Reaching goals & getting results – the difference between activity and accomplishments

As part of our perpetual desire to improve ourselves and our lives, we continually set goals. Having goals keeps us hopeful, inspired, and challenged, but our ability to reach them is dependent on many factors; the key one being motivation. Motivation is a funny thing – it starts off strong and then slowly wanes. It’s a complex psychological conundrum that’s hard to get a handle on. The slightest distraction, obstacle, or stress from other areas of our life can send us spiraling out of focus. Every time this happens, our goal tends to get farther away than before, and our confidence takes a massive hit. Setting big life goals for ourselves can be overwhelming. On one hand, we may be afraid of what happens as we succeed; each step closer to our goal may put us in unchartered waters, and the uncertainty of life after reaching that goal is a legitimate concern. For example, if someone decides to go back to school and change careers, the prospect of being able to learn new things, adjusting to a reduction in income, while constantly wondering if they’ll even love this new career can be legitimately scary. On the other hand, we as humans are naturally averse to failure, so we come up with some really clever excuses for why we haven’t gotten to where we should be by now. To reach or goals, we must stay focused on the result, and not belabour each individual task or the methods we use along the way.

Activity vs. Achievement

Most people get used to filling each day with a variety of tasks to complete; it’s rewarding for us to check things off a “to do” list. In fact, I’ve caught myself jotting down tasks that I’ve already completed, just so I can check them off my list! However, we have to recognize that “activity” is not necessarily “accomplishment”, and we can fill our entire days with tasks without moving a single step closer to our end goal. It’s natural that our commitment and the resources available to us in order to reach our goals will fluctuate, so occasional set-backs are normal. It’s how we manage our time throughout the process that is important, all while keeping our eye on the outcome. We all have household chores, family obligations and unexpected occurrences to contend with; the key is to have control and be flexible in your actions, behaviours and thoughts so you can best manage anything that comes your way. To stay on target and keep your goal in sight, here are some suggestions for success:

  1. Write out your goals – display them proudly and review regularly.
  2. Set milestones for significant achievements along the way – so you can feel empowered and revitalized with each step achieved.
  3. Expect the unexpected – life happens but we can go with the flow and overcome obstacles.
  4. Be realistic – adjust your goals accordingly if you realize they aren’t suitable or logical.
  5. Block off time – schedule uninterrupted time regularly so you can work on those goals, no excuses.
  6. Use your technology – there are so many tools at our disposal to help us get organized, set reminders, and schedule activities that you won’t be able to say, “I didn’t have time”, or “I forgot”.
  7. Ask for support – the people around you can be great resources and emotional support; they have your back. They’ll also tell you when to get back on track when needed.
  8. Assess your progress – ask yourself how you are doing with reaching milestones, and analyze what’s going well…and not-so-well. You’ll start to recognize the legitimate obstacles vs. the excuses.
  9. Reward yourself along the way – your hard work and perseverance should be rewarded (just think to yourself, “Most people would have given up by now, but not me!”).

Your goals are important, no matter how big or small.  Want to lose 10 lbs., learn to fix cars, be a fashion designer, or write that novel? You can do it, and yes, there may be lots of “what if…” and “but this has come up…” along the way, but it’s important to take a step back and purposefully reframe the activities that we engage ourselves in to focus on the outcome. This way, tasks that don’t lead us towards our goals can be changed, delegated or eliminated. It’s all up to you – and you got this!

“What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.” Henry David Thoreau