You can break the neverending cycle of starting and relapsing on your goals.
You’ve set your goals, you’re all excited, and then you crash and lose all your motivation. Despite your best efforts, this cycle is something that you fall into all the time. You make some adjustments, but there is always that something that gets in your way again. And then you think to yourself, is there a way to make goals easier to achieve? Is there something that you’re missing that can make your carefully planned strategy work?
Well, yes there is.
There are several reasons for why you’re in this cycle. Perhaps there is a habit that is undermining your abilities or your overall mindset. Or maybe deep down that goal you are setting is too ambitious to be setting. Regardless of the situation, here are some of my solutions to the potential issues you face. By applying these methods, the goals that you’ll set for yourself will be challenging, but not overwhelming as before.
1. Make Goals Easier By Having A To-Do List
The first suggestion is to have a to-do list. Goals at their core is nothing but a set of habits that you perform. If you want strong teeth, you build a habit of brushing them. If you want to be healthy, you make a habit of exercising and eating better foods. To run a successful business, you need to build a habit of the actions that’ll make your business money.
All of your goals are tied to habits and so it’s important for you to know what those habits are. From there, it’s all about putting together a simple and concise to-do list.
To-do lists are my go-to strategy because:
- They break the goal down into simple steps to achieve each day. I have a goal of losing weight so on my to-do list for health goals I’m putting things like work out and count my calories. Going to the gym and recording your calories is easier than telling yourself “I want to lose 20 pounds.”
- They provide a clear focus. To-do lists shouldn’t be overwhelming. A smart to-do list is one that has few but very important items. This allows you to focus on what’s most important to you at this point in time.
- It still is rewarding. One of the reasons people say to-do lists don’t work is because they’re dopamine junkies. There are people who make extensive lists and go nowhere with them because they’re focusing on all the small unimportant things or they pile on every big goal they have in one sitting. The rewards then are short-lived and not worth it. But if you stick to a short list, getting those things done makes a bigger impact on you and your motivation.
2. Reflect On Your Progress Weekly/Monthly
Another problem that you might find yourself in is that you’re focusing on taking action all the time. While that is something that I encourage people to do, it is important to also pause and reflect.
One thing that I’ve learned over this year is that progress takes on many different ways. My weight loss journey is a good example of that as I’ve been on a plateau weight-wise for months. Instead of getting frustrated about the fact I’m not losing that much weight though, I’m looking at other things that have changed.
I look at myself in the mirror and start to see muscles. I’m also recording how much weight I’m moving with my exercises too.
On the surface, it doesn’t look like I’m achieving my goals of losing weight. But instead of getting frustrated and giving up, I’ll keep showing up and doing my exercises. That wouldn’t happen if it wasn’t for the fact I do a review of my progress on a regular basis.
Even if it feels like you’ve plateaued along the way to achieving your goal, it’s during those times to pause and reflect. Build up the habit to look at the changes you’ve made over the week or the month and how that impacts your advance towards your goal. You’ll likely find progress in other ways.
3. Have A Reason To Pursue Your Goal
A lot of articles out there with goal setting talk about the SMART goal setting system. That or they use that metric to how you can make your goals easier to achieve. I find the whole system flawed and not at all worthwhile.
The only reason it persists is because it’s the only sort of system out there that’s like this.
What I find is better than the SMART or SMARTER system is to focus on a reason to pursue your goal. Your Why.
Why is it so important for you to achieve this goal?
From that question, ask yourself why at least five more times.
What you’ll find with that is that every answer will push you into more personal territory every time. The more you ask, the deeper that you’ll go.
Having this deep reason to pursue something is powerful for many reasons. It gives you a strong source of internal motivation (I’ll talk about this further below), and it can lead you to other sources of motivation that push you forward.
I consider it an essential part to creating a feedback loop for yourself. It’s what pushes you forward and once you get positive feedback it encourages you to keep going and going.
Having a why also speaks about your own true priorities and beliefs too. It’ll provide you with a better understanding of what to pursue in your life at this point in time and what is just another distraction.
4. Make Goals Easier By Replacing Bad Habits First
One of the exercises I do on leg day is seated hamstring curls. If you’ve seen these machines, you get to sit back while pushing your legs down so it looks like you’re sitting properly. For some reason, whenever I do this exercise, my toes are pointed outward rather than directly up.
As for why my body does this, I attribute this to how I swung on swings as a kid. Even though I’m clearly seated down and not swinging, this motion is enough to dredge up my natural reaction to point my toes outward rather than pointing them up.
It’s not like it’s a serious thing that’ll end up hurting me later, however establishing the connection to have my feet pointed up is a generally good thing to do. From that position, I’d be able to push heavier weight and work out my legs further.
My point is: think of my pointing of my toes outward as bad habits.
Bad habits can be subtle and may not be all that bad at first but they can stunt your growth and slow your momentum when left alone. They can appear in all kinds of places and so I recommend focusing on bad habits first before focusing on the larger goals. You can do this by prioritizing replacing those habits with better ones.
For example, using mental cues and muscles to ensure your pointed out feet are pointed straight up when doing hamstring curls.
And if you feel like working on bad habits is a waste of time, think again. Working on bad habits does tend to improve your ability in achieving your larger goals overall. Bad habits are often linked to us self-sabotaging ourselves so you’ll be doing yourself a favour by addressing bad habits.
5. Make Goals Easier By Having Fewer Distractions
We live in a technologically driven world where dopamine is running rampant. We are so easily distracted by things that our own attention span has shrunk significantly over the years. It’s no surprise that we are quick to give up on goals when things aren’t changing.
The same can be said about distractions as well. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in our dopamine-craving mind that we find it better to check our phones rather than getting out to achieve goals.
Considering this is such a bad habit that deserves it’s own section, you should find some ways to make it hard to distract yourself when you need to focus on your goal. Here are some strategies:
- Restricting access to problem spots. If you spend too much time on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or another site, block it during work hours. If you’re distracted by your phone’s notifications, shut it down or invest in a smartphone jail.
- Avoid multitasking. Everyone thinks they’re a good multitasker when in reality only a small percentage of the world can do this. As much as it hurts your ego to think this, I’d say it’s about time to accept that you can’t do two things at once and train your brain to prioritize one thing at a time.
- Set aside time for the tasks. Sometimes it helps to know how long you’re going to be spending time on something. By telling yourself you’ll work on something for an hour or two will allow you to focus on getting it done.
- Take breaks. In between writing sessions, I make a point of getting up and doing something else. Whether that’s a bit of cleaning, taking out the trash or stretching. Taking breaks avoids burnout and overworking yourself and permits you that opportunity to be distracted for a little bit.
- Get sleep. Sleep is important for all of us and a lack of it can spell doom. Of course, if you’re more tired, there is a much higher chance you’ll be distracted by something else rather than doing the thing you’re supposed to do.
6. Avoid Procrastination
Procrastination is another big thing that we indulge in. Case and point: the fact you’re reading this means you’re probably procrastinating on something important.
Procrastination isn’t always attributed to not doing something. It can also be prioritizing the wrong thing at the wrong time: like reading this article as opposed to cleaning your room, working out, or reaching your goals.
We’re all pretty bad at this — myself included — but there are ways we can avoid it. For example, doing these activities during times where you’re taking a break and looking for a less mentally demanding activity.
Some other suggestions are:
- Prioritizing the most difficult task of your day as the first thing you do. If you’ve gotten a good rest, you’ll have plenty of energy and focus to get it done.
- Plan out your day the night before. Remember the to-do list? Use that as your planner and set the tonne for what you want to do in the day.
- Pop on some tunes to focus. Either white noise or some classic music can help you focus. Avoid lyrics as they are distracting.
- Drink tea or coffee. Caffeine will boost your energy levels but it can also help you to relax too. Give yourself a break and brew a cup.
7. Make Goals Easier By Embracing Failure
If you’ve gone through the cycle I mentioned at the start time and time again then you are no stranger to failure. But what a lot of people choose to do in those situations is give up on chasing those dreams. Now there are times where giving up on some things is a smart idea. But in most situations, it’s not.
For example, giving up on a goal that you realize isn’t something you’re invested heavily in is a good idea. Giving up on something that you are invested in isn’t.
In the cases where you are invested in your goal and want to make it a reality, this is an important thing to accept: you will fail a lot. You will plateau a lot too.
Embracing this from the start will put you further ahead as you are mentally prepared for when that happens. If it ever happens at all.
It’s along the same lines as my weight loss journey. I’ve been going back and forth with all kinds of strategies over the years. This time though, I’m not about to give up. I love going to the gym and working out on a regular basis. Even if I’m not making big changes overnight, it’s still a smart habit to be in.
8. Find Strong Motivators
Another common trap people fall into is what motivates them. Many people don’t know about that why strategy and think that when they’re losing motivation they need to pop on some inspiring tunes or speech. There are all kinds of content out there that revolves around this and it does work.
But only for a short period of time.
The problem with that strategy is that you’re building up external motivation. While it’s effective in motivating you, it’s only as good of a motivation as long as it stays there. Think of it like a carrot on a stick. It’s appealing, but once you get to eat that carrot you’re left with a single question:
So what’s next?
While there is a time and place for external motivation, it shouldn’t be the sole source. Instead, it’s smarter to have internal motivation. Having a why will help in that respect but having other reasons that you can connect to your own personal values and beliefs can strengthen it further.
9. Set Goals In Many Aspects Of Your Life
One thing with goals is that having too many of them can be distracting. Each goal demands your attention and pulls you away from one part of your life. When I worked to move out of my parent’s house, I focused on my money goals and found that I was struggling to talk with other people while gaining weight too.
To counteract that, I made it a goal to get out more and be around people. I also set a goal to be losing weight too.
We’re clearly not multitaskers, however, having a handful of goals that you can work towards can allow you to maintain balance in your various aspects of life. All that you need to do is be smart about how much time you devote to each of those goals.
10. Tell More People About It
The last strategy I recommend is to be telling more people about the goals that you’re setting. I don’t recommend this being your first option (as it gives off some New Years Resolution vibes), but things sometimes click when you tell people about what you’re working on.
It allows people to be invested and potentially follow up with questions then and in the future. In a sense, telling people about it gives you a sense of accountability to achieve that goal.
There is a time and place for this strategy of course and I’m not saying you should be announcing this to the world. However, telling it to those whom you trust and are close to you can encourage you to push forward.
We all have the capacity to make our goals easier to achieve when we put our minds to it. All that we need to do is spend some time looking over the system that we’ve built. Paired up with these new strategies, I’m confident that you’ll have found something that you can adjust and start achieving your goals.
To your growth!
Eric S Burdon