Life throws so many things at us that it is easy to get overwhelmed and switch into an avoidance mindset.
Pursuing long-term goals can be daunting, because there is the potential for so many negative things to happen between the start and finish.
What if things don’t work out? What if there is an insurmountable obstacle on the path? What if I get to the end and I’m not happy with the outcome?
And that’s not even counting how much productivity and motivation we lose to general procrastination or waiting for the perfect time to get started on our goals.
But there is no perfect time to get started. We either start or we don’t.
Maintaining motivation can be difficult, but it’s much easier when we are aware of some of the most common mistakes people make when pursuing their goals. Mistakes such as…
1. They set goals that are intangible or unrealistic.
A key factor in motivating oneself is setting realistic, tangible goals.
Many people do not define what it is they are actually hoping to accomplish in the course of their effort. Because of that, they do not reap the psychological benefits of reaching a goal and crushing it.
A clear, concise goal can help you find a more direct path to success and maintain motivation over the long-term.
How can you attain success at what you set out to do if you aren’t sure what the final destination is going to be?
In other words: be specific about your goal.
Do you want a better job? What makes a job better than the one you have now? Is it better pay? A better environment and coworkers? Better benefits? One that utilizes your skills and training more effectively?
What can you do on a weekly basis to achieve that goal?
Write that goal down so you have something to come back to. Writing a goal down helps you solidify it in your mind. It’s something tangible you can go back and look at when you’re faltering, feeling defeated, or lethargic.
2. They underestimate the importance of discipline.
Motivation and inspiration are whimsical, fleeting things that can quickly dart away from you. It’s generally not a good idea to rely solely on motivation or inspiration to do anything because it can be so unpredictable. You can easily waste your life waiting for motivation or inspiration to strike.
Many people feel that they need to wait for the right time to take an action. Maybe it’s exercising, creating art, or even getting the bills paid for the month.
They wait until they feel like doing it instead of just doing it. And because of that, it takes them much longer to achieve the goals they have set for themselves.
Once you have a goal, and a plan to achieve that goal set out in writing, all that’s left is to do the work – regardless of how you feel about it.
Don’t feel like doing it today? Well, do it anyway. Time is a resource that you can never get back. You’ll get much further by adopting a mindset of, “I must do this” and seeing it through each day.
3. They procrastinate instead of just getting to work.
We are bombarded with distractions on a nearly constant basis.
How much time do we waste scrolling through social media feeds or hitting our browser refresh? What about sitting down in front of a streaming service to binge watch entire shows instead of tackling more meaningful endeavors?
Or, less electronically, the time we waste in our lives not doing the things that need to be done in a timely fashion. All of these things can easily kill motivation because it’s just so easy to say, “Well, I’ll do it later.”
And then, how many times do we end up not doing those things later? Or fall behind because we just didn’t tackle our work when we should have?
Get up! Get moving!
Procrastination creates waste, robs you of time, and kills motivation.
Don’t waste your life telling yourself that you’ll do it later. Later may never come. Later may also get swamped under the responsibilities and stresses of the new moment, once it finally arrives.
4. They spend too much time planning, not enough time working.
Ever hear of Analysis Paralysis?
Analysis Paralysis occurs when a person loses themselves in the research and planning of a goal or action.
They may feel like they don’t have enough viable information to make an informed decision, become overwhelmed by the numerous possibilities and avenues, or feel that they need to plan for every single contingency that could possibly happen.
They get so overwhelmed that they simply do nothing.
The unfortunate reality is that Analysis Paralysis kills motivation and prevents people from reaching their goals.
Why? Because they never get started. Or they drag their feet on actually launching their project and moving forward.
You can do loads of research, planning, and development – but you’re usually going to end up hit with something you didn’t think of or account for in your planning.
There are always unexpected circumstances that crop up in the course of executing a plan.
There is certainly an appropriate amount of planning that should go into the pursuit of a goal. A good general rule of thumb is to research until information starts repeating itself.
Once that occurs, you can develop your plan and start executing on your smaller goals to build momentum towards the major one.
You wind up gaining more knowledge and experience by running into challenges, finding solutions, and overcoming them as you work.
5. They focus too much on the long-term pain instead of short-term gain.
Every goal brings with it some degree of long-term pain. No one just gets in shape, builds a business, or changes their life overnight.
Those goals can feel distant and so far away as you are reaching for them. The distance can give the impression that what we want to build is too far off and unattainable.
The way we can combat this and maintain our motivation is by setting smaller, more easily digested goals on our path to the final conclusion.
Trying to get in better shape and lose weight? Don’t think about the months of workouts that need to go into it, worry about finishing your workout for today.
The same thing applies to any form of self-improvement. People who are recovering from addiction, substance abuse, or mental illness take a similar approach by taking everything one day at a time.
And if this strategy works for people who are facing that kind of a daunting challenge, then it can work for you too.
That’s all you can really do unless you want to tie yourself in stressful knots over things that may or may not occur – which robs you of your motivation.
The past is gone, the future is not promised. We exist in the present. And if we want to build toward future goals that will benefit us, we must remind ourselves to make the most of every present moment that we are fortunate to have.
Do the best work you possibly can in the moment. That momentum will help preserve and fuel your motivation as you work towards greater things.