‘Tis the season for reflecting on all the things you said you wanted to accomplish in 2016, but somehow never got around to. ‘Tis the season for fondly remembering that period of time halfway through the year when you actually were going to the gym on a regular basis and following your Paleo diet, but can’t seem to recall how you fell off the boat.
December is arguably one of the more reflective months of the year for most people, because there’s all this [unspoken, but palpable] pressure to tie up all the loose ends of your year into a neat, Instagram-ready bow, in preparation for setting new goals for the new year. But, what about the goals that got lost and abandoned along the way? What about the passion projects we were once so energized and excited about pursuing, but never got around to because we got wrapped up in our busy lives, and never managed to make them a priority?
If you’re anything like me, you come out the gate strong and specific with your goals. You know exactly what you want to do and what it’s going to take to get there; you’ve mapped out a clear plan, spoken it into existence, and you’ve even managed to make significant progress on it. And then, somewhere, after months of being completely on top of it, (and dare I say even surprising yourself with your own productivity and commitment), you fall off. Suddenly, your interest in said goal starts waning. You start making excuses for why you’re no longer pursuing it. Your unprecedented hiatus starts to linger on longer and longer until your goal starts to feel like a distant memory, something that you look back on fondly, remembering ‘that time in your life.’ And then, if you’re like me, you pick something new to start pursuing, and you start the cycle again.
Here’s the thing. We live in a competitive society full of attractive distractions and competing priorities pulling us in a million different directions. We are young professionals who are trying to figure out how to balance investing time in work, friends, family, significant others, and activities without forgetting about spending time with ourselves. Sometimes, we get so caught up in trying to live a full and exciting life, that we don’t reserve the necessary time needed to check-in with ourselves on the things we say we want to do. Because we’re creatures of habit, introducing new projects or lifestyle changes into our lives are difficult to maintain; before we know it, we’ve abandoned the attempt and returned back to our regular routines without even making an intentional, concerted effort to do so.
Here are a few ways to break that ever-familiar cycle of starting, stopping, and forgetting about the goals that you set for a reason, and therefore, shouldn’t let slip away:
1| The first step is admitting that you have a problem.
Let’s face it. Sometimes, it’s hard to be honest with yourself, and to give yourself the tough love that you need. I don’t know about you, but I’m quick to let myself off the hook and make excuses for why something didn’t happen, rather than spending time figuring out how to make it happen again. And the worst part? I’ll genuinely start to believe the excuses I’m making for myself as though they are valid reasons for why I’m not doing what I said I was going to do! For example, I goaled myself on writing 3-4 blog posts a week, and for a long time, that was happening! I was producing new content regularly, my blog was starting to build traction, and then one week, I had a busier than usual couple of days. My new blog posts stopped coming, and my excuses started coming. Once I let myself off the hook the first time, the second, third, and all other subsequent occasions became easier and easier. Before I knew it, I genuinely started to believe that I was too busy to blog.
Stop that! Admit that you’re just not making the time that you need to make for it. If I had time to binge watch all four 90-minute episodes of the Gilmore Girls revival, I had time to write several blog posts over the last month. The truth is that we spend our time doing the things that we want to do. Sometimes, pursing your goal doesn’t feel like the most attractive or exciting way to spend your time, so we decide to spend our time in a way that does feel exciting. That type of behavior is problematic because there’s no accountability. Start by admitting this to yourself so that you can address the issue and begin to move forward.
2| Revisit, reevaluate, and make a change.
Now that you’ve acknowledged there’s an issue, you can go back to the source and figure out what might be causing it. Perhaps the issue is that you set a goal that was far too ambitious to be sustainable. Try not to make the mistake of evaluating your goal in isolation; look at the bigger picture of your life and your competing priorities to determine where it falls relative to them. What might you have to change about your schedule in order to make your goal more realistic?
For example, perhaps you goaled yourself on going to the gym 4 times a week after work. Looking at your calendar, you notice that twice a week, you tend to work late, and every other week, it looks like you have social events after work hours. While you might not be able to work out 4 times a week after work, you might be able to work out 4 times a week before work. But before you start pursuing that goal, make sure you evaluate what you’ll need to change in order to get to bed earlier. If you’re planning to workout at 6am everyday and you currently go to bed at midnight, you will quickly realize that your new goal is also not sustainable. What can you do to change your bedtime to 10 or 10:30 and stick to it?
Spend thoughtful time evaluating why you fell off your goal in the first place. Determine what the contributing factors were, and if any of them are within your control to change (hint: 9 times out of 10, they are).
3| Clarify your new/edited goal, and find an accountability partner.
It’s true what they say — there’s strength in numbers. It feels much easier and more attainable to reach your goal when there’s someone sending your reminders and encouraging words on a regular basis. As much as we’d like to be our own cheerleaders all the time, there’s nothing wrong with recruiting someone to fill this role when your Evil Kermit is convincing you that it’s okay to take a day off. Your accountability partner may be someone who has a similar goal in mind, making the relationship mutually beneficial, or perhaps it’s someone who is just deeply invested in your development and personal growth, and isn’t looking for anything in return. Whatever the case is for you, make sure you are clear on who that person is and what role you want them to serve, and be sure to communicate that to them!
Disclaimer: as great as accountability partners are, they are not you. They are not responsible for achieving your goals, and they are not on the hook for them – you are! So, if you’re looking for someone to point a finger to or blame if you start the cycle again, look in the mirror, my friend.
/// Are these tips helpful for you? What do you tend to do to get back on track to achieving your goals? Share your goals and ideas below!