You hear it all the time: “don’t give up!”, “keep going!”, “you’re almost there!”.
Easier said than done, right?
We’ve all been there – we’ve set a tough goal, we’ve worked towards it, and when things start getting really hard we feel like giving up. We reason with ourselves. We say things to ourself like “it’s ok, you got this far and you’ve learned a lot from the experience, so nothing is lost if you stop now.” But why is it that when we see someone else struggling with an ambitious goal, we feel the compulsion to motivate them to keep going so that they’ll reach that goal?
It’s far easier to yell support at someone than to be that person, struggling through each difficult step that will get you closer to the finish line. And when you are the observer, you really want them to reach that goal, and it’s so clear to you that all they need to do is keep on going. As the observer, you aren’t going through every motion that the active participant is experiencing. As the observer, you are oblivious to the internal struggles of mind over matter. As the observer, the solution may be clear but the obstacles to the motivation to continue may be hidden from view.
Take on this idea: the next time you are struggling with a tough goal you’ve set for yourself and you’re stuck in an internal quagmire, wrestling with your own motivations, try to step outside of yourself. Allow yourself to stand outside of who you know yourself to be. Look at yourself as though you were the observer, looking in from the outside. Taking on this different perspective may just give you that extra motivation you need to push on through.
As the observer, you can ignore those internal struggles and focus on the bigger picture. You can look at the goal from a more holistic view, and you then realise that whatever the internal struggles, the goal is greater and those ideas of giving up pale in significance to what is at stake here. If you give up, what will you miss out on? What sweet victories are on the line here?
These questions should help you decide whether to “battle on” through those internal struggles to get closer to your goal, or whether to stop where you are and move on. Whatever you decide to do, if you’ve looked at the situation from another perspective you can rest assured that you thought carefully before making that decision and you can accept it for what it is.
A fool-proof* method to achieve your biggest goals
Several years ago I completed some intensive personal development work, during which I was given this fantastic tip as to how to schedule activities in order to achieve big goals. It’s a pretty simple tip and works wonders. Ready for it? Here it is: work backwards.
Rather than planning forwards in your diary, go to a page in the future that represents a date by which you want to achieve a particular thing. Be it a weight loss goal, the completion of a large project, or even an art exhibition opening night. Note down what you want to achieve on that date. Ensure that you write out the end result using the SMART format (if you don’t know what this is, look it up – it’s good stuff).
Once you’ve written out your goal in your diary, start to visualise what attaining the goal will look and feel like. Close your eyes for a minute and think of how you will feel and what you will see on the day you’ve achieved that goal (and do your best to really “feel” that you are there – this can help a lot). Psychology research tells us that visualisation is very powerful: in some cases, visualising yourself completing an action results in far better outcomes than in the absence of that visualisation. An example I heard about recently involved dart players: in this particular study, participants who visualised hitting the bulls eye – without even physically practising – performed as well or better than those who physically practiced and didn’t use visualisation techniques!
Once you’ve got your goal and date clear, start working backwards through your diary and noting what items you will complete in order to achieve that end goal. For example, if your goal is to go on a worldwide holiday departing on the 30th of September, work backwards and enter in all the items you will need to complete to make that goal a reality. Such as: 29th September – check in online; 22nd September – buy travel insurance; 15th September – finalise all hotel bookings; 1st August – pay for flights; 1st July – have all required money saved up; 1st June – book flights; etc. Hopefully you get the idea.
This technique is wonderful for so many reasons:
- You know what you want to achieve, in a solid and measurable sense
- You have a plan of how to get there
- You have clear and concrete actions which you need to start taking in order to get yourself to that goal
- You’ve broken a big goal into smaller steps so you can see that it is actually achievable
- You’ve mapped out the major steps, so you can see – today – how realistic it is to meet that goal on the date you’ve .
It’s great to follow this method because it sets up realistic steps to take you from here to there. Often when we have large, lofty goals they can start to look impossible to achieve. But when they’re mapped out in such a way, you can suddenly see the result and, more importantly, how to get there. After all, you aren’t going to get to your goal without all the individual steps it will take to get there. Remember that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Mapping those steps will give you the plan you need to get there.
*fool-proof provided that you keep yourself motivated to continuously hit your own targets