What No One Wants To Hear

It seems there’s a natural progression or trend to virtually any aspiration, desire, target or dare I say it …. personal goal. I think it goes something like this:

1. We have an idea, epiphany or “ah ha!” moment when you are certain that your life would be better with (or without) something (less weight, more money, better relationship, better job, etc).

2. The energy produced by the idea in #1 is channeled and we create a plan to achieve our goal, either in our head or on paper.

3. We set about implementing the steps in our plan, with the determination and enthusiasm of Rudy (click here if you’re not familiar with this notorious sports reference).

4. Now somewhere around week 2, we realize we’ve been working at this hard, with true passion and zeal, and nothing (or not much) is happening (how can this be?).

5. Despite a voice in your head saying “these things take time”, you begin to reevaluate your priorities, rethink your epiphany and weigh just how important this goal really is.

6. A few more days go by, your effort lessens a little, still no results or rewards, and it’s becoming even more likely that this wasn’t such a great idea.

7. Finally somewhere around week 2 – 4 resignation sets in, we made a minor miscalculation in the assessment phase of this goal, and we decide that we really didn’t want it that bad after all.

Maybe this isn’t exactly you, but it’s a fairly typical model for how alot of people approach goal setting and making changes in their lives. You don’t have to look any farther than New Year’s Resolutions to see that this is true. Research tells us that at least 80% of all such resolutions are broken by Jan 31, and in fact 90% are abandoned by Jan 15 if they are related to health and fitness activities.

Sounds grim, I know. However the truth, as they say, will set your free. Realizing this pattern, this tendency, can allow us to go into the goal plan with the proper mindset and attitude to greatly increase our chances for success. Following these 3 simple steps will provide you with ammunition to deal with disappointment, disillusionment and frustration.

1. Take the long term view.

It’s not news that we’ve all to some degree joined the immediate gratification, “get ______ quick” (fill in the blank as you choose) society, and that leads to unrealistic expectations and the wrong attitude. Before you decide to pursue this goal, consider whether it’s worth turning into a life habit, or at least whether you’re willing to do whatever it takes to achieve it.

2. Decide if you’re willing to invest effort over an extended period of time without getting results.

Similar to the immediate gratification idea in #1 above, this relates to the principle of deferred gratification – being willing to put off reward today in return for greater rewards later. It’s a rock solid principle (think college education, retirement savings plan or regular exercise), but it does fly in the face of immediate download movies on cable tv or “pizza in 30 minutes or it’s free” (or whatever the ad says). The easy stuff comes quickly, but many times the good stuff isn’t easy.

3. Recognize and prepare for “The Dip”.

One of my favorite authors, Seth Godin, coined this phrase (I think) in his book of the same title. The point of the book is that it can be smart to know when to quit, which I agree with. But the greater message in my opinion was that most people quit when things get tough, frustrating, don’t show progress, etc, and that’s exactly where the opportunity lies. Following through on worthwhile goals that most people give up on is one of the things that makes the achievement so valuable. We do, however, have to be willing to stick it out through “the dip”, that phase where the progress is hard, the rewards are not obvious and it’s easier to rationalize the goal and give up.

I like the analogy of the artist who loves sculpture. He meticiously strikes the rock in just the right place over and over, until it finally cracks in perfect form. The last strike was the one that seemed to produce the results, but in fact it was no more important than every one that preceded it. But he had to hang in there as long as it took.

Other tips include picking things that are attainable, create a system that encourages you to include these things in your day, utilize some form of accountability partner and track or measure your progress. But start by taking the long term view and plan to invest your effort as long as it takes, even without measurable reward, through the hard times. This is a good test to determine if you’re really committed to the goal, and if you decide to proceed then you’ll find your success rate at achieving your personal goals is quite good!

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