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At least once a year, but sometimes more, I decide that I want to make a change in my life.
And most often, the topics are things like finding a better (or just different) job, losing some weight, getting a gym membership and actually using it, or writing a book.
But the problem that I face, and I would bet you do too, is that I’m focused so much on that earth-shattering improvement, that one defining moment, that I forget about the steps that are required to actually get there.
The goal becomes overwhelming, and therefore, unattainable because I can’t see the minute progress that is being made. And then soon enough, I just abandon the goal.
Here are four reasons why this might happen:
1. We focus on “life-changing” transformations instead of “lifestyle” transformations.
Too often, we are focused on setting up what I like to call life goals. And while these types of goals can aid in providing a direction to go in, they also often result in us taking on more than we can handle.
For instance, it might be life-changing to lose that extra 20 pounds. But reducing the amount of sugar we eat is the lifestyle we would need to adopt. Climbing Mount Everest might be a life goal, but getting outside and walking or hiking three times a week is a lifestyle.
2. We dream big, but forget to start small.
One of the main reasons we do not achieve our goals is because they are not specific enough.
A goal of finding a better job is grand, but what are the specific steps that we need to take to do so? Do we need to return to school and gain more education or skills? Do we need to actually write out a resume? Or do we need to check job postings every other day and then actually apply to those jobs?
3. We give up too soon.
Even when we recognize that the little steps are important, we often expect progress to be linear, and it can be frustrating when days or weeks into working toward a goal, nothing seems to be happening. It’s just so easy to give up when we are faced with some difficulties or setbacks.
Does this sound familiar? We’ve made a few small changes, we don’t see any tangible results, and so we decide to stop. James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, suggests that this is because we have not broken through what he calls the “Plateau of Latent Potential.”
When we finally break through that plateau, it feels like an overnight success, but it really is a result of all the work we have been doing when we didn’t feel we were making any progress at all.
4. We lack the proper support.
Changing a fundamental behaviour can be hard! When we try it alone, we often fail. There are many ways that we can get the support we need; it can be through a friend (or group of friends) who also are working on the same goal, or it can be working with a coach who will hold us accountable.
And most importantly, it also means not being so hard on ourselves. Change can be difficult, but we can make it a bit easier by showing ourselves some love, compassion, and patience.
Achieving goals is all about having habits, but habits can be a double-edged sword. Good habits can build us up, but bad habits can cut us down, which makes understanding our habits and how they work critical.