By the time the Christmas decorations come down most people have already given up on their goals.
If this is you, don’t worry, help is at hand!
It’s inevitable that we sometimes flag. After the excitement of Christmas and New Year, tiredness can set in. The cold dark winter months, and our continuous efforts to balance home and work life, seem to fuel fatigue and weariness. Your goal or dream might seem like a distant whim that is too big and difficult to achieve.
If you have already given up on your goal, or if you’re fading fast or have stopped doing anything about it, here are a few tips to get you back on track.
1. Manage your self-talk
When your goal feels too hard and has become a distant pipe dream, it is all too easy to beat yourself up and lose focus on what you want and how to get it. Negative thoughts can creep into your head as can self-blaming words such as “pathetic”, “lazy”, “useless” etc. Focus on how you will feel when you have reached it. Give yourself a break and remind yourself that it is never too late to start again. Ask what you will do differently this time to prioritise and reach your dream.
If you feel stuck and unsure what else to do, take a look at my earlier blog which encourages you to ask yourself 3 Crucial questions when you feel stuck.
2. Visualise your success
Take a moment to picture what success will look like and feel like when you achieve your goal. Think about it. Look forward to it, imagine it. Be clear on what it is that you want – in detail, because detail will make it real for you. Write it down.
Use images. A photo, a picture from a magazine, a postcard, a screen saver. Choose something that inspires you. So, for example, if you want to lose weight, find a photo of yourself when you were at your ideal weight and place it somewhere that you will see it regularly. Or, if you want a new home, find a picture of your dream home. Whatever it is, think about how you will feel when you get there e.g. your promotion or new job.
Put your chosen image somewhere prominent. Look at it when you wake up in the morning and before you go to sleep at night. The more often you look at it and think about it, the more real it will become for you.
3. Remind yourself why you want it.
Answering “Why” is known to be a powerful motivator. Simon Sinek, the British-American bestselling author of ’Start with Why’ emphasises the importance of knowing ‘why’ you want or do something.
Write your answer to ‘why’ your goal is important to you. Write it by hand on a sheet of paper. Handwritten statements and lists have been found to engage the brain more than typing or speaking into a device.
4. Break down your big goal into small doable steps
Your goal may seem too big, bold and audacious and feel too difficult to achieve. The science around how to achieve goals suggests that we should break down big goals into little steps or actions that feel doable. Depending on your goal, examples of some small steps could be…
- Lose weight – research diets and find one you will enjoy;
- Get fit – go for a 20-minute brisk walk before work;
- New job – contact a recruitment agency to see what jobs are available;
- New home – look at houses on the internet to see what’s available.
You can see how these small steps feel doable and, when combined with other small actions, they will take you closer to your goal.
Write down (by hand) one small thing you will do today to get you back on track. Then list the other small steps you will take. Small steps might be as simple as making a phone call, sending an email, contacting a person, researching something online etc. Each time you complete an action, no matter how small, it rewards your brain. As you cross actions off your list, you’ll feel good and motivated to do more. After a while you will not be able to stop thinking about and doing things towards your goal!
5. Reward yourself
Rewards increase motivation. List some small rewards that you will treat yourself to when you have completed some of your listed actions. Your rewards do not need to be big or material things. My personal treats include a going for a walk or having a nice coffee out – or both!
6. Make it easier to do it than not to do it!
If, for example, your goal is a fitness goal and you plan to do a run or walk before work, leave your training shoes and clothes by your bed at night. Download your favourite podcast or music play list the night before and have your headphones at the ready. Tell the people you live with that you are going to do it and ask for their support and encouragement.
Think about how you will feel when you have done it (feeling smug is allowed!). If I am not feeling like a run or walk, my husband (Ben) often reminds me that “no one ever regrets doing exercise after they’ve done it”. He is right, it makes you feel great!
As you get dressed to go out, focus on the treat you’ve chosen to have after you have done it, such as a lovely breakfast.
7. Manage your energy
Think of your energy being like a battery. You charge it up overnight then it gradually runs down as you go about your daily tasks. It then follows that you need to charge your energy battery! This means ensuring that you get enough sleep, rest, pleasure and joy (all of which help re-charge you). Also, keep healthy snacks close to hand such as nuts, seeds and fruit to keep your energy levels up. I don’t go anywhere without a packet of almonds!
If you have given up on your goal(s) or New Year resolutions, remember that there is no such thing as failure, only learning. It’s never too late to start again, so start again today!
Apply these seven evidence-based tips and you will soon be on your way to getting back on track and achieving what you want for yourself and your life.