It's hard to believe that we have already passed the mid-point of the year. Do you have any goals or resolutions you set at the start of the year that have slipped or been forgotten? Most of us do and there's a temptation to abandon them until the start of the next year.
Bearing that in mind, why not stop, take stock of what's worked so far this past six months, what hasn't, what we want to keep doing, and what we want to change or add?
1: Ditch the self-blame, focus on constructive changes
When we find we can't stick to a goal often the feelings of shame or disappointment make us want to forget about the whole thing.
Whatever didn't work can be a learning experience. To paraphrase an old self-development saying, Today is the first day of the rest of the year...
ACTION: If there is a goal you've wanted to achieve but for which you weren't able to keep up with, treat the past as a learning experience. With the rest of these tips you can turn that around and end the year delighted with your progress.
2: Use what you have done to fuel what you haven't done yet
Although we're focusing on things you haven't done yet, it's important to acknowledge what you HAVE accomplished. In fact, it may be the best resource you have for achieving more.
Take a few minutes to consider what's different between how you approached the things you have accomplished and those you haven't. It may be that you can transfer some of the methods that have worked in one circumstance to a different one.
ACTION: Choose one thing that you have done successfully and one thing that has been problematic. Make a list of the things that made it possible to succeed in the first effort, then consider how they, or some variation of them, could make it easier to succeed in the second.
3: In sight, in mind
If you've ever set out to do something every day and one day realized you've stopped without intending to, you've fallen prey to "out of sight, out of mind." Usually we stop something (e.g., daily exercise) because something urgent comes up, and before we know it we've stopped altogether.
The solution is to go for the opposite: in sight and in mind. One way to do this is to create an activity list that you keep on your desk. At the top is the task you intend to do, below that the days of the month. If you do the activity you check that day off. If you absolutely cannot do it that day, you jot down why. This means you never skip it just by default and it increases the chances you'll stick with it over the long term even if you miss a day now and then.
ACTION: Consider creating and using an activity list for anything you'd like to do on a regular basis. If you have piles of paper on your desk print out the list on different colored paper so it doesn't get lost in the shuffle. At the end of the day, put it somewhere you'll see it first thing. If it's more relevant to home, put the list on the fridge or by your bathroom mirror.
4: Make it tangible
One reason it's hard to achieve certain goals is that while the end result is something we really want, the temptations that sabotage us are much more vivid. For instance, someone might decide to spend fifteen minutes a day to learn a new language. They sit down at the computer to work through a lesson and notice they have some new messages on Facebook. Facebook offers an immediate reward, so they get distracted. The benefits of doing the language lesson are far in the distance, e.g., being able to speak Spanish when they go to Spain on their vacation next year.
The solution is to make the long-term reward more tangible. Create a vivid symbol of it - in this case, it might be a postcard or travel brochure. Imagine yourself enjoying that achievement. That might be easily ordering meals and chatting with locals in Spain. Use all your senses: what will it look like, sound like, feel like, even smell like? That will makes it easier to resist the temptation.
For someone on a diet, the symbol might be a picture of a person who has the kind of figure the dieter wants. They would imagine seeing their slimmer selves in the mirror, hearing compliments, enjoying walking along the beach, etc.
ACTION: If you've found it hard not to give in to temptations that keep your from achieving a long-term goal, consider creating a symbol of that goal and keeping it handy. Access it when you're tempted, and imagine as vividly as possible the pleasures associated with having achieved the goal.
5: Schedule reviewing the hows
Too often when our first strategy doesn't work we give up on the goal--or try the same thing again, usually with the same results. Instead we should be looking at what we can try instead, until we find the method that works.
ACTION: If you are going to commit or recommit to a goal that's important to you, schedule a weekly or bi-weekly "how's it going?" session. If it's not going well, focus on the "how" --that is, how you've been approaching it and how you could change that approach to improve your results. A few variables to consider:
- when you work on it
- how often
- in what size chunks
- with help from whom
- with what milestones and incentives
6: And a quote to consider:
"Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead." [ Louisa May Alcott]