Setting goals is easy. Following through with them is hard.
At the end of December, I wrote a lot about the importance of reflection, auditing the past year, and the practice of setting realistic and stretch goals for the year to come.
However, this is usually the time (mid to late January) when most people begin to fall out of practice. The original excitement behind all their new goals has begun to wear off, and they find themselves either bored or frustrated by their lack of progress.
A few weeks is nothing. Remember that.
Goals with a short-sighted end date are never worthwhile. They just aren't. Maybe you need to make a quick shift, but the truth is that every one of your goals should have some sort of long view. Otherwise, you'll fall into the same bad habits over and over again: setting new goals, sticking to them for a few weeks, giving up, and then repeating the process over again.
Half the purpose of setting goals and sticking to them has nothing to do with the goals you set themselves. It has to do with practicing the act of sticking to habits over the long term. If you can master the art of positive habits, you can master anything.
So, how do you keep pushing forward and not fall back in February?
1. Remind yourself why you started.
Whenever you get frustrated, impatient, etc., it's crucial that you think hard about why you started in this direction to begin with. Your intention is what will drive you much farther than rewards or recognition ever will. So when the going gets tough, go back to the basics: why did you start down this path?
2. Have someone help keep you accountable.
It's not easy going at things alone. Whether it's a friend, a teammate, classmate, teacher, mentor, it doesn't matter. What's important is that you have someone other than yourself pushing you forward. Yes, you should be accountable for yourself, but sometimes we all need a nudge in the right direction.
3. Change up your routine.
Whenever things feel stale, that's a neon sign for you to change things up. If you're bored, do something different (without straying from your goals). If you're not stimulated, go to a more stimulating environment. If you aren't inspired, go find some inspiration. Change things up--and do so intentionally.
4. At the end of January, set clear goals for February.
A lot of people fall off-track because they don't measure their progress appropriately. Regardless of how "far you've come," it can be inspiring to take a look at what you were able to do in January and then set clear milestones for the following month.
5. Reach out to people who have accomplished what you're trying to do.
One of the best resources you could possibly get access to on your path is someone who has already done what you're looking to do. Even a short conversation with someone who's reached the "end" can give you tremendous insight into what's to come and how you can effectively move forward. And many people are willing to help others. All you have to do is ask.
6. Give yourself incentives to work toward.
Some people thrive off tangible rewards. If that's you, great--use that knowledge of yourself to your advantage. Give yourself something to work toward, and withhold it until your goal has been reached. Just don't give in ahead of time. At that point, you're practicing the opposite of good habits.
7. Practice, practice, practice.
What has taken me a long, long time to understand is that how "good" you are at something is directly correlated to how much you consider that thing your calling, or your passion, or even worth your time. We, as humans, don't really enjoy doing things we're not all that good at--and yet, in order to appreciate and enjoy it, we have to practice it long enough to get good at it. To call it a catch-22 is an understatement. Which is why the only answer is to just trust and practice, practice, practice.