Goals… aspirations… happiness… unhappiness… there are a range of reasons and motivations that spark the desire for change in our lives. Often at some level we are aware that something needs to be different and sparks some energy to go find it. And I think most of those are really positive and healthy motivations, even being unhappy with where you are is a positive – a change towards a better place.
There are also some not so great motivations like avoidance or self-protection which I am not going to attempt to cover here. I would just ask that if you are on a journey of change, keep an open mind to exploring the source and your plans with friends, family or a counsellor for an objective view.
One of the biggest challenges I have seen in the past 20 years, regardless of it being people in the personal or professional circles comes down to tangible, recognisable steps. I don’t think social media has done great things for us in this space as we are overloaded with images and content of the amazing end results and success stories. Not to mention a lot the ‘success’ is 100% fabricated.
I recall reading a behind the scenes article on a #vanlife couple which ran through the day to day of the couple alongside the Instagram pictures posted. I can assure you that what we see online is a far cry from reality. Naturally many are drawn to the idealistic freedom of super low cost travel with all the apparent comforts of home. We wouldn’t be drawn to the reality of having to sometimes park and sleep in shopping centre carparks or going days without showers while living in a confined space with another person. So what sells is the fake life of perfection and we are setup to compare our lives to their pictured happiness and freedom. Anyway, that is just one example of many online hashtags that are not true representations of the effort and compromise that goes into a lifestyle or achievement. The hours of effort that go into many online celebrities (or the funding behind them to get there) isn’t often discussed or completely visible either.
Another area that lets us down is in the self-help or positive psychology style blogs. This is an area I am mindful of, the difference between being positive and motivating without suggesting anything is possible and you are just lazy or not smart enough to have already done it in the short time you decided to try. We all need and thrive on those that inspire and motivate right, however the dream that is sold is that anything is achievable if you just follow this simple program, these few steps, or have more commitment etc. Of course we want to succeed and believe that since others have that we can too. The reality is a) what works for some doesn’t work for others and b) there is no quick fix to anything significant. Like the t.v. shows where contestants compete to lose weight, and while on the show with very specific support and personality based motivation techniques they do exceptionally well. Do you know what the statistics are on how many go back to the weight they were prior to the show… pretty high.
Any reward or success I reflect on for myself has been as a result of some pretty hard work, or at least consistent long term effort in a direction which I was passionate about. And this is also true for the majority of people I know. Again there is no quick fix or easy path to many of the goals you want to achieve. And there are going to be days where you are swearing and you give up. Maybe you give up for days, weeks or all together. I think it is ok to let go of a goal if you no longer feel passionate about it, or you have tried everything and you just can’t quite get there. But first, how about we set ourselves up for a fighting chance.
The goal, why, options, steps. Sounds simple right but how often have you broken down a goal into these stages?
The goal is pretty obvious but what specifically are you wanting to achieve? It is good to get some detail and specifics around it. Sometimes we are a little vague with our goal setting so it is harder to track to it. If you want a job in a new field then be specific about what the exact job is, go research it so you know exactly where you are heading. You can change it later if you learn along the way that it wasn’t what you thought or there is something related and closer to what you want. Goals don’t mean locking yourself into something, goals just set a direction for today and you are open to change it tomorrow. Some goals are harder to define but let’s try one; be happier. For this one and similar you may like to imagine a week of ‘being happier’ and describe it, or even draw it. What does being happier look like, is it relationships, achievements, balance, adventure…
Why…. Why do you want to change. What if you don’t change. Exploring these and capturing them will be the motivation you need to keep going. It may even be a tool to decide you don’t want to change. Understanding the why is also a great place to seek input from others on. Don’t forget though, there are opinions and there is factual information out there from professionals. Try your hardest here to really flesh out reasons to change and reasons/impact of not changing and be honest with yourself. There is a slight risk here that you gloss over this bit and shape it to how you feel at the time but this is a really good exercise to question yourself about the goal you want and how badly you want it.
Now explore the options you have to get there. Sometimes we are locked onto one path and see it as blocked. We spend an enormous amount of time and energy spinning our wheels on this one ‘best path’, or logical path when it may not be the one we need to take. This is another good step to brainstorm with others, especially because now you are clear on the goal and your why so you are simply asking others to help you find ways of getting there. If they start trying to convince you otherwise then find someone else to brainstorm with 🙂
Last…. All the little steps. Call out as many steps as you can between where you are to where you want to be. If it is a new qualification then you could mark out subjects complete. Perhaps a happiness goal is a daily mood chart, or a stress measurement. Smoking may be reducing per day, or days without. The idea here is to set as many mini goals on your way to the big goal because it is these you will focus on moving forward. The big goal is only going to be achieved as you cross of these steps, and the steps need to be close enough that you can reward yourself at least mentally if not literally with a reward. Reward yourself big and at each step. The small steps are as important as the goal and I want you to embrace each of them as if they were the end goal. As you continue you can look back and see all the steps you have achieved, each was one small step closer to where you want to be. Also in this way time becomes less important for many goals because you are succeeding constantly and you know you are getting there.
Now put it all on the fridge!
All the best and reach out if you need a hand 🙂