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Last Updated on January 25, 2021

How to Be Committed to Your Goals Even During Hard Times

How to Be Committed to Your Goals Even During Hard Times

Learning how to be committed to your goals is as important as setting them. Anyone can set a goal—like losing weight, getting a new job, or beating a world record in hula hooping—but what happens when you reach a plateau? What if you face a family emergency that disrupts your lifestyle? What happens if economic circumstances force you to into a difficult situation?

Remaining committed to your goals can be challenging during these exceptionally difficult times, but with the right strategies, you can stay persistent—and ultimately achieve more.

Staying committed to your goals isn’t just about brute forcing your way to the end of the path through willpower. Instead, it’s better to focus on smaller, actionable steps to help you remain committed in the face of adversity.

1. Find New Commitment Devices

A commitment device is a psychological concept devised by authors Stephen J. Dubner and Steven Levitt[1]. Essentially, a commitment device is a mechanism or measurable consequence that encourages you to stay committed to a behavior. It’s a way to lock yourself in to a course of action you might be unwilling to do otherwise.

For example, let’s say your goal is to lose weight, but you’re always reluctant to step on the treadmill. A commitment device could be watching an episode of your favorite TV show while working out; if you’re motivated to watch the next episode, you have to exercise.

Get creative, and find a commitment device that ties into the activities that take you closer to your goal.

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2. Recalculate Your Goal

You may be reading this guide hoping for advice on how to achieve your original goal, even in the face of an oppressive challenge. Unfortunately, this isn’t always possible. That said, it is possible to continue making realistic progress.

For example, let’s say your goal is to run a marathon this summer, but you’ve suffered a significant knee injury and your doctor has advised you to rest for a month. Achieving your original goal may no longer be possible, so consider recalculating that goal[2]; can you run a half marathon by fall instead?

3. Take a Break

Similarly, you may consider taking a break—as long as you do this with the right attitude. More than 80 percent of people give up on their New Year’s resolution by the second week of February[3], and when they do, they feel horrible. They feel like failures, like they weren’t strong enough to follow through on their mission.

However, if you’re facing significant adversity that may be reduced or absent in the future, there’s no shame in temporarily walking away from your main goal. Don’t see it as a failure; see it as saving your energy up for a better attempt in the future.

If you can, set a date or time when you’ll return to your goal, or pledge to return once circumstances have changed.

4. Establish a New Routine

Goal progress is almost always a byproduct of our routines. It is the daily habits we have, accumulating over time, that result in progress (or lack thereof). If you’re facing new, difficult circumstances, you’ll need a new routine to overcome it.

For example, can you wake up an hour earlier to squeeze in a study session before work? Can you take a long lunch to spend time honing your skills?

Changing your routine can be tough, but it’s worth the effort.

5. Build Your Inspiration

What inspires you to reach this goal? Finding new sources of inspiration and reinvigorating old ones can bring you the new energy and renewed focus you need to power through a tough situation.

For example, do you have professional role models who have achieved this goal in the past? Listen to talks they’ve given, or post photos of them on a motivational board.

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Are there movies, songs, or books that particularly inspire you? Turn to them more frequently.

6. Keep Your Goals Visible

Along with this, it’s a good idea to keep your goals visible. Being reminded of your goal on a regular basis can help you remain focused on its completion and discourage you from engaging in counterproductive activities.

As a simple example, you can write your goal down on an index card and place it somewhere you walk past frequently throughout the day.

7. Get Social Support

Social support is strongly linked to goal achievement, in part because other people can help you stay accountable for your goals. If you tell a friend you’re quitting smoking, and you light up a cigarette, they’ll be there to remind you of your original vision.

However, social support goes beyond that; depending on what difficult circumstances you face, social support can help you resolve them. For example, a good friend can help you manage a difficult move or get through a traumatic event.

And even if you’re not in need of a specific type of help, general social support can improve your mental and physical health[4], improving your ability to achieve any kind of goal.

8. Remember Why You Got Started

Why did you set this goal in the first place? If you’re losing motivation or momentum, take a moment to reflect on your original motivations. How were you feeling? What was happening around you?

Reconnecting with your former self can be immeasurably motivating.

9. Focus on the Big Picture

Next, try thinking about your goal in the context of the bigger picture. Your goal is likely a specific subset of a broader family of achievements; for example, your main goal might be to stop drinking alcohol, but reducing your intake down to three drinks per week is still going to result in an improvement in your health.

Achieving a body weight of 160 pounds may be ideal, but any amount of exercise and healthier food choices will be beneficial for you. Specific goals are highly motivating, but in some situations, it’s better to have a more generalized outlook.

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10. Pay Attention to How You’re Spending Your Time

Time management skills play a massive role in the achievement of any goal. No matter what, you’ll need to spend time making progress, whether that’s by reading, exercising, or putting in genuine work hours. If you’re spending that time on unproductive tasks or on things that reduce your focus or energy, it’s going to hurt your potential.

The best way to approach this is by measuring how you spend your time. How many hours per day do you spend scrolling through a social media app? How many do you spend on binge watching a guilty pleasure show? How many emails do you get every day?

These are areas of time expenditure that can easily be reduced.

11. Eliminate One Bad Habit

Speaking of reductions, if you’re struggling to achieve a goal, try to focus your energy on eliminating just one bad habit. It doesn’t have to be related to your main goal; the point is to do something positive for yourself and feel more confident about your abilities.

If you’re able to cut out something like biting your nails or stress eating cookies at 2 am, you’ll feel incredible—and you can channel that energy into your next goal.

12. Cultivate More Energy

Many people prematurely stop pursuing their goals because they simply don’t have the energy. They’re exhausted in the face of adversity and can’t find the energy to spend on their bigger goals. You can combat this by cultivating more energy however you can.

Eating nutritious meals, exercising, drinking caffeinated beverages (in moderation), talking to loved ones, petting animals, taking power naps, and doing small things that you love can all boost your energy levels in different ways.

13. Work in Smaller Time Intervals

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, try to break your goal-related work into smaller, more manageable time intervals. Instead of worrying about whether you can adhere to your month-long workout plan, focus on having one good session at the gym.

Instead of focusing on getting your master’s degree, focus on taking one class, or even completing one assignment for that class. Instead of trying to get an entire project done in one day, just do 15 minutes of work on it.

You’ll feel a greater sense of achievement, which could build momentum you can use in pursuit of your main goal[5].

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14. Focus on Small Victories

Similarly, you can focus on achieving and celebrating small victories. What steps have you taken to get closer to your goal? Consider them, and feel good about them. How have you improved in the past week? What are you grateful for?

Expressing gratitude in any way is proven to make you feel happier[6], so make the time to do it, whether you write about it in a journal or just talk to yourself about it.

15. Work on an Adjacent Goal

If you can’t make progress on your core goal, consider working on an adjacent goal. For example, let’s say your goal is to write a novel. Can you instead work on an outline, or develop a character sheet? Can you work on a short story that will help you hone your narrative writing skills?

In many cases, these smaller, related goals are more manageable, and can make you feel like you’re taking a break from your main focus.

However, at the same time, you’ll be developing meaningful skills and making progress in a way that matters.

16. Build up Your Positive Self-Talk.

Your subjective feelings of positivity and happiness will affect your ability and willingness to work toward a goal. Fortunately, scientific research has demonstrated that it’s possible to increase your happiness[7], even if you can’t change your environmental circumstances.

One habit that can crush your motivation and self-esteem is negative self-talk; occasionally, we all practice negative self-talk with internal dialogue like, “I can’t believe I messed this up,” or “I’m never going to get back on track.”

Remain aware of these messages when they run through your head, and replace them with positive ones, like “I learned a lot from this, and I’ll do better next time,” or “In a week, this setback won’t even matter.”

17. Identify and Neutralize the Source of Your Challenge

You’re facing especially challenging circumstances, so one of the best things you can do is eliminate the source of that difficulty—which may be easier said than done.

For example, are you finding it hard to work on your academic goals because of your excessive work schedule? Consider taking a reduction in hours or delegating some of your responsibilities. Are you unable to resist temptation because your friends have similar bad habits? Consider establishing some distance, and socializing with a new group of people.

The Bottom Line

Physical, mental, financial, and emotional hurdles can get in the way of your path to achieving your goals, but they don’t have to bring your progress to a halt. Focus on taking actionable steps to motivate yourself and remain committed to your values—even if that means making some small compromises or adjusting your original plans.

More Tips on Achieving Goals

Featured photo credit: Ales Krivec via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Jayson DeMers

Entrepreneur and Productivity Expert

13 Visualization Techniques to Help You Reach Your Goals Why Am I Lazy? 15 Ways to Stop Being Lazy and Unmotivated How to Be Committed to Your Goals Even During Hard Times How to Stay on Task And Be Laser Focused How to Use Time Blocking for Productivity (A Complete Guide)

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Last Updated on May 16, 2021

Small Victories: 4 Reasons to Celebrate Small Wins

Small Victories: 4 Reasons to Celebrate Small Wins

Are you looking for ways to cultivate more motivation, engagement, or life satisfaction? Celebrating small victories consistently could bring the energy boost you need.

We all have big goals in life, like owning our own home, writing a novel, or building an NGO. Big goals are key to helping us find satisfaction in life, but when they are long-term goals, we can risk losing motivation and energy along the way. This is why celebrating small victories can be so essential for success.

What Are Small Victories?

First, let’s establish what a “small victory” is. Small victories are anything you accomplish that aligns with your intentions. They can be related to work, personal or professional relationships, habit changes, and or finances. Small wins can be easy to gloss over, especially if you’ve been raised on a diet of self-criticism and perfectionism.

Let’s say that you intend to be less judgmental of others. A small victory might simply be noticing when you start to think something judgmental about how someone else says the word “milk.” Even though the thought still popped into your head when they pronounced it “melk,” you at least noticed yourself in the thought.

Paying attention to your thoughts opens the door for you to question why everyone must pronounce words the same way. This is awareness, and as they say, awareness is the key to successful life changes.

Why Should We Celebrate Small Victories?

Instead of celebrating small victories, why not just wait for the big victories to sweep you to happiness?

Imagine that the doorbell rings, you answer it, and a spokesperson with way too much fake tan yells, “Congratulations, you have just won 3 million dollars!” Balloons and confetti fall around you. How would it feel to celebrate a big win like that?

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Surely, with that sum of money, you would not only feel motivated and engaged, but you’d also have everlasting happiness and fulfillment, right? According to research, people who win large sums of money are more satisfied with the quality of their lives overall.[1] However, they don’t experience more day-to-day happiness than anyone else—so much for big wins.

Small wins keep us on track and moving forward, which can help us avoid procrastination. If you find that this is a problem for you, you can also check out Lifehack’s Fast Track Class: No More Procrastination.

In fact, the internet is already abuzz with articles that extol the virtues of celebrating the small stuff. But happiness is only one of the dozens of reasons you should celebrate routinely.

The reasons for celebrating small can be broken down into the following categories.

1. Energy

When energy is low, it can be challenging to accomplish anything. Try as you might to set goals, without energy, it’s understandable why the couch would have so much more magnetic pull than the treadmill. When you celebrate your small victories, you will give yourself little hits of energy that will add up over time.

Try it right now for yourself: think of something small you achieved today. Maybe you took out the garbage even though it was really cold outside, you’re extremely tired, and you didn’t want to. Tell yourself, “I’m so proud of you for braving those terrible weather conditions to keep the house running smoothly.”

Or maybe you’re celebrating choosing tea over coffee in the afternoon. How does it feel to congratulate yourself? What does your body experience when you point out the little win to yourself?

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Over time, you’ll notice that the little celebrations inject you with boosts of energy that will accumulate. Although you’ll probably still hate taking out the garbage, you’ll at least have the energy to do it.

Once you start experiencing more energy, you might notice feeling more motivated to accomplish all those items—large and small—on your “to do” list. This becomes a positive feedback loop. You accomplish something, celebrate, increase your energy to accomplish more, and repeat. In fact, there is evidence to suggest that celebrating the small victories leads you to accomplish even bigger ones.

The opposite is also true. When you don’t accomplish the little things, imagine how much more challenging it will be to chip away at the big ones.

2. Personal and Professional Growth

Acknowledging small victories helps you keep track of how far you’ve come. This is especially helpful when you’re trying to instill a new habit or make a lifestyle change.

Behavioral changes can be some of the biggest challenges we undertake.[2] They can also be the most beneficial when you’re on the path to personal or professional growth and development. It can be easy to fall into the “all or nothing” trap.

For instance, a lot of people feel that if they can’t achieve a behavioral change—like quitting smoking—the first time they try, then they might as well give up.

Positive reinforcement through celebrating small wins helps you get back on track after taking a temporary detour. “I only had 3 cigarettes today” might be the small victory that would lead you to only having 2 tomorrow.

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Growth in any area of life is a process, and this process requires the use of tools. Celebrating the little things is an intentional tool you’ll want to use when you’re in the process of becoming the person you have been saying you want to be.

3. Self-Love

They say that education is the most important investment you’ll ever make. Imagine if you are trying to get your degree, but you self-criticize to the point of having major test anxiety. If you don’t offer yourself some patience and compassion, it doesn’t matter how much money you throw at your education—you’ll never finish the degree!

Therefore, self-love is the greatest investment you will ever make.[3] You are the only person you will know for the entirety of your life. When you love yourself unconditionally, you will be able to navigate any life obstacle or storm. Celebrating your small victories is just one of so many ways to take care of yourself[4].

Self-Love Languages

    When people get married, they celebrate. On our loved ones birthdays, we celebrate. We celebrate because celebrations demonstrate our love for others. Therefore, when you actively celebrate small victories, you affirm the love you have for yourself.

    Celebrating your small victories is a powerful way to demonstrate that you notice how amazing you are. It helps you rely more on your own positive feedback rather than looking to the outside world to tell you what it thinks of you. Here’s something that nobody ever said: “People-pleasing is the gateway to the Kingdom of Joy.” Stop waiting for other people to tell you how incredibly valuable you are and start acknowledging all your little successes!

    As a side benefit, self-love has also been known to lead to better relationships with others.[5] It turns out that when you love yourself, you will show others how you want to be treated.

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    4. Happiness

    According to Jungian psychologist, Dr. James Hollis, our quest for happiness is actually not the focus of our lives. Instead, it would be in our best interest to design our lives around finding meaning.[6]

    So, why is happiness mentioned in almost every single article about celebrating small victories, including this one? Because it’s what we want. As it turns out, the path to what we want is not a direct one.

    According to Hollis, “Joy, and happiness, are not goals in themselves, but they are the by-product of those moments when we are doing what is really right for us.”[7]

    Happiness is a by-product! When we are fully engaged in our lives, our confidence runs higher, our actions match our intentions, our love for ourselves grows, and we experience a life filled with meaning. So, if you want to experience happiness, you must find ways to incorporate meaning into your life. Celebrating your little wins can be a catalyst for finding this meaning.

    Put another way, if you’re not ready to let go of the pursuit of happiness, try viewing happiness as something you practice.[8] And if you want a proven way to engage with that practice, try celebrating all of your small victories.

    Final Thoughts

    Consider keeping a daily log of your little victories. At the end of the week, you can read everything you celebrated, which will help you experience the accumulation of all the little wins. And if you want to experience an even bigger win, re-read your celebration journal at the end of the year!

    More Tips on Achieving Your Goals

    Featured photo credit: Paulette Wooten via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] NBER WORKING PAPER SERIES: Long-Run Effects of Lottery Wealth on Psychological Well-Being
    [2] Harvard Health Publishing: Why Behavior Change Is Hard – and Why You Should Keep Trying
    [3] Medical News Today: Why Self-Love Is Important and How to Cultivate It
    [4] Blessing Manifesting: Self-Love Languages, What’s Yours?
    [5] Psychology Today: Self-Love is the New #RelationshipGoals
    [6] Jung Society of Washington: It’s Not About Happiness
    [7] Jung Society of Washington: It’s Not About Happiness
    [8] Psychology Today: Happiness is a Practice, Not a Destination

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