario.

Step 2.) Outline what you will do to obtain your goal.

This is your exchange statement, where you identify what you will change and give up in order to see results. Remember, nothing comes for free, and a goal card isn’t a magic wand. It’s simply a tool for organizing and aligning your self-improvement efforts. Putting in the work is up to you.

“I track my food, calorie, and nutrient intake with a daily food journal. I do not eat fast food. I run four times a week according to my training plan, often getting my run in before work in the mornings. My daily 10-minute yoga practice helps keep me flexible and injury-free.”

Step 3.) Set a deadline.

Deadlines with concrete dates keep you accountable, but be patient and stay realistic. Redefining yourself does not happen overnight!

Step 4.) Add motivational images.

Add images to the card that inspire you and help you picture the life you want. Be creative! If a certain physique is what you’re after, we even suggest you Photoshop some images of your face on your “after” body. Seeing your own face on a trim, toned body is powerful indeed.

If you’re using the Goal Control app, the image gathering process is much easier. You can browse our database of free motivational pics, or you can upload your own.

Your Daily Goal Card Practice

Once you create your goal card, get to work at once. Even if every day is not perfect, any progress gets you closer, even if it’s just a little at a time.

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Read your goal card at least twice daily, preferably out loud. Once in the morning and once at night is a good place to start, but feel free to do so as frequently as possible. An emergency goal card-reading certainly comes in handy when you’re having trouble sticking to your plans. (Plus, if it’s on your phone, no one around you will know what you’re doing.)

As you read, believe that you have already accomplished these goals. Visualize yourself putting in the work and what things will be like when the work is paying off. This is the person you will become! By repeating this first-person vision, you’ll eventually believe it. This change in self-perception prompts you to take actions befitting your goals.

Who do you want to become? What is your goal? How are you filling out your goal card? Through consistency and focus, you will get there. Thanks to positive self-talk and a changed self-image, you’ll stay there. You will no longer have any fear of new habits or failure — only freedom!

Get started today: download Goal Control from Google Play or the App Store. Learn more at the Goal Control website.

Free for iOS and Android.