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Reaching Your Goals: Sustaining Progress Beyond February

Is February the month where your goals die? I have been through that cycle, and after a while I wasn't even putting my heart into the goals I set for the new year, because I already knew they would fall off me, one by one.  Not conscientiously, but still doing it.


Maybe the goal was to see which goal would last the longest. 


Well, after years unsatisfied with this process, I noticed that it doesn't have to be that way.  If you want to know what changed, then let me share what I did differently.


A huge part of achieving a goal is doing the grinding work continuously.  However, life is full of ups and downs and the downs tend to get in the way of motivation and action taking.  By the time I realized I had slipped on one of my goals, the feeling of failure became greater than my will to start again, because then I felt like I'd have to work twice as hard to make up for the time I missed. 


What a crooked way of thinking! 


I can say this now, but I couldn't even see what was wrong about that thought back then. Then one year I just wanted to hit a goal, any goal, even if I had to fall and get up multiple times. That goal was going to the gym.  A well known goal for many people.

 

There's so much more in a goal than just the goal itself.  There's the right way to set goals, motivation, reflection, trust in yourself and confidence that you can follow through, reassessment, self-compassion, adjustments, recommitment, acceptance, and accountability.  I want to touch on each of these steps and a few others to help you create your own goals and maintain the motivation through life's challenges.


An overview of the factors to consider when setting goals


Setting goals

I've talked about goal setting before and the value here is in the details.  Antoine de Saint-Exupéry already said, a goal without a plan is just a wish.  A good goal will follow the acronym SMART, meaning specific measurable, achievable, relevant and with a time-limit.  This will assure you will know when/if that goal is reached.  From there we can create the action steps to get us to where we want to go in that timeframe.


Motivation and reflection

These factors can be worked with when setting goals, for they are reflected in the acronym. At the same time, we can circle back to the goal we set and check for these components. Motivation is assurance that the goal is relevant for you, that it's aligned with your values and that you are excited to reach it. Reflection is broader because it's not required that you make sure it's achievable, for example that you have the time, capacity and resources necessary, but that the consequences of achieving this goal won't go against your principles. You want to take a minute for reflection so you don't self-sabotage along the way.  


Trust and confidence

These factors will generate the courage to commit and start.  They are tied to motivation and to the reflection as one pushes the other. But the trust here is more in the sense of keeping the motivation going, even if there's a delay, new steps added to the whole, resources that weren't initially considered, etc. The confidence doesn't have to always be present, but the trust that you'll do your best I believe is not negotiable.


Reassessment and Self-compassion

In case of a long complex goal, it's important to keep in mind that sometimes we are working on a draft instead of the end product.  Many people find resistance when they need to reassess deliverables or time-frame. Sometimes things happen that are outside of our control.  We need to be able to see that and let go of the first draft. That's where self-compassion comes in. Understanding that it's okay, that these things happen can actually keep you motivated and moving towards your goal. 


Adjustments and Recommitment 

Adjustments almost always should be considered.  Just because something worked okay, it doesn't mean we can't make it better. Also, when it doesn't work as we wanted, an adjustment might impact your ability to stay motivated and on track. Now you can see the importance of recommitment.  There needs to be a clear recommitment to the goal (initial or modified) so it continues as a priority.  As you recommit, you take into consideration the previous steps, making sure all the other parts of the machine are still working. 


Acceptance

It's hard to say which part "acceptance" fits in. It should be sprinkled throughout the process. Acceptance is important when there's a set-back.  It's a reminder that things happen, nothing is perfect, and sometimes we need to do things several times before we get it right. Maybe we might want to accept that we get distracted as our priorities change with life.  It could even mean accepting that we couldn't reach that one goal and that the best solution is to let it go so we can move on.

 

Accountability

One of the most important factors in achieving a goal may be accountability, but we tend to overlook that part, more often than not.  The mind is so powerful it can take our focus away for its own purpose, regardless of what it is.  Having someone to be accountable to is a fantastic way to keep that mind focused on what you want to accomplish. People work harder when they make their goals public.  An accountability partner, who you can check in with once a week or every other week will increase your chances of reaching your goal by 95%, according to the Association of Talent Development.  


In addition to these factors, I broke down the big scary goals into smaller bites.  Those became doable.  I didn't need a super dose of confidence, and, with that, motivation also increased.  


One of the best things is to reach a goal you set for yourself.  If you move from one goal to another, as soon as you succeed, you will feel like you've accomplished nothing in the long run. Afterall, whatever you have accomplished is so insignificant you've already forgotten and moved on.


When you reach your goal, celebrate it!  Let count, notice your efforts, pat yourself on the back so that you don't forget that you have the power to reach your goals. And that's what you wanted, isn't it?




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