“I have wandered all my life and I have also traveled. The difference between the two is that we wander for distraction but we travel for fulfillment.” – Hilaire Belloc
The end of March marks the end of the first quarter of 2015; this means that 25% of the year is already behind us. I’m not sure about you, but for me, the past 90 days seem to have gone by really fast. When I look over my goals for 2015 and what I had intended to accomplish by this point in the year, I’m definitely behind on more than a couple of my goals. Considering how much I managed to accomplish last year, this is a little worrying to me!
Over the past few days, I’ve been thinking about what I need to accomplish over the next 90 days in order to get myself back on track and I’ve also been thinking about what factors might have led to me getting sidetracked in the first place. I hoping that, going forward, this might help me to resist the temptation to take a rest on the sidelines and motivate myself to “get back in the game” a little faster.
Here are my top 3 detractors and some suggestions for overcoming them:
It’s said that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. I think that anyone who’s ever put a huge amount of energy into achieving something will have experienced the “crash” that comes after you’ve reached your goal. It doesn’t matter whether the energy was physical, mental or emotional or a combination of all three. When you push yourself hard, there comes a point where you just have to take a step back and allow yourself time to recover. The danger of this recovery period is that, if you’re not careful, it can extend well beyond a reasonable time-frame. We get used to the slower pace, the lessened demands and we get out of the habits that helped us accomplish our goal in the first place. If we spend too long “recovering” we run the risk that we’ll start taking steps backwards and that can be extremely demotivating. I tend to be very much an all or nothing person; if I’m driven then I’m driven to the extreme and that drive seeps into all aspects of my life. Conversely, if I’m in “recovery mode”, then that lack of drive also tends to seep into all aspects of my life, which, over an extended period of time, definitely isn’t a good thing.
The Solution: Set a time limit on your “recovery time” and make concrete plans for when and how you’re going to get back in the game. Taking a few days off from exercising won’t hurt you but letting those few days morph into a few weeks can make it really hard to get back into the habit. Similarly, enjoying the rewards of having more money coming in than going out each month is ok in the short term but won’t help you reach your goals over the long haul.
Part of the reason I was so focused on my goals last year was because I was finally in a position to get out of the “drinking from the firehose” way of life that I’d been sucked into. That motivated me to do whatever I could in order to create a buffer that would stop me sliding back into the same situation. As a result, by the end of last year, I’d accomplished a lot. While this was good for my bank balance (and my stress levels), it also meant that, now I had the buffer in place, I lost a lot of the fear that had been motivating me to start building in the first place. Over the past couple of months I definitely got a little too comfortable with my new situation and, as a result, I slacked off on sticking to some of the processes and habits that had helped me succeed.
The Solution: Get focused on where you want to be and where you can be 3 months, 6 months, 12 months from now, if you just do what needs to be done in order to reach your goal. Hold on to the way that vision makes you feel and let it drive you to take the small steps day by day that will get you there. Know that it takes 28 days to create a habit and do what it takes over the next four weeks to get you back in the game. For me, this means getting back to basics with my budget, tracking my accomplishments and posting my goals where I can see them on a daily basis so I’m reminded what I’m working towards.
“Keep your eyes on the prize”, is incredibly powerful advice when it comes to getting things done. Research shows that people who keep their eye on a goal and ignore the outside distractions, not only get to their goal faster but they perceive it to be closer than people who let themselves be distracted by other things. That doesn’t mean that you have to become laser-focused to the exclusion of anything and everything around you but it does mean keeping your goals top of mind. When we let our focus drift, when we get caught up in the day to day busyness of life and we let our goals slip to the back of our mind, our productivity levels tend to drop immensely.
We live in a world of constant distraction, where it’s easy to lose hours, days, weeks, even months to the demands of work, family, friends and general survival. Keeping your goals in mind, means that it’s easier to take the small steps each day that add up to a much bigger change over the long term. Letting them slide, means that we wake up with a start one day, realizing that 25% of the year has already passed and that we haven’t made anywhere near as much progress as we intended to.
The Solution: Carve out 15 minutes to think about your goals. Choose the three that are most important to you, write them down and put them somewhere that you can see them every day. It's about re-focusing. Each day, commit to doing just one thing that will take you closer to your goals and make sure that you get it done. Make it a priority and you’ll be surprised how much you can accomplish.
While there’s no doubt that life is busy, there are doubts about how productive all our busyness actually is. Taking the time to think about the things that really matter to us and making a commitment to making those things a priority helps us instill a sense of order and accomplishment that boosts mood and reduces stress. Whatever it is that you meant to get done over the past 90 days no longer matters, but what you choose to achieve over the next 90 days definitely does. What will you do to re-focus and get back in the game today?