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Last Updated on December 4, 2020

Not Making Progress? 3 Ways to Get Moving Again

Not Making Progress? 3 Ways to Get Moving Again

The best things in life never come easily. And it’s discouraging to work on a personal or career goal for a long time without seeming to get closer to the desired outcome.

My work requires me to stay on top of things 24/7. It seems like I’ve had things figured out since day one, but that is far from the truth. More often than not, I spend my day reading online articles, watching YouTube videos, and doing everything except the things I need to get done.

Sound familiar? Everyone has days like this.

With time, it’s easy to feel like you’re not making progress — losing track of the big picture and your ultimate vision, being busy without meaningful results to show, and feeling overwhelmed and distracted all the time.

After studying a number of research articles and experimenting with a long list of life hacks, here are three ways to get moving again if you’re feeling stuck and not making progress.

Extrinsic Motivation Vs Intrinsic Motivation

First, it’s important to understand motivation as that is often what drives us forward (or what we’re lacking). Most people feel stuck when they lose motivation. When that happens, you start to feel uncertain of your vision and goals. It’s easy to start doubting yourself and wondering if your goals are even achievable. Some might even take it personally and start seeing themselves as less than what they’re capable of.

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Without motivation, it’s challenging for you to charge forward, let alone to get moving again when you feel that enormous stress and resistance upon you. But when people talk about motivation, they think about external rewards, like more money and greater pleasures to push themselves forward.

Extrinsic motivation doesn’t last. Instead, you need to cultivate intrinsic motivation if you want to make progress again. The big question is: How do you do that?

How to Start Making Progress

Getting stuck is normal. Some people feel stuck for a day, a week, or months, but we can always start marking progress again with a few tweaks to our routine. Try the following tips to get yourself motivated and moving forward.

1. Reconnect With Your Why

David Goggins is a retired Navy SEAL, an extreme endurance athlete, and now a successful author of the book Can’t Hurt Me[1]. He came from a tough background of poverty, domestic violence, learning challenges, and obesity issues. However, he then moved on to complete not one but two Hell Weeks — the toughest military training in the world — and finish multiple ultra marathons and ultra triathlons.

To him, we all have limitless potential, and all of that is in our minds. When asked how he was able to become mentally tough and pull off those unbelievable feats, it came down to a simple question he asks himself: “Why am I doing this?” When the pain was too much to handle during the SEAL Hell Week or the 100-mile ultra marathon where his mind and body were telling him to give up, all he did was ask: “Why am I doing this?”

It wasn’t easy. For most people, the why question might lead to the answer of giving up. But if it’s something that matters to you, there will always be a strong, fundamental reason that makes giving up not an option. Some examples of times when you may need to ask “why” include:

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  • When you’re having trouble getting your client’s work done.
  • When you’re not making progress at your business.
  • When things get difficult in your relationship.

You don’t get into these career and personal goals for no reason. You commit yourself to them because there’s something bigger than your needs of instant gratification, your fears, and probably yourself. It’s crucial for you to reconnect with the why when things look less optimistic than you want them to be.

2. Create a Sense of Control

In 1998, Professor Carol Dweck from Columbia University and her student, Claudia Mueller, presented two groups of fifth graders with a simple test to carry out a study on how a compliment affects a student’s performance[2].

After the test, both groups of students were told that they had scored well. The variants were what came after that. They acknowledged the first group of students for their intelligence: “You’ve done very well. You must be smart.” They then praised the second group of students for their effort: “You’ve done very well. You must have worked hard on these problems.”

The key difference between intelligence and effort is the locus of control. Intelligence, to most people, comes naturally and falls under something outside of our control. On the flip side, hard work is considered as the internal locus of control because it’s something we choose to do.

After that, they gave both groups of students a different test that was so hard that only a few students were able to solve it. But the interesting finding was not how well the students scored on the test, but how they responded to the challenge. Professor Dweck found that the first group of students who were praised for their intelligence spent less time trying to solve the harder test. The second group of students, who were praised for their effort, were more willing to invest time in solving it.

The research demonstrates how different types of praise affects our performance, but more importantly, how having the external or internal locus of control affects our motivation to keep going when things get tough. In simpler terms, in order to get motivated, you need to feel that you’re in control of your current situation.

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Instead of staying in the state of helplessness when you feel stuck, do something — anything, however small it is — to regain the sense of control. It could be:

  • Feeling stuck with your fitness goal and don’t feel like working out? Stop overthinking and go do one single push-up.
  • Too many emails to reply to and not sure where to start? Type a five-word sentence to every reply you need to make, save it, and go back to them later.
  • Not getting new clients or sales for your business? Reach out to help someone with tips for free.

Remember, one small obstacle is never the thing that ruins your life. It’s the inaction that lets obstacles and setbacks stack on top of each other. Making progress isn’t about doing something perfectly, it’s about taking back the control and moving forward one step at a time.

3. Focus on Tiny Actions

Four years ago, I attended a Tony Robbins event. He said, “In order to change your life, you need to take massive action, massive action, massive action!” Yes, Tony repeated “massive action” three times. I disagreed with that.

You see, every action we take requires effort and energy. Talking about massive action might make you sound smarter in conversations, but it’s not as practical as it seems in real life. The bigger the action is, the higher the resistance pulling us away from getting started, staying focused, and being consistent. Instead of focusing on massive action, try starting small if you want to start making progress again. Here’s why:

  • Tiny action takes less willpower — most of the time, it takes little to no effort and energy. It means you can get started and stay consistent easily.
  • Tiny tilt in degrees (in any area: mindset, habits, vocabulary, etc.) can lead to monumental differences in trajectory.
  • The compounding effect of consistent, small action will eventually get you where you want to be.

We can also see massive action as a combination of many small actions — often, it means nothing without unpacking it. For example, big goals like “I want to lose weight,” “I want to become an author,” or “I want to start a successful business,” don’t mean much without the steps to get there.

Clearly, these goals are massive plans made up one step at a time. The solution is to break them down into smaller, manageable chunks of tiny actions. It may seem insignificant at first until they add up into something so big that it changes your life completely.

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How I Did It

To give you a real-life example, I got stuck writing this guest post. I received an email from LifeHack about the topic, spent hours researching and outlining it, and then got stuck at making it flow. Weeks passed, and I was far from making any meaningful progress.

One day I spent the time going through my personal blog — full of articles on motivation, psychology, and productivity — as an escape to writing this blog post. And then it struck me that I’ve learned how to get out from the rut all along. So here’s what I did:

  • Reconnect with my why. Why am I writing this guest post? Or better yet, why am I even writing? My vision is to build a successful blog and become an author — and writing is what I do.
  • Create a sense of control. To regain the sense of control, I scrapped the original outline and started dumping words onto the Google Doc. With words on the paper, my confidence and motivation to complete this guest post increased significantly.
  • Focus on tiny action. Instead of thinking about completing the entire article at one-go, I commited to 30 minutes of writing per day. I spent these daily sessions to edit and re-edit what I had from my brain-dumping session.

And that’s how I got what you’ve been reading here..

In fact, this doesn’t only apply to smaller projects like writing a blog post. You can implement the same principles on improving your health, career, and relationships whenever you feel stuck.

Final Thoughts

Often, it’s not that you’re not making progress. We’re wired for instant gratification, so it’s usually hard for us to see things over the long run. That’s also why investors fail to invest for the long-term and people don’t give themselves enough time to succeed.

If you’ve been focusing on becoming better every day, it’s inevitable that you’re making some kind of progress in one way or another. Unfortunately, you just don’t realize it. The solution is simple: keep track of every small win and celebrate it.

The best way to do this is to keep a daily journal and review what you’ve done and accomplished at the end of a day. Ask yourself what have you accomplished today and how you can do better tomorrow. If you got something meaningful done for the day, don’t forget to celebrate it, however small it is.

More Tips on Making Progress

Featured photo credit: Lindsay Henwood via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] David Goggins: Can’t Hurt Me
[2] The New York Times: Praise Children for Effort, Not Intelligence, Study Says

More by this author

Dean Yeong

Self-improvement writer and performance coach

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Last Updated on May 5, 2021

How to Achieve Goals and Increase Your Chance of Success

How to Achieve Goals and Increase Your Chance of Success

Does it ever feel like the things you want to accomplish always end up on the back burner? If the answer to that question is yes, you’re not alone. Only about 33% of people consistently work toward and achieve goals that they set. In some cases, their goals may seem too lofty to accomplish, or else they aren’t sure how to make a plan for them.

If you don’t come up with concrete steps to take toward your goals, they’ll remain dreams. There’s nothing wrong with being a dreamer, but being able to turn your dreams into goals will help you lead a happier and more fulfilling life.

Luckily, you can realize almost any dream when you harness the right goal-setting methods.

1. Break Dreams Down Into Measurable Steps

We can’t talk about how to set and achieve goals without mentioning SMART goals.

SMART goals are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-based.

Specific and measurable steps are extremely important because if we don’t know what our target is, how can we ever hit it?

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Take all those beautiful dreams you have for yourself and make them into things you can actually do. If you want to be an entrepreneur, for example, a step toward realizing your dream might be researching what you’ll need to start your business.

Find out more tips about utilizing SMART goals here: How to Use SMART Goal to Become Highly Successful in Life

2. Have One Clear Goal for Each Area of Your Life

It’s so easy to become complacent or stagnate. We often think that our careers are the only places where we need to set goals, but there are many other areas of our lives that could benefit from specific goals.

To make the most of your life, take the approach that you’re always learning and growing in everything you do. Anything worth doing is worth doing well after all.

Set goals whether you’re sponsoring an activity for your child, taking up guitar lessons, or trying to prove your worth at work.

You’ll notice that this approach forces you to constantly develop new skills. It can also be fulfilling to put more focus and value into all areas of your life—not just the ones related to our careers.

3. Align Your Goals With Your Purpose and Passion

Take the opportunity to do some soul-searching as you’re working on how to achieve goals you’ve set. What is it that you want to do with this precious life of yours?

Anything that conflicts with your life’s purpose is bound to cause discontent. Staying in a bad relationship, doing a job that goes against your values, or maintaining the status quo just because it’s comfortable are not options for you.

Thinking about your goals in this way can help you eliminate things in your life that don’t serve you. This frees up mental space that you can use to do the things you care about the most.

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Many of us struggle to find the time to work on our goals, but this strategy enables you to make more time.

4. Create Goals That Inspire Action

If you can’t be fired up about learning how to achieve goals from the start, they might not be good goals for you.

The road to success is often tough, and you’re going to have times when you might feel tired or discouraged. You need to feel inspired enough that you’ll be able to overcome obstacles as you encounter them.

If what you’re doing motivates you to be the greatest version of yourself, you’ll be much more resilient.

5. Write Down Goals in Detail

This is your road map for what success will look like. The more you define what you want the finished product to be, the greater the chance that you’ll reach that vision.

When you write down your goals, you’re creating a document that you can revisit to make sure you’re on track.

When you’re in the middle of achieving goals, it can be hard to see what’s working for you. The things you write in this step will help you stay on-message as you take your goals out of your mind and into the real world.

Don’t just write down your goals and stash them away in a folder somewhere. Take the extra step to put them somewhere where you’ll see them.

If you have too many goals to post on your desk, write a summary or choose one or two steps to work on for the day. Just seeing them will keep them in the front of your mind.

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6. Commit to Hitting Each Target

You wouldn’t have created the target if you didn’t think it was necessary. Hold yourself accountable for taking the steps to succeed and achieve goals.

You can always adapt your strategy or break your targets into smaller steps if you find that they aren’t attainable as you originally wrote them. Hitting even the smallest target is cause for a celebration. It’s a step in the positive direction, and your success will make you crave more success.

We often make excuses when we get tired or overwhelmed. Take away the option to make excuses. You will only be satisfied with the best effort from yourself.

If you do find that you start making excuses and procrastinating, this Fast-Track Class from Lifehack can help: No More Procrastination.

7. Share Your Goals With Others

There’s something so powerful about people sharing their goals and dreams with one another. Doing so gives voice to some part of us that could remain hidden (and therefore never be accomplished).

When other people know about your goals, they can cheer you on and hold you accountable. When people share their vision with you, you can do the same for them.

This strategy is particularly beneficial when you’re trying to develop healthy habits. Post about your workout on social media, or do a healthy eating challenge with your best friend. You’ll be less likely to slack when temptation arises, and you’ll probably encourage someone else to reach for their goals, too.

8. Set a Series of Goals With Deadlines

Many people don’t achieve goals simply because they haven’t taken the time to measure them. People tend to forget what they set out to do, or their goal gets crowded out by other obligations.

Forcing yourself to revisit your goals at regular intervals breaks them into smaller steps, and it reminds you to think about them.

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Giving yourself regular deadlines for smaller tasks related to your goals also helps you reflect on your strategy. You’ll figure out what works for you, whether your timeline is realistic, and whether or not you need additional help to stay on track.

9. Take 10 Minutes Each Day to Visualize Success

Some of the most successful athletes, celebrities and business people take time each day to think about how success looks and feels for them.[1] Imagining that feeling of satisfaction can be a great motivator.

When you do meet your goals, take some time to be grateful. Thank yourself for showing up and doing the work. Be grateful when the stars align properly to help you advance to the next step.

It’s not just getting to the destination of your goals that matters. How you go through the journey is important, too.

10. Take One Step Toward Your Goals Each Day

Your goals can easily get buried in the hustle and bustle. Even the smallest step in the right direction is still moving you forward.

Keep chipping away at the work every day, and before long, you’ll start to see those dreams come to life.

Maybe you didn’t start your business today, but you designed the logo that’s going to go on your website and business cards. Concrete actions day by day draw your dreams out of obscurity and into the realm of possibility.

The Bottom Line

Dreams can leave us feeling overwhelmed while also inspiring us to be better in the long term. By turning our dreams into goals that we can work toward, we increase our chances of success. Things that once seemed impossible are suddenly within reach, and before long, we know how to achieve goals that matter to us.

It’s time to start turning your dreams into big goals and your goals into reality.

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Featured photo credit: Andrew Neel via unsplash.com

Reference

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