Chapter 2: Thinking in Terms of Goals


In the previous chapter we were chatting about how we tend to do the things that give us pleasure, and how we also avoid the things that don’t. A student wrote to me and said that I ought not to have mentioned dancing elephants – but I did, because it amused me, and so I felt encouraged to continue.

Encouraging yourself to continue on a path through knowledge towards eventual graduation can be difficult at any times, and in cyberspace, where you may not even meet fellow online university students, this is even harder. So what’s the trick, and how do you achieve this? When I was embarking on my online psychology degree, the head of faculty sent all of us a video feed aimed at inspiring us. I’ll never forget the way he ended his inspiring words:

There will be times when the going will be very hard, and you will wish to give up, as some of my students unfortunately do. When you feel depressed that way, imagine what it will be like to eventually receive your degree, how proud your family and friends will be, and what your degree will do for you in your future. This will motivate you to press on.

Goals are important motivators. They should always lie ahead of us, and be stacked so as to unfold to higher levels. You should never quite achieve them – this makes you sure to keep moving forward throughout your life.

What this means in practice

As you read through what follows, you may like to write each bullet point on a separate piece of paper with a marker pen, and paste the pages somewhere where you’ll see them often. That way you will feel pleasure as you review your progress every morning, and reinforce the likelihood of another successful day.  

Keep your eye on the ball

It’s awfully easy to get distracted, and you need to program yourself for concentration. The key lies in applying the principle that the more you behave a certain way in the presence of a thought or other stimulus, the more you are likely to behave that same way again.

When applying this to your online degree guide and other study material, the practical implications remain the same. You must, and I emphasise the word deliberately, keep your eye on the ball and study diligently right from the beginning, so that you develop the conditioned response essential to success. If you fail to do this from the outset, then you may be seduced by other temptations (like day dreaming, calling friends, and even playing video games) and join the queues of drop-outs along the way.  

Set interim targets

When athletes are in a race that goes many times around the stadium, they break the event up into a series of separate laps. Completing each one becomes for them a moment of personal celebration, which spurs them on in turn to redoubled effort. Do the same when you are studying. Divide your work up into manageable chunks. Put these chunks on a project planner, and tick them off as you complete them. That way, your online education course will consist of a series of laps, each one achievable on its own, and every one a step along the way as you move onwards towards the winner’s tape.

Enjoy minor celebrations along the way

Remember what I mentioned in the previous chapter about firms that allow employees time off, when things go well? Days of rest and celebrations are a natural part of happy life, and you should treat yourself to these when studying too. So, when things are going well, why not spoil yourself with a night off, a present for yourself, or a meal with your spouse or special friend? You’ll soon associate pleasurable reward with your internet based education program – and this is exactly where you need to be.


Chapter 1: Using the Pleasure Principal to Your Advantage
Chapter 2: Thinking in Terms of Goals
Chapter 3: Staying in Touch with Family, Friends and Colleagues
Chapter 4: Creating a Special Place to Study and a Formal Study Plan
Chapter 5: Establishing a Formal Study Program and Balancing Your Time
Chapter 6: Expanding Your Capacity to Study
Chapter 7: The Final Hurdles – Spotting for Success and Examination Time