The saying goes, “Every journey begins with a single step.” For me, at least, the problem isn’t that first step. I can delve into projects with great enthusiasm, no problem. It’s usually step number 352 that gets me down. Then, through lack of energy or simple frustration, I simply get off the road.
Achieving a goal often feels more like a bell curve to me. The beginning is great, and when I reach the end, all is well. It’s that pesky middle area, when the bump in the road appears and I feel like I’m running uphill for miles, that’s the hardest to overcome. I keep looking for the end to be in sight, and when I can’t see it, I can get discouraged and give up.
That’s not to say I never finish what I start. In those situations, I hit the middle bump and managed to push through to the finish line. Here are the things I’ve found that give me the energy to keep chugging along that uphill climb:
Remind yourself of that first step.
Ironically, remembering the beginning of the journey can help me through the middle. First, you can gauge the progress you’ve made between now and step 1, which can motivate you to keep pushing (or risk wasting all that time). Tapping into your original enthusiasm can also remind you why you’re pushing in the first place. If you wrote yourself reasons why you started pursuing your goals in the first place, bring those back now along with any other mementos of the early days. Nostalgia can be a strong emotional incentive to keep moving.
Focus on only a few goals.
Sometimes you get off the road simply because you have too many other things to do. Most normal humans can’t get an advanced degree, learn how to become a master chef, and run a local charity all at the same time. If you’ve taken on too much, prioritize what you want to do now, and reduce your list to a few key goals. You can table other goals for later when you have more bandwidth. You’ll feel much better about yourself if you achieve a few goals rather than fail at a bunch at once.
Want to keep working on your goal, but an online game keeps calling your name? Or you can’t get off Facebook? Now’s the time to cut back on distractions that keep you from fulfilling your goals. That doesn’t mean you have to go cold turkey on your favorite time wasters (we all need a place to have a little mindless fun), but you can cut your time back to 20 minutes at a certain time of day, say, right when you get up. This fun time will help free up the rest of your day for focused goal-achieving time.
Take a break.
Have you been going 24-7 on your goal for the last 3 months? Here, a break from your goals might be called for. Take a week (or two or three) off to focus on something else to regain your energy. Burn-out is a very real problem that can hinder you from making real progress, so don’t feel bad if you just need to take a break and come back refreshed, even if that sets your schedule back a little bit.
Be honest if now’s not the time.
Sometimes, you really do need to get off the road for a while. This has happened to me several times in my life. I reached a stress level in my life where not reaching personal goals made my life much more manageable and fulfilling. Usually what happens in these situations is a year or two down the road, I’ve found more healthy ways to work on projects. And as a bonus, since I already put some time into that goal, I didn’t have to start from square one when I rejoined the race.
There are a host of reasons why you might not have the energy to reach a personal goal. Do you have any stories to add from your own experiences? Share them in the comments below.
Photo by Shanon Wise