Let’s paint a picture, you’re working on your goal. You built a plan, organised the right gear, crowbarred open the time you need, and started. You are now checking boxes and have initial momentum you need to march your way toward goal completion.
Now is the time to prepare for the snags. What hurdles might you face that could try to slow you down?
In other words, how do you weather the inevitable distractions and problems that can throw you off balance and undermine the consistency you’ll need to achieve an ambitious goal?
To keep you on track for a long-haul goal that takes months to finish, the best defence is a good offence. Here are six strategies to help you stay on target:-
1. Manage your mindset
If you had a trainer by your side day by day – a good trainer – he or she would keep an eye on your mood, your energy levels, and your enthusiasm.
If it looks like your attitude is starting to go sideways, or your energy is starting to wane, your trainer would try and jumpstart the mindset you had at the beginning.
How can you manage your mindset yourself? One simple and effective way is to put together a morning routine that helps you rekindle a healthy mindset each and every day.
It doesn’t have to take a lot of time. The objective is to take a few deep breaths, clear your head and fix your mind on the task or tasks you can knock out today and remind yourself why it’s important to you.
By all means, add mindfulness activities like meditation and journaling if you have the time and desire. Whatever works best to help hit the reset button on your state of mind so that you can stay in contact with your goal and keep the movement going forward.
2. Breathe through fear
“Fear is the mind-killer,” Frank Herbert famously wrote in Dune ,“Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.”
Self-doubt, fear, worries, and everyday stresses, large and small, can easily derail you from doing daily work you need to progress toward your goal.
Science suggests a potent way to judo your way through fear is slow, deep-breathing.
A few deep breaths can help you dissipate fear and navigate away from thinking about the past (self-doubt) or worries about the future (like a fear of failure) and ground yourself in the moment.
3. Manage your willpower with routines
In addition to managing fear, you want to manage your willpower. Willpower, according to the American Psychological Association, “is the ability to resist short-term temptations in order to meet long-term goals.”
There’s a line of science that suggests we wake up each day with a fresh supply of willpower.
Every decision we make during the day can burn some willpower. This is known as willpower depletion.
Deciding to have oatmeal and berries instead of a bowl of Cookie Crisp is going to deplete some willpower. That’s fine, but ideally you might want to save this willpower reserve for a tough workout you have planned for the day.
Face a bunch of willpower-depleting decisions throughout a busy day and self-discipline becomes more difficult to cultivate when you need it. You may, for instance, be more likely to skip an afternoon workout because you used up your willpower and made it easier to put the workout off.
An antidote to the problem of willpower depletion: Try and do the most important stuff early in the day when your willpower tank is full. Also, build a routine around your most important goal-oriented task.
To do this, pick a task or set of tasks vital to your goal. Then build a step-by-step routine that includes them.
Deliberately build this routine and execute it over and over, making it so automatic that you don’t have to think about it. You don’t deplete willpower through trying to sort priorities and make decisions. The decisions are already made.
An example; the alarm goes off, you get up, take some deep breaths while you dress, make a cup of coffee, drink a cup of coffee while you look at your plan to achieve your goal, listen to a song while you get your running shoes on, and get out the door and go running.
Map out a morning routine that’s appealing to you and practice it daily to the point you don’t even have to think about it anymore. You’ll come out of the routine with just as much willpower as you went into it with.
4. Celebrate the small wins
If you have an ambitious goal that is going to take months, don’t wait until it’s all over to give yourself a pat on the back. You’re going to work toward your goal segment-by-segment, so build in rewards to celebrate the progress you’re making.
At the end of a week, after you’ve completed a set of tasks that inch you toward your goal, you kick back that night and watch that film you’ve always been dying to watch. Or take a trip to the beach on Saturday and read your favourite book. You get the idea. Don’t wait until it’s all over and done to celebrate the work you’re putting in. Enjoy the ride.
5. Keep a sense of humor
Years ago, I had set a time goal for a marathon I was training for in California. It was a lofty goal and I had to follow a challenging programme for nine months. I had to work hard and be dedicated. Having to go to bed early, eat right, and do what I could to prevent injury. I had to take it seriously.
But I think what made it a valuable experience is that I didn’t take myself too seriously. I was lucky in that the friends I trained with helped me keep a sense of humour about it all.
It’s important to keep my sense of humour about running and racing. I was never in the mix for an Olympic medal. It was all really about having a good time doing something I enjoyed doing with my friends.
To keep on the path toward a long-term goal, try and keep it all in perspective. If things go haywire at some point, look for the humour in it all and do what you need to do to get back on track.
6. Just say no (when you can)
Taking on a big goal requires a commitment of time and energy. One of the most impactful ways you can help yourself along is to say no to things you can say no to.
The discipline to say no is tied to why it’s important to not take on too many goals at once. Research suggests that taking on too many goals at once is a sure fire way to fail.
Anytime you are asked to commit time and energy to a project that isn’t necessary, do your best to say no. By saying no, you’re saying yes to your big goal.
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