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You’re the type that knows all there is to know about setting goals. You’ve read the books and endless blog posts about SMART goals setting and timelines and everything else that goes into goal setting. The struggle and the sticking point is figuring out how to get out of your own way and STICK TO your goals once the initial burst of motivation wears off.
Let me tell you, I’ve been there. Fighting through the resistance of your own brain can be an exhausting and demoralizing experience.
What we’re going to talk about today is how to push past the resistance, get moving even when you don’t want to, and determine if there is some underlying cause to that resistance that can be addressed.
6 Top Tips for Making Your Goals Stick
1. Figure out your why and write it EVERYWHERE
When resistance is high, remind yourself why your goal is important. More than that, remind yourself why you set it in the first place. Ideally, when you set your goal you had a clear purpose for setting that goal (building a better life, acting on a promise, setting an example) that you can draw on.
The key to this step is to make it easy to remind yourself of this “why”. That means writing it down everywhere you can think of.
- Sticky notes on the bathroom mirror
- Regular reminders on your phone
- Your computer screen background
- On your arm in sharpie (joking…)
The more often you are reminded of WHY this hard work is necessary, the more it acts as an affirmation that completing your goal is inevitable and able to be worked towards.
2. Give yourself a trigger/action sequence to get started
In Mel Robbins’ book 5 Second Rule, she talks about a productivity hack she calls launching. The basic principle is, whenever you find yourself resisting getting started on something that you know you need to, give yourself a 5-second countdown and then LAUNCH yourself into the task.
I have found so much personal success with this tactic. She goes into the psychology behind this action in her book but boiled down it basically short circuits the part of your brain the controls the getting started action you’re struggling with.
3. The Two Day Rule
I learned about this tip from Matt D’Avella and his video The Two Day Rule. In the video, he talks about how he has been able to stick to going to the gym nearly every day for the past 10 years.
The principle is simple, commit to working towards your goal every day but give yourself the freedom to miss a day if you need to, BUT you cannot miss two days in a row. You must work towards your goal, at least a little bit, at a minimum every other day.
This is important because it allows you some leeway to “mess-up” without completely derailing your plan of action. By accepting ahead of time that you are going to fall off the bandwagon sometimes, and putting a plan in place for you when you, you prevent yourself from letting one day of slack turn into five days which turns into months and a complete abandonment of the goal altogether.
4. Throw out your timelines
If your negative self-talk is focused around not meeting your self-imposed deadlines, throw out the deadlines. It sounds counter-intuitive at first and goes against everything people say about setting SMART goals, but if deadlines are the problem then get rid of them.
What it comes down to is this – if you are resisting working on your goals because you have fallen behind on the timelines you have set for yourself, it is much better to not have deadlines and work at your own pace than to have them and not work on your goals at all.
As with the two-day rule, give yourself some leeway. Work towards your goal at least a little bit, just a little bit, every day. Do this and you will build a habit of doing the work that you can build on as you go.
5. Evaluate your goals
No one likes giving up on goals they’ve set. It feels bad. That’s why I’ve saved this tip for last. In the case of cars and goals, the source of resistance could be a misalignment of some sort. This will likely require some thought and a lot of introspection.
Is your why your why?
This might be that your why isn’t actually your why, but rather something you think you should want. It’s incredibly easy to internalize the goals others want for us as the goals we want for ourselves. This can come from society, our friends, even (and especially) our family and significant others. It’s time to get real honest and figure out where your why is coming from and if it’s really what you want to be working towards.
Is your goal aligned with your why?
On the other hand, it might be that your goal isn’t actually aligned with your why. In the first tip you figured out your why, now you need to make sure that it is actually being served by your goal.
Write down how your goal is serving your why. While you’re at it, try and brainstorm other goals that could serve your why differently. You may find you need to pivot in some way or try implementing your goal in a different way.
6. Consider seeing a therapist
Full disclaimer, I am not a mental health expert and nothing on this blog should be taken as medical advice. That said, if sticking with your goals, any goals, is a long-running difficulty for you, seeing a therapist may help. They can help develop strategies unique to you and possibly prescribe something to help you more.
Sticking to your goals even when the resistance is pushing back can be exhausting work. But, with these strategies, you can push past that resistance, move forward even when you don’t want to, and if all else fails, determine if your goals are right for you after all.
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