Saturday, January 11, 2014

Setting Goals is Easy, Reaching Them is Hard #2

BACKSLIDING ALREADY?

So we've asked ourselves the hard questions and concluded we really, really, really want the goal we've just chosen. Then we took the next step and fully committed to fulfilling that goal. Now here it is, nearly two weeks into the new year and our progress  is already slipping.

This is where many of us return to beating up on ourselves. Or the mean and nasty world that is getting in our way. Not everyone has the reaction but many of us do and the important thing here is not to beat up on ourselves for beating up on ourselves. Let's just throw ourselves into our frustration (without beating up on other people) and pretty soon the ugly self-talk will go away.

When that happens, it's time to reassess what we decided last week. Do we really, really, really want the outcome of this goal? I figure most of us really threw ourselves into the questions and are confident we do. But the backsliding happen. What to do next?

THE FOUR THINGS THAT STOP US
1.    An unrealistic schedule.
2.    Divided priorities.
3.    A sudden drop in enthusiasm.
4.    Not knowing what to do next.

WHAT TO DO ABOUT THEM:

1.    Cure Our RDD (Reality Deficit Disorder). We all have it and it tricks us into believing we have unlimited time and energy. We commit to this (sure, I can chair the committee), we commit to that (yeah, I can help out with the carpool). We forget to schedule transition and self-care routines, even meals and sleep. Next thing we know we're awake half the night just to catch up. Sound familiar? If so, try scheduling less goal-oriented time. Be sure to schedule routine life demands into the 'used time' calculation. We do these things every day but we like to pretend the time spent doing them doesn't count. Many of us will also have to expand our vocabularies to include the word 'no.' These changes will push out our deadlines, yes, but double our chances of success.

2.    Divided Priorities. This block sounds a whole lot like unrealistic schedule but it's a lot more damaging to our success. This is the child who always comes home with last minute school projects, the husband who invites company for dinner without consulting us or the boss with repeated emergency overtime demands. While there may be fixes for these situations, they are too individual for a pat solutions. We can only deal with each demand in present time while constantly seeking ways to minimize or even eliminate them. Whatever we do will have to involve the other people, so we must look for ways to gain their assistance. Not always easy.

3.    Sudden Drop in Enthusiasm. This abrupt lack of faith in the goal almost always comes when someone else criticizes our goal or expresses doubt in our ability to achieve it. Not that most of us aren't battling our own inner critic but when someone in authority or a person near and dear to us expresses negative thoughts about our goal, it triggers our critical self-talk. Our only defense is to change our self-talk. Remind ourselves that the critics and nay-sayers aren't necessarily working against us, but they might be afraid we'll stop being the person they want us to be. This is particularly true for people with weight loss or substance abuse challenges since success will bring tremendous change. For us, the hardest part – and what usually kicks off the drop in enthusiasm – is the guilt-trip this lack of support causes. We have to remind ourselves that they have a right to their feelings and opinions. It's also wise to take care that in our eagerness to reach our goal we don't forget to give attention to those we care about.

4.  We Don't Know What to do Next.  This can happen when the task we're undertaking is actually a project. That is, it contains a collection of tasks that have to be done to attain the overall results. There's usually an order of importance in these tasks so that one has to be done before the other can be started. We can safely guess that this is the situation when we feel like we can't move forward. This one is the easiest to fix because we don't have to alter behaviors. We simply have to identify which task comes first. Connected to this particular progress block is when the tasks are so many we don't know where to start. In that case, just pick one. If it's the wrong one, we'll eventually stumble on the right one.

Obviously there are other reasons we get blocked while pursuing a goal, but these are four major one. There is no doubt that life gets in the way. A sick parent, a heavy duty season of Little League, a divorce, a job change. All of these slow down or stop our  progress. The secret is to not give up. Once we've become goal oriented, we will begin to see how this forward-looking attitude adds zest to our life.

Here is one weird little woo-woo trick that helps to stay connected to our goal when life throws a monkey wrench. When you put down your project, make notes in a journal or computer file about where you left off and what your next steps will be. Nothing fancy, just enough to jog your memory and get you restarted.

I do this at the end of every writing session and have found that the notes pull me back to the story and into future writing. You may discover this is true for you. In the meantime, deal with the block to your progress and get back to work as soon as you can. As I said, just like me, you may find that having long-term goals makes life much more exciting and the challenge of the blocks is just part of it.

Previous Post: Setting Goals is Easy, Reaching Them is Hard #1. On Track to Success 
Coming Up: Setting Goals is Easy, Reaching Them is Hard #3. You're Almost There



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