Let’s face it, it’s easy to get discouraged in life. We push and we push, until we seemingly can’t push anymore. And while the weight of the world rests on our shoulders, we buckle and heave, eventually crashing down into a fit of failure with a million shattered pieces falling all around us. Clearly, it’s easy to get discouraged while chasing your goals, especially when you feel like all you’re trying to do is play catch up rather than get ahead.
But what if I told you that there was a way to avoid getting discouraged while you reached for your dreams? What if I told you that there was a way to be happier, healthier and more sated with life, and it doesn’t require that much more effort. There’s a way where you can put your goal-achieving on autopilot, similar to any other routine behavior that you do day-in and day-out. It’s no different. Not at all.
What am I speaking about? Your habits.
Habits are the primary reason why we do the things that we do. They shape the way we walk, talk, think, act and feel. But they’re also developed atop a set of values and beliefs that help to govern and dictate our lives. For example, when something bad happens to you, your internal processing defaults to your values and your beliefs first. If someone steals money from you or shames you for your appearance in any way, for example, the first process that occurs is to default to the values and beliefs you’ve developed over the years.
If we believe that someone stealing money from us or shaming us in any way is the ultimate pain, then we’ll use that belief to help fashion a response. We’ll either blow up and get very angry, seek revenge, or do something else that’s in harmony with what we value and believe. Whatever it is that we do, over time, that behavior becomes habitual and the thing that sets us off becomes a trigger. We have triggers for all types of things in our lives, including our habits.
So much of the programming of our minds have been largely wired and shaped through our values and beliefs, which have been formed by our experiences throughout our lives. It’s hard to overcome the internal wiring of our minds, and quite easy to allow that to influence just how discouraged or empowered we become as we’re chasing our goals and something gets in our way, for example.
Handle your habits, and you’ll handle everything else. But to do that, you have to dive deep into who you are. This isn’t just a superficial experiment; this is about behind honest about the things that push and pull you in life. When you’re pushed, you allow things to negatively influence you. But when you’re pulled by something, there’s a deeper desire in you to see things through. It’s a higher calling, if you will.
Being pulled by something is also when your desire to keep working outweighs your propensity to implement excuses. You won’t have excuses because you’re answering to a higher calling; you’re doing something to bring value to others out there in the world and not just for selfish or self-centered gains. It’s okay to make money and acquire nice things, but only when what you’re doing is adding more value to the world rather than taking it away.
Setting Goals the Right Way
While much of our behavior is conditioned through habits and routines, there are ways to overcome some of our natural tendencies to quit and give up while trying to chase down our dreams. When goals are set the right way, much of our internal programming can be rewired to help us achieve the things we want out of life.
However, don’t get me wrong. I’m not perfect here because I used to set goals the wrong way. Like much of the world, I engaged in what’s called passive goal setting, which is done arbitrarily in the mind. It’s passive because the thoughts are never conveyed on paper and a concrete plan is never actually concocted. Achieving goals like this is a monumental hurdle. Why? Because what the mind can’t see the mind usually won’t believe.
As silly as it might sound, when you actually write out your goals, they become more real. They materialize right in front of your eyes. And, studies have proven that goals that are written out are more likely to be achieved than goals that aren’t. But this isn’t just about writing out the goals themselves, you have to engage in the goal-setting process from end to end. In short, they have to be SMARTER goals with a plan for their attainment.
When you don’t do this the right way, it’s easy to get discouraged while chasing your goals. Why? You never set yourself up for success in the first place. You didn’t actually want it bad enough as strange as that might sound. Often, we’re our own worst enemies because we’re constantly doubting our abilities to achieve something. It’s usually the product of fear, stress or anxiety constantly playing out in the backgrounds of our minds.
Those things will likely always be there. The human mind processes anywhere from 50,000 to 70,000 thoughts in a given day, but many of those thoughts are repeated and much of that happens in the subconscious mind. When we allow fear-based thoughts to pervade our minds, they permeate their way in, affecting the overall thought-balance, tipping the scales from positive to negative. It’s hard to override that without a lot of conscious effort.
Clearly, all of this helps to instill discouragement while chasing our goals. How can we not get discouraged when all we can think about are fear-based thoughts and extrapolate doomsday what-if scenarios on how bad things might play out. If you don’t want that to continue happening to you, you need to set your goals the right way. When you fail to do that, we all know just how poorly things play out. We get fed up, huff, puff and give up.
It’s brutal to endure one failure after another. But that can be avoided as long as we do things the right way. Rather than getting discouraged while chasing our goals, we’ll feel empowered and emboldened to keep pushing through. As foreign as the concept sounds when we’re putting our thoughts clearly on paper, it’s one of the surest pathways to goal achievement that we could possibly take.
5 Steps for Leveraging the Goal-Setting Process
Hopefully, I’ve convinced you that there truly is a right way to set goals. While I’ve spoken about the goal-setting process in length in the past, for the purposes of this conversation, it’s important to cover it again. So many of you write to me explaining your frustrations with failing to achieve your goals. But I’ve also discovered that many of you aren’t actively engaging in the proper goal-setting process.
So how does this work? It isn’t rocket science. All it requires is some careful attention to detail, a bit of personal reflection and a lot of writing. You need to get your thoughts out on paper in front of you. The old-fashioned way of pen and paper usually works best, but if you have to write it somewhere and are deathly afraid of your own handwriting, then use your laptop, smartphone or any other device for that matter.
Simply put, as Nike so poignantly points out: “Just do it!”
Step 1: Set specific and measurable time-based goals
If you want to avoid getting discouraged while chasing your goals, the first step to setting them the right way is to ensure that they’re specific and measurable time-based goals. What does that mean? Instead of saying that you want to be skinny, set about defining an exact number of pounds and a precise date that you’ll achieve that by. For example, you could say that you want to lose 50 pounds by Month-Day-Year (fill in the exact date yourself).
This is powerful. Why? Because not only does your abstract desire become more lucid, it sets itself into reality when you bound a time to it. It’s a specific and measurable goal that you’ve now placed a shelf-life on. There’s a date of expiration. In another words, there’s an actual calendar date on when this is supposed to occur. This is more powerful than most people can imagine because it brings the goal into reality.
When we talk about the goal being measurable, you want to ensure that you can track this goal right down to the smallest increments. If your goal is a money goal, then you can’t simply say you want to be rich or buy a mansion or a sports car, you have to provide exact measurable figures. You could say that your goal is to have a $1 million net worth by the specific date that you’ve chosen. This can be tracked. Simply stating that you want to be “rich” is too abstract.
Get the picture? Take your goal right now and get highly specific about it, ensure that it’s measurable and pick a date on the calendar for when you’ll actually achieve that goal. The more detail you put into the specifics and measurability of the goal, the more likely you’ll be to achieve it.
Step 2: Define your values and your beliefs
One of the surest ways you can easily get discouraged while chasing your goals is if those goals run contrary to your values and your beliefs. Values and beliefs form as we age, they’re developed through life’s experiences, nurturing, setbacks, trials, tribulations and victories. They help define the rules that we live our lives by that say if so-and-so happens, then I’ll respond in this way or that way. And most importantly, they act as the foundation during the formation of our habits, good or bad.
We are the direct representation of the same values and beliefs that we harbor. They make us into who we are. And if you try to create goals that run contrary to those values and beliefs, you’ll not only find yourself getting discouraged along the way, but you might even find yourself throwing in that proverbial towel. It simply doesn’t work. It’s the greatest source of frustration and anxiety when we’re pushing towards something that runs contrary to everything we believe in.
The point? Ensure that your goals line up with who you are, deep down inside. Be honest with yourself. Take a few moments and define your values and beliefs. What things do you value in life? What things do you believe in? What rules have you created as a result of the things that you value and believe? Do you believe that all people are liars or cheats? Do you believe that we are all inherently good? Do you value your freedom most? Maybe it’s power or security.
What sayings were repeated in your household while growing up? Was it that money doesn’t grow on trees? Was it that money is the root of all evil? Maybe it was something else. Keep in mind that these sayings that you’ve heard while growing up helped shape what you believe in. They’ve also helped to instill a set of values into your mind. What you have to do is dig in deep and uncover them because these things have also helped to shape all of your habits.
Take the time to write it all out. If you don’t want to get discouraged while chasing your goals, put significant effort into this. Then, when it’s all complete, see whether your values and your beliefs line up with the goals you’re chasing after. Are they are in harmony with what you want out of life? Or, are they simply out of sync?
Step 3: Find deep-rooted reasons to push past obstacles
One of the perks about defining your values and your beliefs is that it can help to provide you with the deep-rooted reasons that you need to avoid getting discouraged while chasing your goals. For example, if you value your family and security above all else, and want to provide a better life for them, that’s a very good reason to help push through any obstacles or limitations that might be holding you back from achieving any goal, big or small.
Take the time to read through your values. Whatever you value the most should be used as leverage for achieving your goals. As long as what you value moves beyond simply just the superficial such as money or fame, then you’ll have your deep-rooted reasons for achieving your goals while avoiding discouragement along the way. That’s not to say you still might not fail. Failure is a part of life. But it’s about what we do after we fail that helps to define who we truly are.
Whenever we want something badly enough, we’ll do whatever it takes to achieve it. Think about. In the past, when you wanted something, and I mean you really wanted something, didn’t you do anything in your power to ensure that you accomplished it? When we put our minds to something and we care deeply enough about accomplishing it, quite literally nothing can stand in our way. That’s because the reason was deep-rooted enough.
Things like family, love, security, freedom and country are some examples of deep-rooted reasons for wanting to achieve things. What are your reasons? Reviews your values and come up with some powerful reasons that you’re willing to do just about anything to accomplish your goals and watch how you move closer and closer over time. It won’t happen overnight. But then again, nothing worthwhile ever does.
Step 4: Create and follow a massive-action plan
You’ve heard the saying before — a goal without a plan is merely a wish. If you haven’t created a concrete set of written plans for the achievement of your goals, then you’re likely going nowhere fast. It’s easy to get discouraged when we fail to map out our goals in front of us on paper. When they’re not written down, they stay in the abstract. But when we exact those goals out onto paper, they become far more real to us.
Similar to an airplane traveling from one destination to the next, you need a plan to achieve your goal. The plane has a plan; it’s called a flight plan. It also has a specific and measurable goal: depart at a certain time and date from one particular city and arrive at another time and date at another city. In order to achieve its goal, it has to create a rather intricate plan that it follows during the course of its route.
However, a plane’s plan can get interrupted. It can experience turbulence, forcing it to change altitude or direction. It can also face air-traffic congestion, forcing it to veer off its course. It might also encounter storms along the way. But does the plane give up on its goal? Of course not. It simply adjusts its plan along the way. Similarly, you have to create an intricate plan that you can adjust. If you see that something isn’t working, make changes.
The best way to determine what’s working and what isn’t is to ensure that your goal is measurable. If you can measure it, you can track it daily. You can track calories, dollars and cents, steps, pounds, and so on. The more you track, the more you can see what’s working and what’s not, allowing you to make changes as you see fit. Creating an intricate plan will allow you to avoid discouragement by giving you a roadmap towards your goals, while also enabling you to make real-time adjustments to help you get there.
Step 5: Get inspired and stay persistent
No matter how big or small your goal might be, we all know that over time, it’s easy to get discouraged. In the beginning, when it’s new and exciting, it’s easy to follow through. We experience the euphoria and the excitement associated with potentially achieving big things. But we all know how this plays out. Over time, we wax and we wane and our motivation goes into the ditches while we get sidetracked with one bad habit after another.
It’s not easy. Nope. Not easy whatsoever to achieve great things. In fact, it takes time. Years. Decades even. And keeping up the inspiration and motivation to keep pushing through is no small feat. If you satisfy the first four steps, you’re part of the way there. But that won’t get you to the finish line. The only thing that will get you to the finish line is persistence. And in order to persistent, you have to ensure you stay inspired.
Find a source of daily inspiration that will get you going. Use YouTube and TED Talks. Look at pictures. Read inspirational stories about famous people who failed. In essence, do whatever it takes and whatever is within your power to ensure that you keep going. Don’t allow negative people to get you down. Don’t allow bad habits that you know you need to quit to run interference as you run towards the goal line.
Thomas Edison once said that genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration. There’s a reason for that. The biggest thing that separates successful people from unsuccessful ones is the fact that they didn’t give up. They kept going, even when they got discouraged while chasing their goals. So don’t give up the good fight. Don’t quit. Don’t throw in that proverbial towel. Just push and push, no matter how long it takes because, in the end, victory will taste oh so sweet.