Have you ever given up on a goal before you even set it? Maybe you found it so daunting a task that you gave up before even giving yourself a chance? You’re not the only one.
Sometimes we give up on our goals early because they are too large and too broad from the get-go. If you’ve read any articles on wellness or personal development, you’ve probably read that goals are a great way to feel motivated. And while goals can be difficult to reach, they can also be tricky to set.
How do we go about setting a goal and then make it stick? In just a few easy steps, you can set yourself up for success. The key is to be realistic. Not by setting the bar low for yourself, but by breaking up a big goal into smaller, more manageable parts.
The first step is to get out a pen and paper or open your note-taking app. Ask yourself, “what is my goal?” Be as specific as possible. Write the goal down at the top of the page. Next, ask yourself, “when?”– again, be very specific– and write down the day of the week and the time of day that you’d like to have your goal achieved by, also the start date when you’re going to work on it. Consider how long, how often, where you’ll be completing this goal and working towards it. The location is very important. Write it all down!
Here’s an example: “My goal is to practice yoga twice a week on Tuesday and Thursday mornings at 7:30 am for half an hour in my living room.” See what I mean by specific?
The second step is to ask yourself how likely or confident you feel about carrying out your plan. Use a scale of 0-10, where ”0” means you’re not at all confident and “10” means that you are very confident.
If you find yourself at a 7 or 8, ask yourself, “what could raise my confidence?” and “what obstacles are getting in the way?” I like to call this the crystal ball approach. You take a look at the goal from various angles without judgment. When we have insight and we can identify obstacles, we can work around them and fine tune our initial goal to set ourselves up for greater success.
Go back to the goal at the top of your page and begin to break it down into smaller steps, including the preparatory steps you may have to take to make that goal happen. For example, if your goal is to do yoga twice a week, include specifics like get the yoga mat out of the closet and put it on the living room floor, prepare a glass of water, make sure the room is tidy, put on some music, and don’t forget the aftermath, roll up the mat and put it back in the closet. You may find you need to extend the time required for your goal to 45 minutes to include these steps. Visualize yourself going through all these steps as if you were actually working toward your goal. As you go, go back to your original goal and make any modifications you need to.
The third and critical last step in goal setting is one that will seriously impact your ability to meet goals. It’s the commitment part that helps us feel accountable to ourselves. Research shows that if we share our goals or even check in with someone as we work towards our goal then we are more likely to meet it. This could look like telling a family member, friend or even your therapist about your progress toward your goal. Again, write this down because this is a powerful part. Here’s an example: “Next Wednesday I am going to tell my therapist when we meet at 10 am about how my goal to practice yoga twice a week is going.”
Once you’ve got the goal set and you’re ready to put your plan in motion, try to give yourself some credit for setting your goal. Acknowledging your achievements, i.e. giving yourself a pat on the back, increases the likelihood of a positive result as you move towards your goal.
I don’t know about you, but the thought of asking others for what I need is extremely challenging. I pride myself on being independent and self-reliant, but I’ve come to realize that a necessary part of that is being able to ask others for what I need from them.
Try to imagine this scenario:
You’re on a date with someone you really like. You’ve been dating for a while and you’d like the relationship to be exclusive. You’re not sure if the other person shares your feelings. You’ve done some reflecting and it’s very important to you, so you decide it’s time to share your feelings and have a talk about exclusivity.
This talk involves asking for something you need, in this case, exclusivity in the relationship. What’s so scary about that?
In my own case, I fear that I might be rejected.
So, how do I ask for what I need despite my fears? Below is a list of things that help me prepare. Give them a try.
1. Check in with yourself
Ask yourself, “How am I feeling about this conversation? Do I know what I want out of it?”
2. Map it out
Lay the key points you want to address out for yourself.
3. Imagine how the conversation will go
Consider other perspectives– try checking in with a trusted friend or family member and get their feedback.
4. Take a deep breath before going in for this talk
When you’re anxious your brain forgets to think and your body goes into survivor mode. Help your body and brain calm down by taking a few deep breaths. Some mindfulness practice would also be super helpful here.
5. Ask for what you need
Describe the situation and tell the person what you need (you can say something like “we’ve been seeing each other for a while now and I’m really starting to like you. I want to know where this is going. Do you see this becoming a long term relationship?”)
6. Acknowledge yourself
At this point, no matter what happens, remind yourself how brave you were to ask for what you need.
Remember, if we don’t ask for what we need, we won’t ever receive it. However, the other side of that means we also need to accept that it’s the other person’s right to say no. Whatever happens, at least we have the answers we need.
As always, you’ve got this!
I am a huge proponent of daily journal writing. Journalling allows us to better process our thoughts and externalize any difficult feelings we may have had throughout the day. It can be a helpful tool in allowing ourselves to get to know what situations trigger us, how we process our thoughts and emotions, and how we might use our creativity to solve difficult problems.
And yes, sometimes writing feels tedious. Or we just have no clue where to start. For those moments, I’d encourage you to try these 6 journal prompts and see where they take you.
1. What’s on my mind right now?
This prompt can allow you to practice mindfulness and awareness of the present moment.
2. What has been going well in my life lately? What has been more difficult? Why?
This prompt motivates us to get more in touch with how situations, relationships, or circumstances in our lives are playing a role in influencing our feelings.
3. What inspires me? Why?
Exploring what inspires us is a helpful tool in determining our values and coming to understand what feels enriching for us.
4. What are 5 things I am grateful for right now?
Gratitude! Practicing a little bit of gratitude can help us feel more positive emotions and relish our experiences.
5. What are 5 ways that I can go out of my comfort zone this year?
There is no better way to grow than by stepping outside of our comfort zones. Experiencing and growing through a new challenge is a great way to boost self-confidence and belief in our abilities.
6. What area of my life needs more love and attention? Why?
This prompt may allow us to recognize where we need to cultivate more care and self-love. It can also be a helpful prompt toward setting small goals to make us healthier and happier.
As I’m sitting here trying to write this blog, I’m finding my own anxiety rise and I have a desire to stop writing because, “how can I ever make this the best article on procrastination ever?” You’re probably reading this and thinking, “Well, you really can’t make this the best article ever, and how would you ever know if it was?”
I agree with you on that one. It’s not possible for me to know if this will be the best article on procrastination ever, but what I do know is that having that thought has already made it challenging for me to sit here and write this article.
Procrastination is defined as the action of delaying or postponing something. The action itself can bring up feelings of dread, disappointment, frustration, overwhelm, anxiety, shame, and guilt to name a few. We have to get the task done and yet, it’s so hard to do it. If I could get rid of my worrying thoughts and uncomfortable feelings I may have an easier time avoiding procrastination. At the same time, it’s really hard to get rid of thoughts and feelings, which are an important parts of what helps us react to our environment, think, and make decisions. Here are some tips to minimize procrastinating based on this understanding that our thoughts and feelings impact it:
Target those thoughts that get us stuck in procrastinating. When anxious thoughts around the tasks at hand come up, challenge them (e.g. what proves that I won’t be able to write a good article? What are examples of times I’ve written articles and it went well? What would I tell a friend who has a worry of writing the best article ever?
Check in with your feelings. It’s important to know how we’re feeling about the task at hand. If I check in with my feelings, I can address them and come up with an action plan. Here’s an example: if I’m scared that others might judge my article, I could write it and then have coworkers and friends I trust give me some feedback.
Chip away at smaller tasks to reach the bigger goal(s). See if there are smaller tasks that are required in order to achieve the bigger goal you have in mind (e.g. for this article, I started with thinking about examples of things I do to help me minimize my procrastination and then wrote a paragraph and took a break). It can be extremely overwhelming if we only focus on the final end goal which can feel far away, instead remember that every goal has smaller tasks attached to it.
Start something. Just like the Nike tagline, “just do it.” By taking action, regardless of how small, we are actually overriding a part of our brain (our emotional-reaction center, the amygdala) and teaching it to respond to a task’s completion as a pleasurable experience.
Take breaks with an action plan. Make sure you have a planto restart the task before you take your break.
When all is said and done, make sure you reward yourself for a job well done! For those of you still finding it challenging to manage your procrastination, it could be there’s something deeper underlying the issue. Try talking to your therapist about it.