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8 Steps to Ensure You Accomplish Your Goals

8 Steps to Ensure You Accomplish Your Goals

Setting and achieving goals can be an intimidating process. When you start out on a new path, you probably have little to no experience in the field at all. It’s hard to imagine that you might one day consider yourself an expert in that area. Rather than getting overwhelmed with everything that comes with starting a new venture, take a step back, plan out your path, and take the first steps toward accomplishing your goal.

1. Start small

What saves a man is to take a step. Then another step. It is always the same step, but you have to take it. —Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Wind, Sand and Stars

Like I said, it’s easy to get intimidated when starting something new. When I started playing guitar, I was amazed at how incredible some of my friends already were. Of course, they’d been playing since they were 10 years old. I couldn’t just pick up my guitar and start shredding like they were able to; I had to learn how to tune it, how to hold it, and how to play open chords before I could move on to more advanced techniques like arpeggios and diminished 7th chords. Figure out how you’re going to learn the basics before you try to try to tackle something you’re not ready for. It might be boring to start slow, but building a solid foundation will ensure future success.

2. Attack one goal at a time

However, not all goals are created equal: Merely fantasizing about your goal is de-motivating-it actually tricks the brain into thinking you have already achieved it. — Vanessa Van Edwards 

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Starting with the basics can also be intimidating, as you’ll find there is a lot to learn. Don’t stretch yourself thin by trying to accomplish more than one task at a time. Using guitar as an example again, it would make no sense for me to learn how to play chords before I knew if my guitar was in tune. Training my ear to recognize the exact note each string should be tuned to was the absolute beginning of my path as a guitarist. If I learned how to play a chord before knowing exactly what that chord should sound like, I would have been doing myself a huge disservice. By setting your sights on one goal at a time, you’ll be able to carry the knowledge you learned with you onto the next step in your journey.

3. Understand your goals

The starting point of all achievement is desire. — Napoleon Hill 

In high school, I (and I’m sure many of you) used to wonder “when am I ever gonna need this?” Because I couldn’t picture my adult self needing to know how to calculate the area of a triangle, I didn’t really care much for math, and, naturally, didn’t do too well in the subject, either. At the time, I didn’t understand the importance of learning the materials my teachers presented. The goal wasn’t to learn, but to pass the class. If I understood that learning the ins-and-outs of the periodic table in 10th grade would put me on the path toward curing diseases in my adult life, I might have paid a bit more attention in chemistry class. The point is, you should know beforehand why each step in your journey is important. Understand your goals by using this goal wheel. Knowing this will allow you to put your all into every step you take.

4. Truly want to succeed

Rather than dispensing goal setting as a benign, over-the-counter treatment for motivation, managers and scholars need to conceptualize goal setting as a prescription-strength medication that requires careful dosing, consideration of harmful side effects, and close supervision. — “Goals Gone Wild: The Systematic Effects of Over-Prescribing Goal Setting” Harvard Business School

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I just mentioned how my goals in high school were simply to pass the test and move on. My grades allowed me to pass but they weren’t good. Any knowledge I gained for one test immediately left my brain after the test was over, since, to my teenage self, I had accomplished my goal and no longer needed to keep that information stored. If I had the drive to succeed that I do now, I would have taken my studies a bit more seriously, knowing that what I learned then would benefit me later in life. When trying something new, you have to be passionate about every step you take. Not everything you learn on your path will be interesting or fun. But the result of truly learning from each step will ultimately lead to success. One day, you’ll surprise yourself at how much you know about a subject you learned 10 years ago — because you took the time learning it the first time around!

5. Make your goals public

Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment. — Jim Rohn 

When you set out to accomplish a new goal, don’t hide your efforts. Tell your family and friends about your new venture. Doing so will have more of an effect on your efforts than you realize. For one, you won’t want to embarrass yourself by petering out, and you’ll push yourself to succeed so others see how far you’ve come. Secondly, you won’t want to let others down. If you tell your wife you’re going to start exercising more, chances are she’ll be excited at the prospect of you having a little less of a gut and a little more in the bicep region. I’m not saying you should only want to improve for others, but I am saying there’s nothing wrong with getting motivation from external sources.

6. Get excited about improving

There’s a great satisfaction in knowing that we’ve made good use of our days, that we’ve lived up to our expectations of ourselves. — Gretchen Rubin, Better than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives

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When learning a new skill, there’s an alternative to being intimidated by others who are currently better than you: getting inspired by them. Going back to my days as a novice guitarist, I was definitely intimidated by my friends who, to my beginner ears, were incredible musicians. But as I got better at playing guitar myself, I realized that I could reach their level of expertise with more and more practice. I went from thinking “There’s no way I’ll be able to play like that” to “I’m actually better than that!” in the span of a few short months. Not only that, but analyzing my progress helped me visualize my future progress as well. As you progress on your path to success, you’ll be better at setting realistic goals, and will start surpassing them with ease.

7. Anticipate success

Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on Earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude. — Thomas Jefferson

This goes along with the last section, in that once you start succeeding at smaller tasks, you’ll begin to see the big picture. You’ll stop thinking “Let’s see if I can do this,” and begin thinking “Once I complete this, I’ll be able to move on to this next step.” It won’t be a matter of “if”, but a matter of “when.” You’ll be better able to make a gameplan for success, since you’ll know where you’ll be the following day in terms of skills and abilities. Once you see where your progress is headed, you should make a checklist of what you want to accomplish, and what you’ll do next after you reach that goal. Soon enough a 5K will turn into a marathon!

8. Make visual representations of your path

Students who invest in their goals also demonstrate greater persistence, creativity, and risk ­taking in their achievement of those goals.– “Setting Goals: Who, Why, and How?” By: Harvard Initiative for Teaching and Learning 

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Don’t just think up a checklist or to-do list; physically write one out. Once you accomplish a small task, take the time to check it off your list. You’ll be surprised how motivating it can be to see a long list of tasks you need to do get smaller and smaller. Also, create a schedule. As I mentioned, you’ll eventually be able to anticipate what your future self will be able to accomplish. Setting a schedule which predicts future accomplishments will keep you on task to ensure you reach those goals on the day you thought you would. Writing your goals out makes them tangible, and you’ll be less likely to put work off, no matter how tired you may be.

Featured photo credit: Flickrr via farm3.staticflickr.com

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Last Updated on April 8, 2020

How to Calm Down When You’re Stressed and Anxious

How to Calm Down When You’re Stressed and Anxious

Overwhelmed with work, family responsibilities, financial challenges and health issues are common culprits which catalyze stress and anxiety symptoms that show up differently in each and every one of us.

Whilst many of us are becoming much better at identifying what can trigger us to feel these, we’re not always that great at recognizing our individual thresholds; we don’t know exactly how to calm down when the mental, emotional storms erupt.

We can almost see you eye-rolling upon hearing commonly recommended stress antidotes such as taking a bath, lighting candles or going for a walk. Let’s face it. These simply aren’t practical things you can do when you’re on a red-eye flight at 5:30am to run a full day of training interstate and then fly back the same evening not to mention juggling a young family.

You want to know your triggers, predict the impact of them and have your own suite of tools up your sleeve to calm down that impact for the long-term.

Doing a little ground work to gain a strong self-awareness of your likely reactions puts you smack bang in the pilot seat to develop a robust mental and emotional toolkit that will work wonders for you.

A few simple but well-practiced techniques may be all you need to simmer down the cyclonic intensity of emotions, and disparaging thoughts pecking away at your self-esteem and confidence. However, it’s important you do this self-reflective groundwork first to gain maximum impact for long-term effect.

1. Strengthen Familiarity with What Triggers You

When you have arguments with your loved one, do you stop and look to see if there are certain things you fight about? Are there certain behaviors they display that drive you bananas?

Take your focus off them and ask yourself: “What is my usual response?”

Perhaps you feel the anger welling up inside your chest and you then spurt out that you’ve told him or her ten times before to not leave their underwear lying across the bedroom floor.

Think a little deeper. Ask yourself what values, standards and expectations you have that are not being met here. You’ll likely be attached to certain ways you believe things should play out. Are there assumptions and expectations as to how you believe people should conduct themselves and principles about how you feel you should be treated?

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Having a strong attachment to these for yourself is one thing. Expecting others to have the same attachment is often what can make the hot water start simmering.

It is often when people behave in ways inconsistent with our belief systems and events unfold in discord with what we expect and are prepared for that we feel the most stress and anxiety.

Make a list of the common circumstances in different areas of your life that cause you to become anxious and stressed. Against each of these, describe your stress response:

What happens? What do you feel?

Now think about the values, principles and expectations you have attached to these. You’ll see you have a few options:

  • Change my values and expectations
  • Try to change other’s values and expectations
  • Recognize and be in allowance of others having different values, standards and expectations

Reviewing how you react when you’re stressed and anxious, and identifying which of these three options above is going to best serve you, can greatly increase your ability to feel and be in control of calming your reaction.

You move closer to being able to choose how you want to respond as opposed to feeling helpless and the world is spiralling out of control.

2. Have Coping Statements on Hand

When you have a washing machine of chaotic thoughts churning in your mind, trying to implant thoughts that are the complete opposite of what you’re thinking and feeling can be pretty hard.

Not being able to do it can also add another layer of us feeling disappointment in ourselves. We feel we’re failing.

Having coping statements that you can literally latch on to to help you calm down in those stressful and anxious moments, can be particularly helpful.

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Look at creating palm cards and just have three to five of these you can have in your pocket or in your purse. Here are 6 examples:

  • Even though I am feeling this right now, I am going to be alright
  • What I am feeling right now is uncomfortable. I won’t feel this way forever. Soon the intensity of what I am feeling will pass.
  • I’ve survived these feelings before. I can do it again.
  • I feel this way because of my past experiences but right now, I am actually safe.
  • It’s ok for me to feel this way. My body and brain are trying to protect me but I am actually safe right now.
  • Ah, here you are again, anxiety. Thanks for showing up to protect me, but I don’t need you right now.

Choose words and dialogue that feel true and accurate for you. Read the statements out to yourself and test how fitting they are for you. What feels more assuring, calming and right for you?

Make these statements your own. The aim is of these statements is to de-escalate the intensity of what you feel when you’re anxious and stressed.

Remember, you want to refrain from having blunt statements which feel or sound like they’re self-reprimanding because they won’t be pacifying in a positive way.

If you are unsure as to how to come up with statements that fit for you, look to work with a psychologist or licensed therapist to give you a strong start.

3. Identify and Develop Physical Anchors

You actually have within you resources to provide some of the most effective ways to calm yourself down in heightened moments you feel stressed and anxious. Renowned clinical psychologist Dr. Peter Levine and expert in treating stress and trauma, teaches us how techniques which do this, such as Somatic Experiencing®[1] can significantly help us calm down.

By learning to be fully present and applying touch to certain areas of your body (e.g. forehead and heart space), you increase your capacity to self-regulate. You also learn how to attend to and release your unique symptoms that your body has been containing in a way you have not been able to before.

Here’s one technique example:

  1. Get in a comfortable position
  2. Have your eyes open or closed, whatever feels most comfortable for you
  3. Now place one hand on your forehead, palm side flat against the skin
  4. Place the other hand, palm down across your heart space above your sternum… the flat of your chest area.
  5. Gently turn your attention to what you feel physically in the area between your two hands. Observe and just take notice of what you physically feel. Is your chest pounding? How strong are its beat and the rhythm? Do you notice any other sensations anywhere else between your two hands?
  6. Don’t try to push or resist what you’re feeling. Try to just sit with it and remain this way with your hands in place until you feel a shift, a physical one. It might take a little longer, so try to be patient.

You might feel a change in energy flow, a change in temperature or different, less intense sensations. Just keep your hands in place until you feel some kind of shift, even if gradual.

It might take you even 5 to 10 minutes but, riding this wave will help you to process what discomfort your body is containing. It will greatly help to release it so you gradually become calmer.

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Purely cognitive exercises can be tough at the outset. Learning somatic experience techniques is particularly helpful because you’re engaging in exercises where you physically can feel the difference. Feeling the changes helps you increase confidence you can control and reduce the discomfort you’re feeling. You’ll be motivated to keep practicing and improving this skill you can take anywhere, anytime.

4. Move and Get Physical

If you’re not one to exercise, you’re robbing yourself of some very easy ways which help you calm down and reduce stress and anxiety responses. Many neuro chemical changes take place when you engage in exercise.

At certain levels of physical exertion, your brain’s pituitary gland releases neurotransmitter endorphins. When they bind with certain opiate receptors in your brain, signals are transmuted throughout your nervous system to reduce feelings of pain and trigger feelings of euphoria. You might have heard the term ‘runner’s high’.

For the last 20 years, University of Missouri-Columbia’s Professor Richard Cox has conducted research showing that high intensity interval training (HIIT) is more effective at reducing anxiety and stress levels than other forms of aerobic exercise.[2] However, if you would rather slay dragons than turn up an F45 class, it’s essential you still find something that will physically shift you and alter your current mental and emotional state of mind, even just a fraction to start with. It’s 100% ok if this is not your cup of tea.

So in a day full of back of back-to-back meetings, what can you do?

If you’re sitting, stand. Change your posture and open your body up. Have a suite of discrete stretches you can do regularly as you deepen and engage in diaphragmatic breathing.

If you’re looking down at your desk at work and feeling increasingly stressed, look up and change what you’re looking at. Give yourself more than a few moments to decompress.

The main thing is to change your disposition from the one you’re in when you are experiencing anxiety and stress symptoms. You’re shaking it up to calm it down.

5. Transform Your Unhelpful Inner Dialogue and Its Energy

Learning cognitive restructuring techniques can truly work wonders in helping you recognize and re-frame unhelpful dialogue and negative critical thinking patterns. This involves a little preparation being transparent with yourself about what exaggerated perspectives you might ascribe to what’s happening when you’re feeling stressed and anxious.

When you open your email inbox and see a flood of requests which require more time and energy you have for that day, dread starts to settle in and the following comes to mind: “This is impossible. How can they expect me to be able to do all this? It’s completely unreasonable!”

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Instantly, many other thoughts that reinforce this line of thinking as well as the emotional energy of your first conscious thought start unravelling. A 4-step process you can engage to calm the eruption is:

  1. Catch and notice that first thought you had. What was it? What did you think and/or say to yourself?
  2. Recognize that what you’re feeling and be in allowance of the initial intensity of whatever those emotions are.
  3. Breath deliberately a little more deeply and slowly for a few seconds.
  4. State to yourself: “Right now (in this moment) I’m feeling overwhelmed by this, however maybe I can look at what I can make good progress and headway with as a start from here on.”

Notice the language in step 4 is tentative, supportive, soft and not resistant nor defiant of what your original thought was. You accept your original thought, but gradually you become stronger at pivoting it.[3] You’re expanding your growth mindset language.

It’s definitely worth working with a coach or trained therapist to learn how to tailor re-framing statements which can truly help you calm down.

Final Thoughts

We know, in our minds what we should do. When we’re in the thick of experiencing mental and emotional turmoil, it’s actually harder to implement what we know. In those moments, you’re unlikely to have capacity to think about what you need to do, let alone do it effectively to help you feel calmer.

The key is to practice so that when the storm is brewing, your toolkit and supplies are in easy access. You already know your safety drill well.

Knowing you have strategies and prepared processes up your sleeves helps you not only become better at calming yourself in amongst currently stressful situations. You have more confidence now to face more anxiety-provoking stressors because you have developed the resources to handle it.

How you invest time and energy into getting to know your triggers and thresholds will influence how effective these strategies will work for you. We’re not denying relaxing baths or regular massages are helpful, however these band-aid-like solutions don’t really confront the root causes.

If you truly want to turn your experience of your stress and anxiety symptoms around, dig deeper, do the groundwork and that which rattled your cage will quickly become a thing of the past.

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Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

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