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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
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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.

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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 July 29, 2021

A Complete Guide to Goal Setting for Personal Success

A Complete Guide to Goal Setting for Personal Success
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If there was a rule book of life, there would be one particular page that was highlighted, underlined, and titled as most important. It would be the one which told you that you need to master effective goal setting and have an aim in mind before you get on with the process. While there may not be an actual rule book of life, we do have this helpful goal setting guide to offer.

Yes, goal setting is important. In fact, it’s more important than achieving the goal itself. This is because it is the sense of direction that is needed for you to fulfill any task in life.

You don’t have to feel overwhelmed if this sounds new to you, as all the following information has you covered.

Today, you’ll find out all about the importance of goal setting, types of goals, and tips to define realistic goals for yourself!

What Are Goals?

To kick off our goal setting tips guide, you need to first recognize what goals are and how they are different from objectives, dreams, and expectations.

A goal is essentially your aim for the long-term future. It is the bigger umbrella, the main focus.

Objectives, on the other hand, fall under the umbrella of goals. They are the stepping stones that help you achieve your goals[1].

Objects vs goals for goal setting tips

    For example, you may decide you want to learn a new language. Your goal is to be fluent in the new language. Everything you do to achieve this goal, such as the daily tasks and monthly learning aims, are the objectives.

    Similarly, your expectations, visions, and dreams are not your goals. If you wish to learn a new language someday, that is your dream. If you see yourself fluently speaking multiple foreign languages, that is your vision. If you think you’re capable of learning a new language, that is your expectation.

    However, if you aim to fulfill these visions, dreams, and expectations practically, that is your goal.

    Why Is Goal Setting Important?

    Why should you bother with goal setting at all? Wouldn’t it be more convenient to just get on with your daily objectives, follow a dream or vision, and let life take you wherever?

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    While that road can feel exciting and spontaneous, if you actually want to tick off things from your list of goals to achieve, learning how to set goals is necessary.

    Being committed to a goal puts your brain to work in one specific direction. Believe it or not, by having a defined goal, your brain does its magic unconsciously, 24/7, with full efficiency, to achieve the desired results[2].

    Goal setting is important to shift your focus, boost your motivation, and give you a sense of direction. Without formally defining a particular aim that you want to reach, you won’t be able to keep your objectives in line.

    Hence, this one tiny step can end up saving you a lot of hassle and time while also encouraging your productivity.

    Types of Goals

    Before we move onto the technique of setting effective goals, we need to first take a look at all types of goals in this goal setting tips guide.

    These categories will not just help you brainstorm new one for yourself, but it will also guide you to list them down in the right way.

    Time-Based

    One of the two broad categories of goals is based on time. These goals define how far in the future you want to achieve them.

    Daily

    There are certain smaller goals that you can easily achieve in a day or two. In fact, some of these daily goals can be recurring, too. For example, you may want to run for an hour every morning.

    Now, these daily goals can also serve as objectives for a long-term goal. You may be running every day because, in the long-term, you want to increase your stamina.

    Daily goals are highly effective for people who want to improve their mental wellbeing, time management skills, and stress management.

    Short-Term

    Next in line are short-term goals. As you would have already guessed, goal setting in this area is aimed at the near future.

    The great thing about these is that they are generally easier to achieve. This is because short-term goals are set for the foreseeable future. You are aware of the circumstances and have a general idea of how much the situation can change.

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    Just like daily goals, short-term goals may also serve as objectives for a long-term goal. Your short-term goal may be to lose 5 pounds in one month. That could be a goal in itself, or maybe it is just one objective to fulfill your goal to adopt a healthy lifestyle in the next two years.

    Another example of a short-term goal is to fulfill the checklist for promotion within the next 6 months. Or, you may want to reduce your screen time within the coming week.

    Long-Term

    Lastly, we have long-term goals that are meant to be completed over a stretched period.

    Whatever you want to achieve in a later stage of life is a long-term goal. An insurance plan, for example, is a long-term goal.

    Some long-term goals don’t have any time frame at all. They are goals that you want to accomplish at some point in your life. So, something like traveling the whole world is a lifelong goal with no specific time constraint at all.

    There’s one thing about long-term goals that isn’t great.

    They are the hardest to keep up with since you’re not seeing any huge achievements regularly. This may take a toll on your motivation. To tackle this problem, it is best to divide a long-term goal into various, short-term and daily objectives so that you’re always tracking the progress you’re making.

    Life-Based

    Moving forward, you can also start goal setting based on the results you want to achieve instead of the time period.

    Career

    Like most people, you will likely want to succeed and excel in your career. Anything that has to do with this intention, regardless of the time frame, is a career goal. These are usually measurable goals, such as receiving a promotion within two years, finding a job at a certain company within the next six months, etc.

    You can learn more about how to set successful career goals here.

    Personal

    The past few years have all been about emphasizing your personal health. So, when it comes to goals, how can we forget the ones that have to do with our personal gains?

    From health to finances to relationships, everything that brings you happiness and composure as a person is a personal goal. It’s important that these are realistic and attainable goals for your life.

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    Whether you want to get rid of your debt, quit smoking, start a side hustle, have children, or travel the world, all of these goals are personal and very important to have on your list.

    How to Set Goals

    The best way to guarantee the fulfillment of goals is to set them the right way.

    1. Use SMART Goals

    Every goal you define has to be SMART[3].

    SMART stands for:

    • Specific
    • Measurable
    • Attainable
    • Relevant
    • Time-Bound

    In summary, your specific goals should be very well defined. They shouldn’t be generic or broad, and every detail should be clarified as you’re goal setting. 

    If you want to start running, how often do you want to do it? How long will each session be? For how long will you continue this habit?

    There has to be a connection between your goals and beliefs or you’ll never be able to achieve the results you want. Most importantly, do not be unrealistic. You cannot learn to fly, and forcing yourself to try is only going to demotivate and stress you out.

    2. Prioritize Your Goals

    As you’re looking into how to write goals for the next month or year, it’s likely you’ll come up with more than one. In this case, it’s important to prioritize which are the most important or the ones that have the tightest deadline. This is going to be subjective, as only you know which goals will have the most impact on your life.

    3. Think of Those Around You

    As you’re working on goal setting, keep your loved ones in mind. You may have a partner, children, or employees that depend on you, and you should take them into consideration with your goals. For example, if you set a goal to travel to 10 different countries in the next two years, how will this affect your children?

    If you want to lose 30 pounds this year, is there something your partner can do to support you? S/he will need to be made aware of this before you set off on your weight loss journey.

    4. Take Action

    Setting goals is the first step, but in order to be successful, you have to follow this with action. If you set goals but never act on them, they become dreams. Create an action plan laying out the steps you need to take each day or week in order to achieve your big and small goals.

    You can also check out Lifehack’s free guide: The Dreamers’ Guide for Taking Action and Making Goals Happen. This helpful guide will push you to take action on your goals, so check it out today!

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    5. Don’t Forget the Bigger Picture

    Most people refer to the big picture as their vision. Whether it is the long-term result or the connection of the goal with your desire, keep it in mind to keep yourself from getting distracted.

    You can learn more about creating a vision for your life here.

    I also recommend you to watch this video to learn 7 strategies to set goals effectively:

    How to Reach Your Goals

    You can ensure your progress by following some foolproof tactics. The use of relevant helpful tools can also keep you on the right track.

    Tactics

    One rookie mistake that most people make is that they work on too many goals simultaneously. Create an action plan and focus on one thing at a time.

    Divide your goal into smaller, easily achievable tasks. Taking it one step at a time makes it much easier. However, do not break them down too much. For example, for long-term goals, you should go for weekly checkpoints instead of daily ones.

    Also, keep track of your progress. This will keep you motivated to work harder.

    Tools

    With so many categories of goals and so many aims, it is almost impossible to remember, let alone work, on all of them.

    Luckily, numerous goal tracker apps will help you keep track of your goals, as well as your plan to achieve every single one. Have at least one installed in your smartphone so that your plan is always within reach.

    The Bottom Line

    In conclusion, using a goal setting tips guide is not rocket science. All that it takes is strong will power along with all the knowledge that you’ve learned so far.

    Try out the tactics and goals setting tips mentioned above to be able to set successful goals so that you can achieve the life that you want!

    More Tips on Achieving Success

    Featured photo credit: Danielle MacInnes via unsplash.com

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    Reference

    [1] Smart Insights: The difference between marketing objectives and marketing goals?
    [2] Confluence: Goal Setting Theory
    [3] University of California: SMART Goals: A How-To Guide

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