“A diamond is just a piece of charcoal that handled stress exceptionally well.” ~Unknown
I'm great with short-term goals. In fact, I prefer them. Work my butt off for a few months to reach a goal? I'm down with that. I'll give up a social life, down time, spending money, eating yummy food (read: sugar), drinking alcohol—whatever it takes, for the short-term. Long-term goals—ugh, not so much.
Despite this preference for pretty immediate gratification, I have followed through with many long-term goals in my life (school and various trainings, long-distance relationships, starting and re-starting businesses, to name a few).
There have also been quite a few of these goals that I've dropped that I wished I hadn't.
I, like many of us, have noticed a pattern of finding it much more difficult to stay engaged once the initial excitement of starting something new has worn off.
Through this learning process of motivating myself to follow through with longer-view goals, I've come up with a few steps that have really helped me to stay focused and on track. Here are three steps that can help.
Remind yourself that you’re in charge.
There are loads of reasons we get off track with goals. Self-doubt, fear we won’t succeed, and concern that we are not setting realistic goals are just a few of them.
This is really important to remember: You can change this goal if you want. You can keep going, you can revise it, or you can dump it altogether.
When we are experiencing doubts, it’s easy to feel like we have no power; it’s easy to feel like we don’t have a choice. However, most often, we do.
I find it helps to simply remind myself that I'm in charge. Many times, when the going gets tough, we begin to feel like the choices we made (sometimes long ago) are not our own. Sometimes a reminder to ourselves that we are the ones who originally set this goal is a good way to rev the engine.
When I first started acupuncture school, I was pretty young, but it had been several years since I'd been in school. I'd been living on my own, partying it up, and doing whatever I liked.
I saw pretty quickly that I had to get serious, stop staying out late so often, and learn to organize my time and resources far better then I had been. In short, I had to get productive.
Well, the meltdown that ensued was not very attractive. I didn’t want to give up my young, single, and independent lifestyle! I didn’t want to trade late nights with my friends for late nights with textbooks and manuals!
That went on for about a week, until a wise friend (who was tired of my whining), said, basically, “You wanted this. Get with it, or quit school.”
It was the kick in the butt I needed to stop complaining and remember that I did want it. I was very driven to be an acupuncturist, because it’s an amazing modality. And I strongly desired (and continue to desire) to live a life of service.
I won't say it was completely smooth sailing from there on out, but my productivity and focus were certainly much improved.
Look back at all you’ve already achieved.
If you have been taking steps towards your goal for a while, then it can be great to take some time to consider all that you have already accomplished. All long haul goals take multiple, incremental steps to attain. Pat yourself on the back, and remind yourself of these achievements.
The thing is, once an incremental step is attained, it can quickly feel like not quite so big of a deal. It becomes commonplace, and it's not as exciting as it was when we first accomplished it. That's normal, and understandable, and it's great to look back occasionally and remind ourselves what a big deal reaching that step really was at the time.
When I’m frustrated about what feels like a lack of movement toward a goal, I sit down and make a list of the steps I have already enacted to reach it, and what the results of those steps have been. I am almost always surprised at how much I’ve produced. This clarity helps in releasing those feelings of frustration.
Explore the reasons you're going for this goal, and remind yourself often.
While I was in school, there were many times when I simply wanted to quit.
I had student loans (that were growing!). As I mentioned, there was little time for a social and personal life. I was learning a technique that required a very different perspective (energy medicine vs. the physical body) then I had previously.
Besides that, I was starting to sweat the idea of running my own business. Would I fail? Could I make it work? Maybe I was nuts to think I could succeed at this at all!
When I’d start to get too caught up in all that noise, I would literally sit down and remind myself of the reasons I’d chosen the path I had.
I loved acupuncture; despite fear about being self-employed, I craved that independence; I resonated strongly with the concepts of energy I was learning, even if the vocabulary was new.
Taking the time to have these talks with myself helped to re-invigorate me, to renew my focus, and encouraged me to continue.
To really follow through with a longer-term goal, we have to have solid reasons that make sense to us.
That said, goals aren’t set in stone. Like everything in life, it’s good to approach them with flexibility and open-mindedness.
If you can't successfully remind yourself of your initial reasons for going for the goal, and get re-ignited about those reasons, then it might be time to re-assess.
Only we can decide what is best for us, and that can change over time. It’s so important to give ourselves permission to go for goals with full-on focus and gusto, or to change them, or put them aside for a while, or whatever else we decide is right at that time.
What techniques do you use to keep yourself motivated on your goal-getting journey?
Photo by Hartwig HKD