Feel like you're fighting obstacles to get to your goals? Pay attention to them.
Part 4/5 of "Why aren't we meeting our goals?"
So far we’ve discussed uncovering our underlying “why” goals, being realistic with our calendars, and breaking down our goals into action items. Today we’re going to talk about the obstacles and road blocks that seem to stop us from achieving our goals. As I mentioned in Tip 2, by nature, goals are big, hairy beasts. They’re challenging, they take a lot of time, effort and determination. I’d be willing to bet that for every goal you achieved, you overcame some sort of obstacle or road block. And for those that you started but haven’t achieved (yet!) I'd bet it’s because an obstacle or roadblock got in your way. I hear a lot of coaches and consultants talk about obstacles as negatives and encourage their clients to push through them as strongly as possible. I disagree, I think those obstacles can be positives and are worth paying attention to instead of mindlessly pushing through.
(Fair warning: this tip is full of categories and examples and is therefore pretty long. It’s broken up into two sections. This is part one. Part two will be published next week.)
Tip 4: Pay attention to the obstacles that pop up. PART 1
You have your broad goal decided and your action items are starting to be checked off left and right when all the sudden you lose momentum. What’s happening? You’re encountering resistance, or “the impeding, slowing or stopping effect exerted by one thing on another.”
Often, we beat ourselves up for this. “What is wrong with me?” “Why don’t I finish what I start?” Others turn things outward and feel like things just don’t work for us. “I guess this isn’t in the cards for me.” Let’s all just take a deep breath and give ourselves a break. Author and consultant Peter Block writes, “Resistance is a sign that something important is going on. It is not a problem to be solved or overcome.” In the context of his book, he was talking about organizational resistance during change, but I think this idea applies to individuals as well. When we’re working on meeting a goal, we’re often introducing significant change to our lives. Just like we did in Tip 1, we need to dive into why you’re not meeting your goal. Only when you accurately understand the why can you address it and move through it.
Let’s examine some of the more common forms of resistance and their why:
Exhaustion: When our goal is large, it’s easy to get distracted and even tired of the work. That’s normal and this why is fairly obvious. You’re tired. It’s been a big project and you’ve been working on it for a long time. Take a break! It’s absolutely fine to take a rest from your goal. But be intentional about it. Decide how long your break will be and schedule it. Then put the date you’re going to restart on your calendar and stick to it. Jump back in with both feet ready to run.
External constraints we don’t have control over: Often times we set a goal with the best of intentions and then life gets in the way. We get sick, our boss gives us a large project that takes all of our time, we discover we’re going to need to devote ourselves to carrying for a sick parent or spouse for the next several months, or our marital status changes and the time energy and money we thought we had has disappeared. It happens. This doesn’t mean your goal has become impossible…it means you have some choices. You might decide to temporarily put your goal on hold until you have the time to address it properly. Or you might decide to re-design your action steps with your new time constraints in mind. Perhaps you won’t be able to finish your master’s degree this year, but you would be able to take one class online per semester. Your goal completion date will change, but you’ll still be making progress toward your goal.
Timing: You’re excited about and dedicated to your goal, but at the end of the week, you realize you just haven’t really made the progress you hoped you would. Why does this happen? Often it happens because we weren’t intentional about implementing our action steps. Someone looking over our calendar would have no idea that we were working toward a goal because we’ve dedicated no time to it. You won’t complete any action steps if you don’t carve out the time you’ll need to make them happen. Schedule your action steps into your daily life. (You can find more about this in Tip 2)
Conversely, if you’ve really tried to dedicate time and you just can’t find the space in your week, then be honest with yourself. Either your goal timing needs to change, or your priorities aren’t aligned with your activities and it’s time to reassess what you’re spending your time on. What can you cut out and replace with goal action items?
Priorities: Another reason people make less progress than they’d like is because of an internal priority conflict. We may know we want a certain goal, but if we haven’t taken the time to examine our other priorities and how this particular goal fits in we may fall short of our goal. List out your goals and responsibilities and then rank them. What is your top priority? What is lowest on the list? Is the goal that you haven’t made progress on toward the bottom of the list? If so, you may have a goal, but it isn’t your priority. That makes it clear why you’re not making progress on it. You may need to change the timing on your goal completion or remove it from your plans altogether. The key is that you are making your own choice about where to focus your time and energy. These are finite resources and can only go so far.
Or perhaps your goal is at the top of your priority list? If it is, and you’re not making progress, take out your calendar and look at what you’re filling your time with. It’s likely something that isn’t as important to you. It’s time to act according to your priorities and make some changes in how you use your time.
Right action items? Maybe you’re doing a great job knocking out those action items you set for yourself but don’t feel like you’re really making much progress on your overall goal. Are you doing the right activities to meet your goal? In January of this year I set a large goal to be completed by the end of December. In March I took stock of my progress. I had made very little. I thought back on the previous three months and realized the action items I’d created were useful but weren’t pushing me forward at the pace I needed to meet my time deadline. I wasn’t doing the right things that would help me make my goal a reality. Check in with yourself periodically (once a week, once a month, or once a quarter depending on your timeframe) to ensure that the action items you’ve designed will keep you on track to meet your goal. If they don’t – change them!
Next week we’ll continue with the second half of this list. Have you experienced any of the reasons on the first half of this list? What are your thoughts as you read through this post?
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