At 65, Jane* felt ready to retire but wasn’t sure if she could afford it….
Feeling stuck? Unmotivated?
It’s natural to feel stagnant sometimes—especially when we’re locked down. But just because we’re limited physically, that doesn’t mean our goals have to be—or our vision for the future.
Enter Alex Wright-Moore, a Results Coach who has kindly offered to answer some commonly asked questions she gets from clients—and share her knowledge with the HerCanberra audience.
Each month, Alex will explore some of the ways we can better understand what challenges us and empowers us to find solutions—lockdown or no lockdown.
“I find it easy to set goals but find it challenging to follow through and achieve what I set out to do.
Are there any practical tips which can help me to achieve real results and stay on track without getting distracted and overwhelmed?”
When we fall short in creating the personal and professional lives we dream of, generally it is not because we don’t care enough. More commonly, it is because something gets in the way to impede our progress. Often our roadblock is a deficiency of time, patience, support, or resources. Or sometimes it is something deeper.
Nevertheless, to achieve our goals, usually something must manifestly shift in our existence. This may mean looking at things with a different perspective or making an adjustment to our daily routine. Rather comfortingly, most of us do not find it difficult to conjure up a vision of what we would like to achieve in life. But making change stick and developing positive habits can evade many of us.
No matter what type of transformation we seek, there are some simple and pragmatic ways to ensure we begin on the right foot when setting goals—and these tips can bring us less overwhelm, greater clarity and better results.
We can create goals with inbuilt mechanisms for accountability
Putting our goals in writing is often how we give our dreams a deadline. So, when it comes to establishing our goals, it is important to think about what will hold us to account from the outset.
A deadline is meaningless if we are lacking in sufficient follow through. This makes it vital to be realistic and ask ourselves about the level of commitment required to keep on track from day one.
For example, do we have the stamina and internal disciple to take this on by ourselves and hold ourselves to account? Or could we benefit from some external scrutiny and support with the help of a colleague, friend, partner or coach?
Thinking this way about accountability from the beginning helps us to create S.M.A.R.T goals (goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timeframe bound) which increases our prospect of success. To find out more about setting S.M.A.R.T goals, click here.
We can ensure our goals are visible in our day-to-day existence
Humans are like sponges in the environment we live in. When we first start out in the world as infants, we absorb our surroundings and learn how to live based on what we glean through our five senses.
On a rudimentary level, this is no different to how we continue to learn as adults. For most of us, the more we see something in the world, the more likely we are to believe and remember it.
Furthermore, the more we believe something, the more likely we are to achieve it. Ensuring our goals are always visible in our day-to-day lives is a big part of this.
Whether it is a vision board in our home, a phone reminder that pops up the same time each day, a post it note on the fridge, a screen saver on the computer or a list of all of the things that motivate us sticky-taped to the outside of the shower screen, each can be effective.
Better yet, studies on the brain tell us we have a greater chance of learning a new skill if we invest in ways of absorbing the information through all of our senses (and not merely our sight).
Hence, the more we can envision and imagine our future success in a way that we can see, smell, hear, taste and touch it, the more it becomes real and feels achievable to us.
Engaging in guided visualisation meditations for goal setting such as this one here (27 min) or here (5 min) are a great way to tap into this imaginative type of thinking and can often assist us in attaining what we desire.
We can embed joy in the doing
When we feel displeasure, discomfort, dread or distaste at the idea of doing something, it compromises our ability to make progress with any real sense of reward.
Conversely, if we can tap into feelings of excitement, happiness, growth and curiosity, it can motivate us to continue striving forward. The more we experience joy in the doing, the more likely we are to do something. But how do we embed joy in doing the things that feel like hard work?
First, we can start by identifying the activities that make us feel good, versus those that do not. Next, we can consider ways of combining activities we love with those we may have some internal resistance about.
For example, we can create a playlist of the songs which make our bodies feel alive and our hearts feel inspired and listen to it each time we set to work on our goals or a task we don’t look forward to.
Alternatively, we can get creative with where and how we work at things, shifting location to somewhere outside in nature on days when the weather is simply too good to miss.
Taking regular opportunities to celebrate our progress with regular breaks, a sweet treat, a relaxing bath or massage (post-lockdown, of course) or a day off can also work wonders for tuning our self-care barometers so we can experience more joy in the doing.
After all, recognising when our bodies and minds need a rest is the most important reward there is—and as long as we have goals with inbuilt mechanisms for accountability, then taking time to recharge as necessary can never be a failing.
For more inspiration on creative ways to celebrate goal successes and progress, click here.
We can regularly pulse check our investment of time and energy vs. priorities when working towards goals to stay on task
Sometimes we need to remember that working on our goals is not always about getting it right straight away. Most of the time, it is simply about getting it started and chipping away at our goals in bite-size chunks without having to sacrifice all other priorities in our lives.
Regularly ‘pulse checking’ the investment of time and energy needed to achieve our goals as our priorities shift and evolve is an important component of staying on track.
Internally gauging our energy level and how motivated we feel about our goals over time can also help us to identify and manage potential triggers for distraction or overwhelm.
There are a variety of goal tracking apps which can be useful for this (such as these here). But for those interested in exploring additional techniques to maintain focus and follow through, this free online Masterclass* by Nir Eyal, author of Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life, offers a helpful place to start.
Regardless of the techniques we choose, it is vital for us to keep our priorities in perspective and practice self-compassion in this space. It is also perfectly reasonable for our priorities to shift from time to time regarding what is most important in life. Being kind to ourselves in such times and maintaining perspective are essential ingredients for creating sustainable patterns of change in our lives.
We can recognise the common blocks humans have when goal setting and identify if these are holding us back from making progress
When it comes to setting goals, our progress can usually be compromised by three primary components: (a) limiting beliefs; (b) trapped emotions; and/or (c) conflicting values.
This being the case, it is important to understand these concepts and how they manifest in order to overcome them. To access a quick explanation about each of these, click here.
It is also helpful for us to identify when we are placing roadblocks in our own way or unnecessary conditions upon our goals.
Conditional goal setting is the tendency to regard high order goals such as ‘happiness’ or ‘fulfilment’ as conditional upon the achievement of lower order goals which are generally linked to specific activities. While this is a natural human behaviour, it can hold us back from achieving what we want – and hurt more than it helps.
Liberating ourselves from the idea of ‘a specific recipe’ to achieve something is often the first step to realising that there are numerous paths which lead to what we seek. Opening ourselves up to those paths and exploring them? Now, that is the fun part.
Want to ask your own question?
The content in this article represents the individual ideas of the writer alone and outlines general advice only. It does not replace individual, independent or personal advice, mental health treatment and/or crisis support.
Coaching does not prevent, cure, or treat any mental health disorder and does not substitute for therapy from a licensed professional if necessary.
Should you require emergency crisis support, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or see your GP to discuss a mental health care plan which can help you access the support you need.
Neither Alex Wright-Moore, nor HerCanberra receive any kickbacks, commissions, gifts or fees for mentioning anything contained within.
* At the time of publishing this Masterclass does not contain a fee, but Masterclasses of this nature are generally only available for a limited time free of charge.
Referral to this resource does not constitute an endorsement for purchasing paid Mindvalley platform membership or programs.