Why do some of us get there and others fall by the wayside? Why do some of our choices get seen through to fruition, while others fall foul of eroded momentum or a regrettable change of direction?
Drive and resolve are of course instrumental in us fickle humans achieving a goal, but with the countless choices, challenges, distractions and indoctrinations we are bombarded with daily, there’s a bit more to it. A little formula held onto throughout the journey goes a long way. Remembering key techniques can keep you on track while working towards achieving a set goal, and can also reassure us as a simple, oriented statement amid the noisy turmoil.
Talents may be either innate or lacking, but – as they say – genius is 1% talent and 99% sweat. So, whatever your god-given constitution and attributes, never give up on following your heart. I hope the following tips help in this quest.
Remember Your Goals
Once the ball is rolling, many find that merely the inertia of having started a project is enough to feel relief and release from stagnant energy, and stop there, often moving on to another project, and then yet another project, never seeing any of them through to completion. Although the buzz of breaking the seal on leaving the starting blocks is present, the long-term effects in this pattern can only be frustration and lack of fulfillment.
If a job is worth doing, it’s worth doing well. One must remember why the aim was acted upon in the first place. Remember the dissatisfaction when things were last de-prioritized, and keep at it.
Another aspect to remembering why the hell you’re hacking away at your pet project when you could be in a hammock or sleeping or otherwise doing what you love, is that – if your goal is in keeping with your nature – the outcome will be in line with what you love. In other words, meaningful aims in life which bring satisfaction, are ones which are in tune with who you are, not what you are told you should want. The hammock follows generating a passive income. Sleep follows a job well done – rest is always deeper when it feels deserved.
Choose Realistic Goals
Wanting to be the first man on Mars or the richest woman in Texas might sound all very exhilarating, but if inordinately mammoth goals become something that are taken seriously, and the ego entangled in their outcome, reaching for the stars may bring only aggravation, a deflated sense of self-worth and self-ability, and therefore damage your courage to embark on further exploits. When choosing an aim, before the specific game-plans are wrestled with, ask yourself these two fundamental questions first:
1. What is the intrinsic value in the attainment of the goal? (Do I really want to be the richest woman in Texas, or is this a meaningless thing to strive for, made attractive only by media and acquaintances who are also could up in cycles which are not bountiful?)
2. What can I do? Not what am I doing now that I can simply do more of, as that provides no personal growth or sense of achievement from conquering challenges or movement out of comfort zones. Instead, ask what is on the periphery of your abilities – within your sphere of competence at a push. Achievable but with a healthy challenge.
And not concentrating on a desired outcome which involves learning an altogether new skill or personality trait. Cats don’t have dogs, as they say.
Keep it realistic.
Pursuit of a Happymess
Working at a goal where the road to it is completely dry and uninspiring can only last so long. It’s the ambitious version of a diet of wheat crackers. Sure, you can see the weight falling off and the figure you want in sight, but deep down you know that as soon as you’re in the place you want to be (if not before), you’ll be sick of the way you got there, and stuff your face with chocolate.
As exercise regimes are only sustainable and realistic if worked into the natural, complimentary pace and function of your everyday life and rhythms, so must be the working towards your goals. Consider a pace which is not off-puttingly harsh, and of course choose aims that genuinely appeal in the first place (not always as obvious as it sounds – as the saying goes: if god is cruel, he might just give you exactly what you asked for.
Not just at the end; the completion of the project will be reward enough. The road can get rocky and this is not to be ignored or unsupported. If there are tough times, a patch of unavoidable drudgery, consider a reward system: reaching a milestone equals a treat. This is certainly not ineffective, childish, or below you. It is one of the most powerful psychological tools and underpins the path to many great achievements. There’s naught much tougher a goal than quitting smoking, and the United Kingdom’s government-run quit smoking programs use exactly these techniques. A massage, a film, a long hot bath – whatever you need to both reward yourself and also to help you unwind, thereby having the bonus of fuelling you for the next leg of the journey (which will hopefully be more enjoyable too).
While monitoring your progress with milestones, take these markers also as an opportunity to pause and assess any particularly successful or destructive habits and techniques. If you can identify specific strengths and weaknesses, adjust your behaviour to employ more of the good and less of the bad.
“I want to have a house in the country” helps no-one. We all want a house in the country. And most don’t get one.
How will you get it? How much will it cost? What will you have to sacrifice to earn that much money? When do you want to move in? Are there alternative, cheaper, greener ways to build it? What size house?… when there are too many variables, the plan usually smells of a lack of experience in goal-setting, and a convoluted route to a let-down. The plan is too vague, has too many facets.
Instead of gauzing vaguely at the horizon, look at your feet. You know the size of your steps – take a few at a time.
And don’t overlook the various aspects to this desired new life: “I want to lose 15 pounds in 4 months” is a fantastic goal – achievable, specific, measured, healthy (what good is a fat house if your health is not vivacious enough to enjoy it?)
“I want a self-generating income of $15,000 a year by the time I’m 50” is infinitely more achievable and sensible than “a house in the country” – again: time-specific, amount-specific, realistic, and if not setting you up nicely for repayments of the country house, may even supersede that dream anyway as that money is ample to keep you in hotels and exotic foods in many countries around the world. The concept of a house can be a fluid one after all. This is the kind of outcome that is hard to argue with: it will likely help you no matter your future orientations, tastes and choices.
Be a Buddhist
Buddhists (and all sorts of sensible people, meditating or not) appreciate the power of now. Appreciate that at any moment – at any second you choose – you can start again, with a fresh slate. If we feel we are unready for the achievement of something significant and rewarding, that is our choice. That is our clinging to whatever constraints we picked up in the past. It’s easier said than done to press the reset button and run into a task when we don’t feel like it, but we need to remember three important things here:
We are in charge of our own destinies.
A good outcome will outweigh the slog.
Our identity – including any low self esteem or poor view of our abilities – is entirely our choice. Our program, which we are free to ignore.
Aim to Improve, Not to Perfect
There will always be people better than you. At anything you turn your hand to. If you have trouble accepting that, you’ll need to look at why you have unobtainable desires, and overly harsh self-judgement. Considering others’ varying opinions (you can’t please everyone), rapid degradation and outmoding of the latest creation, ‘perfection’ may not even exist. Instead, focus on identifying your skills or potential areas of talents, and on improving these. Developing strengths will do you no wrong and stand you in good stead for a successful, rewarding life. Jumping for perfection on the other hand, will most likely only make you feel like a deflated loser, sooner or later.
Don’t Burn Out
It’s of course exciting to embark on a mission to improve your standing in life, or the way you see yourself. But many people get so carried away with the energy of the route to the goal, they exhaust themselves. Pace and patience are perhaps even more useful than initial energy and drive when it comes to stamina and long-term success.