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Published on June 9, 2020

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.

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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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.

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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].

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.

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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

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Last Updated on July 10, 2020

Feeling Stuck in Your Career? How to Break Free and Get Ahead

Feeling Stuck in Your Career? How to Break Free and Get Ahead

Have you ever caught yourself in a daydream where you’ve gone for that upcoming promotion, and you’re now the boss at work? Or how about the one where you’ve summoned up all your courage to quit a job where you’re feeling stuck in your career and live your dream instead? Or when you’ve changed career paths to do what really makes you happy?

Then, you snapped back to reality and realized that you’re not the boss, not living your dream, and not even happy in the career path that you’re on.

Over the years I’ve worked with hundreds of individuals who’ve told me they feel stuck in their careers, that something had to change for them to break free and be happy, but they lacked the confidence to take that step. My mission is to make sure that nobody feels stuck in their career because of a momentary lapse in bravery that’s dragged on for too long.

Read on to find out how you can stop feeling stuck in your career, break free, and get ahead at work. .

Here are my top ten tips for becoming unstuck in your career.

1. Make Time for You

If you’re feeling stuck, frustrated, or unhappy with how your career is panning out, the first step is to work out why.

Maybe you’ve arrived in your current career by accident and haven’t ever made time to deliberately think or plan what you’d love to do and how you’d get there.

Prioritizing time to think is the first step you need to take to stop feeling stuck and start getting ahead. Book some time into your day where you can have an uninterrupted meeting with yourself. This is your thinking time.

Work out what makes you happy at work, what doesn’t, and where you might want to go. Decide on the steps you want to take to progress your career in the direction that you want it to take.

For example, are there training days, evening courses, or online learning that you can do? Have you considered getting a mentor to help you get ahead?

By booking in a meeting with yourself, it signals it’s important (to you and your colleagues) and also stops others spotting a gap in your day and filling it with a meeting.

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2. Grow Your Network Before You Need It

Who you know is more important than what you know for career progression. Don’t wait until you’re feeling stuck in your career to start expanding your networks. Do it now.

Adam Grant, the author of Give and Take, says you’re 58% more likely to get a new job through your weak ties than through your strong ones. Your strong ties are those in your immediate circle whom you interact with often. Your weak ties are your friends of friends. They move in different circles to you, they know different people, make different connections, and are more likely to introduce you to new and different opportunities[1].

When I was thinking about setting up my current company, Lucidity, I turned up to every networking event. I drank a lot of coffees with a lot of different people to understand what they did, to ask for advice, to unpick what their problems were, and to look for opportunities for collaboration and connections.

It paid off because, when I launched my business, I let my network know how I could help them, and soon I had my first clients.

Pay attention to building and nurturing your networks and focus on how you can add value to other. That’s where your next career opportunity is most likely to come from.

3. Surround Yourself With People Who Inspire You

According to Tim Ferriss, “You are the average of the five people you most associate with,” and his associations with different people ebbs and flows depending on what he’s working on and trying to achieve[2].

For example, if you are trying to be fitter, it’s easier if you hang around with people who love doing exercise–they help you to up your game.

If you want that promotion, a career change, or to set up your own business, seek out people who are excelling at it already. They’ll have valuable things to teach you about breaking free and getting ahead.

4. Work on Your Personal Brand

Jeff Bezos defines a personal brand as “what people say about you when you’re not in the room.” People will talk about you when you are not in the room anyway, so you might as well be deliberate about what you’d like people to say!

Your personal brand isn’t about pretending to be something you’re not. That can actually keep you feeling stuck in your career. It’s really about being your best “real you.” It’s about owning your strengths and being purposeful about how you want to be perceived by others.

What do you want to be known for? By being more deliberate about how you want to come across and what you’re looking for in your career, you’ll increase your chance of attracting the right opportunities.

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Once you’ve given your personal brand some thought, make sure that you show up online. Is your LinkedIn profile up to date? And if you don’t have one, get one. Make sure it communicates what you want to be known for and that it’s consistent with your other social media profiles.

Try these 5 Steps to Master Networking Skills and Perfect Your Personal Branding.

5. Be Accountable

Achieve your career goals faster, and grow and learn by making yourself accountable. Tell other people your goals and a timeline. and have them to hold you accountable.

For example, you might want to get a promotion by the end of the year, have decided the sector you want to move to by the end of the month, or have got your new business idea before the next pay day. Whatever your ambitions are, you can tell a friend or a colleague, or share this with a mentor or a mastermind group.

When we tell other people our goals and intentions, they hold us accountable, and we are more likely to make progress faster.

6. Make Sure Your Values Are Aligned With Your Company’s

All the professional development, goal setting, and networks in the world won’t make you happy if you’re working for a company that ultimately has opposing values to yours.

Figure out what’s important to you in a job. For example, does your company’s product help people live a better life? Do you feel strongly about your company’s ethics and social responsibility? Does the company culture allows employees to be themselves and shine? Or maybe flexible working and more holidays for employees with families is where your heart is?

Some companies put their employees well-being at the core of their business; others put profits first. If you feel that your values don’t match the core values of your employer, it could be a reason why you’re feeling stuck in your career and unhappy.

It’s important to work through this and identify whether it’s the job that is not right for you, or if it’s a great job but the organization or sector is wrong for you.

7. Get out of Your Comfort Zone

Your comfort zone is your safe place. For any change to happen, you have to step out of your comfort zone.

It’s actually much easier not to change anything and to keep grumbling on about how you’re stuck and unhappy in your career than to step outside of your comfort zone to address the fearful unknowns associated with change. It’s part of human nature that we’d put up with the devil we know rather than risk the devil we don’t.

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This is true even if the devil we know is a boring, unfulfilling job because we’re wired to think that making a change to find a better option might actually leave us worse off.

If you feel stuck, it might be that your confidence has got the better of you.

To get ahead at work, start taking small steps outside of your comfort zone. Consider what you’re scared of that is stopping you from making a change. Then, tackle that in small steps.

For example, if you know that to move into the job you want, you’ll have to do more public speaking, but public speaking terrifies you so much it’s stopping you from going for the job, then start small to build your confidence. You can speak up more in team meetings, then slowly build from there.

You might also choose to set up or be part of a specific group. One of my clients, who found that confidence was holding her team back in achieving work goals, set up a “get out of your comfort zone club,” where they challenge and support each other to build their confidence by regularly leaving their comfort zones.

8. Learn to Embrace Failure

Failure is part of life. A New York University study found that children learning to walk averaged 2,368 steps and fell 17 times an hour[3]. Failure is simply the natural path to success.

The truth is that we don’t get everything right the first time. We fail, we learn, we pick ourselves up, and we try again.

In my experience, it’s common that whilst the theory of learning from failure is supported, the reality of being open about failures to enable personal learning is much harder to achieve.

We don’t like to admit that we’ve failed. We have a fight or flight response to failure. It’s a normal gut reaction to ask ourselves: “Will I get away with it if I don’t tell anyone?” We are fearful of criticism, of losing face in front of others, or even being fired for failure.

However, if you’re going to stop feeling stuck in your career, you must be open to learning from failure.

Reframe failure by viewing everything as an experiment because you can’t have a failed experiment—you just learn whether something works or not. Think of Edison inventing the lightbulb, when he said:

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“I’ve not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

9. Build Your Resilience

Resilience is the ability to tackle difficulties and setbacks, to bounce back, regroup, and to keep going.

Getting unstuck in your career, taking a different path, and achieving the results you want will take resilience. Having resilience is also the capacity to choose how you respond to the unexpected things that life throws your way and adapt and thrive in times of complex change.

Given that the world we live in is in constant flux, and the only thing that is certain is uncertainty, the ability to adapt and bounce back is an important life skill, as well as a career skill.

In her book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, Angela Duckworth’s research shows that when measuring success, the ability to persevere beats talent every time.

Learn more about how to build resilience in this guide: What Is Resilience and How to Always Be Resilient (Step-By-Step Guide)

10. Ask for Help

It can be hard to ask for help, as it can make us feel vulnerable.

No one person can be expected to have all the answers. That’s why we need a group of people that we can go to for help, people who can pick us up when we have setbacks and also help us to celebrate success.

My advice is to be deliberate about creating your group. You can do that with a tool called a “Me Map”:

  1. Write down all the things that you might need support with, like help with career progression, interview practice, making new connections, talking through business plans, learning from failure, etc.
  2. Next to each thing, write the names of the people you go to when you need that particular thing.
  3. Make sure you get in touch and regularly connect with them.

Final Thoughts

You can stop feeling stuck in your career, break free, and get ahead at work by applying the tips in this article. Start small by incorporating three new things in your first week, and then adding more as your comfort zone and capacity expands.

Remember, no matter how stuck you feel, it’s never too late to make a change and land the career that you truly want.

More Tips to Stop Feeling Stuck in Your Career

Featured photo credit: NEW DATA SERVICES via unsplash.com

Reference

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