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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 November 12, 2020

11 Reasons Why We Fail to Achieve Our Goals

11 Reasons Why We Fail to Achieve Our Goals

Thinking up a goal is the easy part. Pinpointing the specifics of a goal, developing a plan of action, and then following through with that plan of action and pushing past the inevitable obstacles that will arise is a different story altogether. As you can see, there are many reasons why we fail to achieve our goals.

Former U.S. President Teddy Roosevelt is famous for having said:

“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty.”

It would be easy to blame people’s avoidance of pain and difficulty for the fact that a great majority of goals fail to be met, but there has to be more to it than that, right? Well, there most certainly is.

Here are the reasons why we fail to achieve our goals and a few helpful tips to help you reach the goals on your own list.

1. Shifting Focus From Reward to Effort

Thinking about the end result and achieving the victory of reaching a goal is exciting: “Man, I can’t wait until I get that new job title” or “I’m going to look so good at the beach this summer” can be great motivators. It’s easy to start out full of energy and motivation at the beginning because our focus is on the end result.

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However, there’s a disconnect with our brain’s focus before we start our goals and after we actually begin. Before we start putting the work in, we’re focused on the reward. Then, slowly but surely, we begin to focus more on the effort (i.e. hard work) it takes to get that reward. The key is to redirect our focus back to the reward as often as it takes to push through.

2. Goals Are Undefined or Unrealistic

Perhaps you want to write a bestselling novel or become the next viral YouTube star. Well, that’s great, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but how do you plan to make any of this happen? Without a clear definition of your goals, they’re just wishy-washy fantasies.

If you’ve never read a book or written anything longer than a tweet, writing a bestselling novel is unrealistic. Likewise, simply saying you want to be a viral YouTube star is too vague without putting some specifications in place.

Give some definition to those goals by setting smaller goals along the way, like “join a writers group” or “make one new video a week.” This will help give you some focus while you work towards those loftier goals.

3. There Are Too Many Things on Your Plate

Having multiple goals at the same time is not a bad thing. However, having so many goals that nothing ever takes a priority will yield poor results all around. If you feel like you’re never fully accomplishing one task or can’t seem to recognize which things are a top priority, there’s a good chance you have set too many goals at once.

A lot of us like to think we’re masters of multitasking, but science says otherwise. Be careful not to overload yourself, learn to prioritize, and you’ll reach your goals faster.

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4. Poor Planning Derails All Efforts

Just about every goal is going to require at least some planning, and others are, of course, going to need extensive planning. If you neglect to work out the steps for how to actually get from point A to point B, well, you very likely will never make it to point B.

Maybe you want to increase your business’s customer base by 30 percent in the next year. Will you need to hire more staff to make this happen? What new strategies can be put in place? Do old marketing efforts need to be reworked or discarded? Asking/answering these sorts of questions in the beginning and along the way is crucial.

5. Losing Sight of the “Why” Factor

Let’s say that you must uproot your family and move to a new town for a job. If you have teenagers, they’re almost certainly going to put up some fuss. When the inevitable “why?” comes up, it might be easy to say they have to move because mom or dad has a new job and leave it at that. That’s the reason, but it’s not the why.

Perhaps the move means a higher income for a more comfortable lifestyle or the security of living in a safer environment. It’s easy to lose focus of the why factor when it comes to working towards a goal, and this can hinder progress. Make sure you periodically reexamine why you have that goal in the first place.

6. Excuses, Excuses, and More Excuses

Everybody makes excuses from time to time. Rattling off excuses on why a goal isn’t worth pursuing or didn’t work out is often easier than pushing forward. While some excuses may very well be valid, others are just total cop-outs.

Excuses are a convenience when it comes to abandoning a goal, but they’re also paralyzing. If not kept in check, excuses can derail every goal you attempt. If you feel yourself in danger of hitting the brakes on a goal, take a good look and ask yourself if the reason is valid or just a flimsy excuse.

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7. Fear of Failure

Not reaching a goal because of the fear of failure is crippling and an insecurity that can seriously hold you back in life. Nobody wants to fail, and a fear of failure often stems from a need for perfectionism.

The avoidance of taking risks, however, is no way to go through life. The good thing is that by looking at why you may have a fear of failing, you can learn to overcome it and avoid letting it sabotage your goals.

8. Failing to Anticipate Obstacles

Guess what? That fantastic, shiny goal of yours with the too-good-to-fail plan is almost certainly not going to go perfectly to plan. Problems arise, and obstacles get in the way—that’s just how the universe works. If you fail to plan for some of these problems ahead of time, they may just prevent you from reaching your goal altogether.

Try building in strategies and incentives for when you may feel yourself losing focus or run into problems. Having a rock-solid plan A is always a good thing, but a pretty good plan B isn’t a bad idea either.

9. There Is No Set Deadline

Whether it’s trying to learn a new skill or becoming a tycoon of industry, set a deadline for yourself, and write it down! You’re 42 percent more likely to achieve your goals if you write them down[1], and if you don’t put a deadline on them, they’re not going to happen.

So why is a deadline so important for accomplishing a goal? It holds you accountable for your time. Let’s say you want to lose 20 pounds. Okay, when? If you set a deadline of June 1st, you’ll either meet it or you won’t, and a deadline puts the pressure on you to get up and get to work!

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10. Allowing Naysayers to Doubt the Goal

The bigger the goal, the more people you may have doubting that you can accomplish it. It’s easy to listen to the naysayers and allow their doubt to sidetrack and even derail your goals, and this can be why we fail to achieve our goals. There are always going to be critics and haters, and a lot of that negativity is rooted in jealousy.

Don’t allow their doubt to get the best of you, and, instead, use it as fuel for the fire to buckle down on your focus and forge ahead.

11. Procrastination Delays Goals

Abraham Lincoln reportedly once said: “Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four sharpening the ax.” Out of all the reasons why we fail to achieve our goals, none are as deadly as procrastination.

It’s easy to tell yourself that you’ll start tomorrow or reach an obstacle in your plan and decide to handle it later. Too many times though, later never comes, and motivation dies out.

According to the Harvard Business Review, one of the best ways to beat procrastination is to publicly commit[2]. Most people want to avoid looking lazy or like a failure, and telling others we’re going to do something reinforces our brain’s focus on the reward.

How To Stop Failing Your Goal?

Here’s an expisode from the Lifehack Show where Jade dives into the actionable ways to stop failing and finally achieve your goal:

The Bottom Line

Accomplishing goals is seldom easy and can often take a long time and a lot of mental and physical sweat. Now that you know some of the reasons why people don’t reach their goals, you can improve your chances of crossing the finish line to victory.

More Tips on Completing Goals

Featured photo credit: Mael BALLAND via unsplash.com

Reference

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