Action, Not Resolution:
The 2 Biggest Reasons People Stumble On Their Goals and How to Overcome Them
I love the energy I’ve been seeing throughout this first week of 2019; I feel like I’ve sensed more optimism and drive from everyone I’ve spoken with than I have surrounding any other new year. It hasn’t been, “I’m getting a gym membership,” type of energy either - everyone in my circle seems to be focused on truly deep, self-improvement-oriented transformations. I mean, I do have really bad-ass friends and all, but I sense this is not just my friends. Are you experiencing this too?
All of this excitement aside, I think we all know how typical it is for New Year’s resolutions to fail. People get so excited about new habits, then the train just… derails! Why is that?
As someone who has been pretty dedicated to self-improvement, achieved a lot of her goals, but also failed plenty of times along the way, I feel I can answer this pretty well. It boils down to self-awareness, honesty, and ACTION.
To help you succeed in achieving your 2019 goals, I’ve identified the 2 biggest reasons why people stumble on their goals and how to overcome them.
Reason 1: The goal is not enough of a priority.
This one can be a little hard for people to accept sometimes. The “I want to lose weight” goal can be a good example of this. “Um, yeah Christine, I DO want to lose weight, I just really like ice cream, okay?” Hey, I feel you, I friggin’ love ice cream. However, while an individual may indeed want to lose weight, it isn’t truly highest on their heartfelt list of priorities. Bonding time with their friends over a hearty meal with cocktails might subconsciously be higher on that list. Some kind of emotional comfort tie to “unhealthy” foods might be stronger than the urge to lose weight - like a safety mechanism. The rationale for wanting it isn’t strong enough - i.e. the individual saw photos of a model that was in great shape and thought, “I’m supposed to lose weight so I can look like that.” It’s hard to find the drive to achieve goal when it is coming from a place of comparison rather than passion. With all of these examples, the goal is just not ranking high enough in the subconscious list of priorities. So how do we solve for low priority?
There are two ways to approach this. Either accept that this goal is just not a priority right now and place focus on a goal that is, or figure out how to re-frame this goal in a way that yields more passion.
These solutions require some soul-searching and you’ll need to tap pretty deeply into the skill of self-awareness. You’ll have to dig to find the “why”.
Why do I want this right now?
Why do I think it will make my life better?
Why is it worth the things I may need to sacrifice to achieve it?
Why will achieving this goal help me to better the lives of those I care about?
If you were able to dig deeply into the “why” questions, perhaps you were able to find more passion for the goal. Keep a list of these important passion points in front of you - write them in your planner, put a sticky note on your mirror, save them as your phone background, etc. It’s difficult to achieve a goal if we don’t really know why we want to achieve it. Once you have your “why” solid, find ways to keep this goal in line with your other priorities. For example, go out to dinner with your friends, but ask them if you can pick a restaurant you know has healthy options you enjoy so that you can achieve your weight loss goal while still spending quality time with them.
If you had trouble answering the “why” questions, then it may be time to admit that this just isn’t a goal you need to be stressing about right now and know that it is okay to let it go. You can always put your energy back into this goal later if you feel the time is right… and just a little secret - when you stop clinging to the “need” to lose weight, it suddenly becomes easier and often happens with much less effort. This is called releasing resistance and I’ll cover it in a future post.
Dig as deeply as possible into the “why”.
Determine if this goal is truly where you want to focus your energy right now.
If “yes”, write out the reasons why you are passionate about achieving the goal and put these statements in places where you’ll see them throughout the day. If “no”, find a goal that is a priority right now instead. If you’d like help finding your priorities, try this free intention setting worksheet I made.
Find solutions to make your top priorities work together rather than against each other.
Reason 2: Procrastination - A symptom of perfectionism.
Another common stumbling block is that of procrastination. Life just somehow gets too busy for this new goal and then it never happens. Great examples include wanting to start a blog, write a book, or start a new business venture. It seems that more and more people desire to work for themselves in this generation. Maybe because we see all these travel and fashion bloggers on Instagram appearing to “live the dream”. We think, “If I just start this thing, I can live that lifestyle too.” But then that thing never gets started…
It’s not that passion is lacking in these examples - usually the passion and the ambition are very strong. However, perfectionism can really hold us back. When we really desire to create something new, the subconscious mind can often generate stagnancy. Why is this? This underlying desire to make this creation perfect can actually produce fear. We get fear and anxiety about this creation not being good enough. We like to be good at whatever we do, so when we step into new territory, we naturally will have a growth curve. It’s hard to go back to the bottom of that curve of skill when you’ve been at the top of the curve for some other skill for so long. This fear causes procrastination.
What’s crazy about procrastination is that we often don’t notice that we are doing it. It tends to disguise itself as being too busy. When we procrastinate, we get all too excited to fill our time with something else… “Oh you know what, I really need to clean these baseboards right now… And while I’m at it, I’m going to learn how to do underwater basket weaving.”
If this goal is truly a passion and something you know is going to change your life, then you need to call yourself out and recognize when you’re procrastinating and/or being fearful. Can you dig down and determine what you’re actually afraid of?
Are you afraid of failing?
Are you afraid of the responsibility that might come with success?
Can you give yourself a new, rational belief to reconcile these fears?
For example, if you’re afraid that your blog isn’t going to take off after putting so much time into setting it up, give yourself some kind of reminder that successful blogs do take time and dedication, but with perseverance and passion it will grow. Find others that have done it and talk to them about their journey there. I’m sure they will tell you it didn’t happen overnight and that they just kept putting their energy with despite road blocks. Find people who give you inspiration to stick with it. Find a mentor.
In addition to inspiration, you’ll need to take action to break through the wall of procrastination. Realize that these are big goal you are setting so it will be easiest to break it down into smaller bites. Baby steps will turn into leaps before you know it.
Dig deeply into what might be causing you to procrastinate. Once you find the reasons, write out statements that re-frame any negative beliefs into positive ones.
For example, if you determine that you’re afraid of starting something new because people have told you that you’re always starting something and never finishing anything, remind yourself that there is nothing wrong with that! We have to take a chance at starting new things to learn what we are truly passionate about. Sometimes we start something only to realize that the logistics just aren’t there after all, so we move onto something else. This is actually a form of being resilient, and it takes resilience to be successful. Just be sure that you are actually giving a new project a fair shot and not just self-sabotaging yourself over and over again (something else I should write on in the future). If this sounds like you, then write out a statement similar to, “I am starting this new venture with passion and endurance. I am excited to learn the new skills required to be successful. I am dedicated to seeing this project through because _______________.”
Break down your big goal into smaller goals.
What is the smallest action you can take to get started? And the next? And the next?
Try moving backwards through the processes required to achieve this goal. Take a piece of paper and write down each major process needed across the top. Then break each down into smaller sub tasks. Break down those sub tasks even further if you can. When finished, you’ll have a tree of actions to take.
The smallest tasks on the task tree above will likely be the lowest hanging fruit. Start with those to get the ball rolling. Once you’ve picked up some steam, start prioritizing the more difficult tasks so that you can get those out of the way as soon as possible to avoid more procrastination. Soon enough, you’ll be impressed with your own progress and success.
Having trouble getting these tasks accomplished? You might need to find a way to hold yourself accountable or find an accountability partner. Don’t be afraid to enlist help!
Identify your biggest distractions and develop strategies to avoid them.
I know mine… *cough* Instagram *cough*. Speaking of… does anybody know a good mobile app to help with snapping you out of the social media trap?
Resolutions and the desire for self-improvement are amazing things, but they achieve nothing without action… and it can be hard to take action without some serious self-inquiry first. Change can be very scary, even when it’s positive change, because the change of one thing always leads to the change of many things. However, if you can identify what is making you fearful or causing a hang-up, then you can take action to overcome it.
I hope these solutions help you to achieve your 2019 goals! Drop a comment if you have any additional solutions to overcome stumbling blocks.
P.S. Need some help sorting through your goals for the year? Try this free intention setting and reflection worksheet I made. It was super helpful for me and I’m sure it will be for you too.