I have have been struggling with what to do next to achieve the goals that I set for myself a few months ago. And the motivation to continue going as things get hard.
We all have hopes and dreams. Here are two of mine:
Write a book.
Run another half marathon.
For many of us, we think about our goals for a long time. I know that I thought about writing goals for years before I wrote a single word.
But, we fear what people will think. We fear failure. We fear that we won’t live up to our own expectations.
Plus, its so hard to disrupt the rhythm of life to add in a new goal. What about my day job? What about my kids? What about all the fiddly details of life? Grocery shopping and full dishwashers and dogs begging for a walk?
And then, by some combination of luck and discipline and motivation, we begin. We write the first page. We run the first mile.
Then over time, things get murkier. You wrote a whole chapter. But then the kids got sick and your consulting client once again increased the scope of your project. Time got tight. Plus, you weren’t exactly sure where you were going next. What were you going to write for Chapter 2 anyway?
Or, you started your half marathon training plan and got to 8 miles. But then you pulled a muscle. You had to take a few days off of running. And now you feel like you’ve had a backslide. Now you can’t run more than 6 miles. How will you ever get to 13.1 at this rate?
This is when we all start to lose steam. We were able to start down the path to our goal. But then we don’t finish. It gets hard and murky. Life gets in the way.
This is where I am now.
But, I’ve been here before. And I’ve given up before. Except now I know. The truth is:
the disappointment that I feel in myself when I give up on a goal. Its as uncomfortable as the feeling of uncertainty that I have right now.
So this time, I’m not going to do it.
I’m going to allow myself to feel uncomfortable.
I am going to stay confused and grope forward in the dark. But I am going to keep going. Here’s how.
Remembering my “why” to push me into action
There was a reason I picked those goals. To write a book. To run 13.1 miles.
Your why is personal to you.
I choose to write because it fills my heart and clears my mind. And the connection with others who share a similar experience is something that can’t be beat.
I run to manage my anxiety and keep myself healthy in body and mind.
And I have specific goals for each one. Because I am a happier person and have more to contribute to the people around me when I am challenged by a new goal.
Even with a great “why”, I have struggled with motivation for running recently. The darkness is creeping in every morning. It is so hard to be inspired to run early in the morning with a head lamp on.
The fact is, I have to get.out.the.damn.door. Once I’m out there, I am always glad. I should start implementing Mel Robbins' 5 Second Rule. Her rule is:
If you have an instinct to act on a goal, you must physically move within 5 seconds or your brain will kill it.
So, when I can’t remember what the point is. When I get confused and the path feels hard. I remember why I have goals. And remembering my why gives me enough instinct to take action.
I can’t get paralyzed figuring out the next “right” thing to do
I focused so much on getting started. I thought only the first step was the scary one. I thought it would all be cake after that.
I thought the path forward would be obvious.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
The reality is that the path toward your goal will have many new challenges along the way.
Each time you conquer something that you don’t understand. Or something you fear other people will judge. You will struggle.
Every day of late, I have struggled to figure out the best way to put my writing in front of a larger audience. Who, how, what?
Sometimes there is no “best way.” You have to try one thing. And if that doesn’t work, try the next thing. If you commit to the idea that getting to your goal requires you to try many different things. With the implication that you will fail at many things. That your path won’t be the same as anyone else. And you’re going to have to figure it out as you go along. Then it takes some pressure off.
There is no perfect way to get to your goal. The perfect path is the one that takes you all the way there.
There is no wagon to be on or off
This is the perfectionist view of the path to a goal.
If you are a perfectionist (like me), you have to write a certain amount per week. Or follow each prescribed run perfectly. If you don’t do it exactly right, you are off the wagon. And then you might as well give up.
But as I feel my way forward. I realize that part of the journey is figuring out how to balance these goals with the rest of my life. There will be times when I am not able to keep moving forward. Days or even weeks where my larger goals take a backseat to the practical parts of life. The past few weeks have been a prime example.
But that is not a reason to quit.
Give up your preconceived ideas of how fast you should reach your goals. I know I need to do this. My mind always tells me to go quicker, faster.
Accept that you will stumble along the way. But stumbling does not mean you are going any slower than you are “supposed” to go.
And you will not stumble into a ditch after you fall off the wagon. Never to get up again. Because the wagon and the ditch only exist in your mind.
Pick one micro-step and plan a reward for success
Pick one step forward. Something, anything. I will apply to write for one new website today. I will 5–4–3–2–1 my way out of bed for one run this week.
And do that thing.
Do that thing, and then reward myself for doing it. A pat on the back. For me, it will be a trip to the bookstore to buy one new, physical book. I joined a new book club and I’m eager to get started. But I will save it as a reward for this task.
Remind yourself that it’s ok that the thing was hard, but you did it. And you can do it again.
And keep going.