You’ve got big dreams, big plans, and big ideas and you’ve already done the hard work of narrowing them down to just the right one to focus on. (Because you know that in order to realize a dream, you’ve got to define it first). You’re in the zone and you’re working hard to achieve your goal.
And then, you just sort of…stop.
If it does, you’re not alone.
Sticking with a new goal or plan is one of the hardest things to do. (Not-so-fun fact: 80% of New Year’s Resolutions fail by the 2nd week of February.) This puts the length of human stick-to-it-ive-ness at right about six weeks, give or take.
You might be asking “how can that be…it’s only supposed to take 21 days to form a new habit?”
The truth is that the “21-days-to-make-a-habit-stick” idea is fantasy at best. Ask virtually anyone who’s done the hard work of creating a new habit and they’ll tell you.
The reality is that it can take anywhere from two to eight months to really build a new habit.
This is incredibly good news for those of us who find ourselves on day 42, still struggling with forcing ourselves out of bed and into our running shoes. We’re totally normal.
It does, however, raise the question of how to stick to your goals when struggle comes. And it will come. Change is hard.
Here are three strategies that can help you keep motivated and keep going when the going gets tough.
First: Make it (Selectively) Social
An unspoken goal is like a wish – something we’d like to do but not something we’re committed to just yet. No one will know if we don’t actually do anything about it. It’s dreaming, but not actually doing. You have no skin in the game.
Sharing your goals not only makes you more accountable (now you’ve got skin in the game), it can also provide positive reinforcement, especially on those days when you need support.
But…and this is the important part, you want to be selectively social with your goals. Share your goals and dreams only with people who have earned the right to hear them, who are on your side, and who will really support you.
Next: Kick Overwhelm Out
When you put too much on your plate you run into trouble. Not a secret. Whether it’s dumplings or deadlines, trying to do (or eat) it all, all at once, is a recipe for disaster. You’ll either wind up exhausted or sick to your stomach or both.
Like I said, this is not a secret. And yet, most of us still keep on trying to do it all, right now. We pull out our phones and tap our scheduling app and fill up the days and hours and minutes. We schedule workouts like we’re training for the Olympics, impose impossible deadlines for completing projects, and basically figure that we’ll work from nine at night to one in the morning if we have to, six nights a week no less, to make our dream come true. Oh, and also keep on living real life.
To which I can only ask – really?
Trying to do too much will knock you flat on your back (maybe literally) so fast, you’ll drop that dream like the hot potato you’ve turned it into.
Forget writing out a to-do list for the next year and a half. Remember the story of the Tortoise and the Hare? Step by step is how every single success has ever happened. “Overnight successes” have worked long and hard and often for years. One thing at a time, slow and steady, is how you win the race.
Instead of that list of a hundred things you’ve got to get done right now, try this: concentrate on doing one to three things every day. Or just one thing every day. Try to do one thing every day.
“The shortest way to do many things is to do only one thing at a time.” (~Mozart)
Break down that big goal into smaller tasks, and break those tasks down into manageable bites – something you can reasonably complete in whatever time you have after regular life happens.
Because regular life does happen. Cars break down and kids get sick and you might just have a lot of overtime to work. You might also be tired, and need to sleep. Sleep being the preferred (and healthiest) antidote to tired.
But…you can do one thing every day. And each one will take you one step closer to your goal.
Finally: Celebrate Weekly
Once a week, take a look back at what you’ve accomplished over the past seven days. Count every success (maybe even write them down for posterity, or for encouragement later when things get hard).
Count all of your successes – the tasks you accomplished and the lessons you learned when you failed to accomplish one or more. That’s what “failures” are you know – lessons. You either win, or you learn. You never lose.
“I wrote five pages every day – yes!”
“I missed working out on Wednesday because I stayed up too late on Tuesday – lesson learned!”
Seven days of winning and learning. I think that’s something to celebrate.
tweetables:“If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” (~Frederick Douglass) “A lot of what is most beautiful about the world arises from struggle.” (~Malcolm Gladwell)
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