4 Ways To Stay Committed To Your Goals
Call me a weirdo, but I think it’s fun to set new goals and New Year resolutions. I love the idea of a fresh start and I get energized by trying to dream big. And at the beginning of the year, it’s easy to see what changes would make this year better than the last, right? It’s clear what you need to do differently, what you need to quit, and what you need to start. If you’re like me, you jump right into making lists, buying books, downloading new apps and hopefully anticipating your brand new year.
And then, life happens. The same challenges, stumbling blocks, interruptions and frustrations that have held you back in the past rear their ugly heads. Your momentum slows, then stalls, then completely abandons you. The list of goals or intentions that you wrote on January 1st stop motivating you and, instead, start making you feel guilty and ashamed for failing.
I know this pattern well, because I’ve been stuck in it myself. Over the years, I’ve cobbled together strategies, tools, and tricks to keep moving through these sticky times. Check out the list below and drop me a line to let me know if it helps!
Set Better Goals
You might be setting yourself up for failure before you even begin. If you went to a travel agent and said, “I want to go somewhere warm”, they might send you to Death Valley in July. Not exactly what you had in mind? But it’s what you said you wanted! If instead, you said, “I want to go to a beautiful, relaxing, tropical resort in the Caribbean during the third week in March”…well, you’re setting yourself for a whole different experience. Your goals are no different.
When setting goals, they need to be incredibly well-defined. Don’t use shorthand and write down a vague goal. Paint a picture with detail of your target outcome. What will successful completion or attainment of this goal look like? Feel like?
Let’s look at a common goal: “Get Healthy.” There is so much room for interpretation and vague disappointment with a goal this broad. Don’t end up in Death Valley in July.
How can this be revised to be a more compelling goal? What it would look and feel like to you if you were healthy? When you achieve this goal, how will you know? What signs, changes, achievements, measurements or habits will SHOW you that you’ve “gotten healthy”? When you achieve this goal, how will you feel in your mind? In your body? What behaviors will prove that you “are healthy”? Write this down and create a new, more focused goal.
2. Prepare For Your Pitfalls
Great news: you are the expert at understanding how you get in your own way when you fail to reach a goal. Great news: that means you can also be an expert in changing these patterns!
When it comes to the stumbling blocks that trip you up most, it’s not a matter of if they’ll show up this time, it’s a matter of when. Except this time, you’ll be prepared.
Write down the things that commonly steamroll you away from success. Then, write down a corresponding list of actions and strategies you can do to combat each of these pitfalls.
Do you tend to over-commit and say yes to everything? Put a sticky note on your computer with the question, “will this get me closer to my goal / my dreams?” Look at it before you commit to new projects. Do you tend to waste time on social media when you should be focusing on your dream life? Decide to delete all social media apps for the 2 hours each day when you can be the most focused on your goal tasks. Do you start running out of fuel after 1 month? Tell your best friend and ask them to set a reminder to help you rally over the slump in 30 days.
Whatever your road blocks, there are things you can do to avoid them. Get creative and make a plan ahead of time.
3. Stop Multi-Tasking
I know that this is unpopular advice, but before you switch tabs or open a different app, hear me out.
It is well-documented that every time we switch our focus (think: picking up your phone to quickly respond to a text message, while in the middle of writing an email on your computer) there is a “cognitive cost” or “switch cost”. According to the American Psychological Association, "multitasking may seem efficient on the surface but may actually take more time in the end and involve more error…even brief mental blocks created by shifting between tasks can cost as much as 40 percent of someone's productive time.”
Not convinced? Consider this from neuroscientist Daniel J Levitin, “Asking the brain to shift attention from one activity to another causes the prefrontal cortex and striatum to burn up oxygenated glucose, the same fuel they need to stay on task. And…multitasking causes the brain to burn through fuel so quickly that we feel exhausted and disoriented after even a short time. We’ve literally depleted the nutrients in our brain. This leads to compromises in both cognitive and physical performance…and raises levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the brain, which in turn can lead to aggressive and impulsive behavior. ”
No matter what goal you’re chasing, your ultimate success is tied to how much time you can put towards it. We can’t increase the quantity of time in each day, but we can take measures to increase the quality of the hours in our day.
Here are some simple tasks to help you get the most out of your time:
Try a social media detox for the first week of each month. Use this time to stop looking outward at everyone else’s lives and refocus on yourself.
Turn your cellphone off or on do not disturb while working on your goal-related tasks. When you sit down or set out to tackle an important task, treat the time as sacred. Turn off everything you can to ensure that no beeps, pop-ups, notifications, or rings interrupt your time.
Use the Pomodoro Technique. Full disclosure: I love this method and am using my pomodoro timer right now as I type these words. A simple timer breaks time into manageable but ultra-focused 25-minute chunks, with 5-minute breaks in between. The breaks are an important piece of the process here. Standing up and getting away from your desk or workspace for those five minutes allows you to come back refreshed. Try it!
Change your environment. Have you ever tried to workout at home, only to get completely sidetracked by some non-urgent housekeeping task; mid-burpee and suddenly obsessively wondering how the floors can be so dirty when you just vacuumed last week? (This is exactly why I, personally, can’t workout at home.) If you need to get reading done, go to the library. If you want to workout, go take a class or hit the gym. If you need to write emails, grab your headphones and head to a quiet coffee shop. Set yourself up for success and carve out a dedicated space where you can focus.
4. Tether Your Goal To Something Bigger Than You
Humans tend to do best when they are filled with purpose. If our why comes from superficial, punish-driven, or self-centered motivations, we might burn out fast. If our why is tied to deeper, more nourishing values, we’ll last longer.
Not sure how to make your goal of “run 4 times each week” meaningful? Try filling in the blanks in these sentences if you’re stuck:
I want my (kids / partner / friends) to see me as _______________. Showing up for myself and my goals supports this by letting them see me ___________.
Staying committed to my goal of __________ allows me to be a better person because ___________.
I contribute best to the world when I feel _____________. Persisting towards my goal helps me feel this way by ______________.
Change can be tough and, at times, supremely uncomfortable but living a full life is worth it. STRIDE’s purpose is to help our clients expand their possibilities. If you need help setting or working through a goal, drop me a line!
“Go for it now. The future is promised to no one.” Wayne Dwyer