How football and philanthropy can help you hit your goals

Posted on January 12, 2010


– The first down line made watching football better.  Image:

Full disclosure: I am not a big football fan.  Dear Husband loves football, and sometimes, to keep him company (or if the Wolverines are playing), I’ll watch a game. But I do like TV, and I’m a sucker for TV shows that portray hope, tension, achievement and victory.

Televised football games became more interesting to me after they added the first down line.  (non-footballers: this is a virtual line, usually bright yellow, that they superimpose over the image of the field on the TV screen to show how far the players have to go to get a first down.  Getting a first down = a good thing, getting a bunch of first downs sometimes results in a touch down = 6 points.  apologies to footballers if I mangled my description)  Where, pre-first down line, all I saw was a mass of big guys running around with a football, occasionally piling up on top of each other, and occasionally making touch downs, now, I see the first down line, clear as day.  That bright yellow line gives me a visual clue about exactly what the players’ short term goal is, how far they have to go to reach it, and when they’ve hit it. I imagine that that little line has enhanced the pleasure and excitement that true fans feel when watching games (or at least helped the clueless follow the games better) – and maybe it’s kept some people from hitting the refrigerator in the middle of a play.  The visual cue increases my interest and engagement in the game.

Similarly, there’s something moving about the big thermometers that non-profits and fund-raisers use to publicly track donations.  You might see a big sign with a fundraising goal and, at the beginning of a fund drive, a big empty thermometer on it.  As donations come in, the thermometer is colored red to show how much progress the fundraiser is making towards the overall goal.  People who donate early enjoy seeing how their contributions raise the level of red.  Sometimes, seeing the thermometer close to, but not quite at, its overall goal, will motivate procrastinators to dig out the last bit needed to get to the top.  The sign creates accountability, shows progress, increases engagement and enables shared, public celebration of hitting the goal.

YOU can use your own magical tool to increase your own engagement and accountability as you pursue your goals.  You don’t need a virtual first down line, just some simple visual reminder of where you are, such as:

  • Gold stars on the calendar.  Great for goals that have a daily component (like exercising or developing a new positive habit).  If you have multiple goals, use different colored stars and put one on the calendar for each day that you hit your target.  You’ll get to the point where, if your calendar page doesn’t have a star, you’ll start looking for quick ways to hit your target to get your sticker fix.
  • Graph of progress over time.  This works for something with a long term target, like hitting a certain weight or training mileage or laps.  Map out progress over time with a graph, with the quantity being tracked (pounds, miles, laps, etc.) on the vertical axis and time on the horizontal.  Each day, graph your current status, then connect that point to yesterday’s point.  You’ll see your progress over time in a line graph.  I would add multiple colored horizontal lines with rewards for hitting interim goals (when I hit the red line/target = 5  miles, I’ll buy myself a CD, when I hit green, I’ll get a massage, etc.  Whatever reward/motivation works for you)
  • The big red thermometer.  Add interim rewards, as above.
  • Internet tools.  There are a lot of websites that will help you track progress.  One that I’m experimenting with is:  Another site is Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project, where you can share virtually your progress with others using a virtual toolbox.

How about you?  How will you track your progress this year?  Will you track in a way that others can see – or will you keep your progress more private?  Remember to empower your accountability buddies.  And SHARE in the comments, please.  Would love to hear about your progress.

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