A close friend of mine came to a confronting realisation at the end of 2019...
Her job was making her unhappy. Not only was she unmotivated to push herself to succeed at work, but she lacked the energy to do the things she loved after hours.
She resolved that 2020 will be her year to find an exciting new career in an industry she is passionate about. (Uh oh.)
Just yesterday, I asked, “How’s the job hunt going?”, She responded with, “Not good, I have lost my motivation to find a new job.”
I was surprised because she had seemed so ready to move forward the last time we spoke. But now she was dejected and down-trodden. Five interviews and she hadn’t heard a peep from anyone. She said “I don’t think I’ll be able to get any good job. Maybe, I don’t deserve a better job.”
This triggered a memory for me, a quote from the book The Inner Game of Tennis by Timothy Gallwey;
“It’s interesting to see how the judgmental mind extends itself. It may begin by complaining “What a lousy serve”, then extend to “I am serving badly today”. After a few more bad serves, the judgment may become further extended to “I have a terrible serve”. The “I am a lousy tennis player” and finally “I am no good”. First, the mind judges the event, then groups events, then identify the combined event and finally judges itself.”
So, I set a date to catch up with her because there are a lot of ways we can improve this situation;
- Understand why the failure happened, we could revisit her resume and cover letter.
- Conduct industry research to get a feel of how to convey the message that she is the right candidate for the job.
- Do a few mock interviews together to calm the nerves and feel prepared.
But, when a person feels disheartened, they only seem to think, “ I’m useless” instead of, “How can I improve this?”
Because we are hardwired to want things now, without delay. When we don’t receive the fulfilment we anticipated, our psychological response to this is anxiety, tension or the simple act of throwing our hands up in the air and saying “too hard, I’ll just stay miserable.”
This situation isn’t just restricted to my friend. According to U.S.
News and World Report, a mammoth 80% of New Year resolutions fail by mid February.
If you’re one of those 80%, I want you to take some time out and honestly ask yourself a few questions...
Credit: Photo by Isaac Smith on Unsplash
1. What is the purpose of your goal?
Before you think of giving up, I want you to take a moment to think about the purpose with which you started this goal.
Why were you so excited to start this in January?
Was it because you knew you could do better in a more challenging industry? Was it that a new job will bring more joy to your life? Was it that a better job would mean more savings for the house you want to buy?
If your goal is exercising, dig deep and find out why.
No, it’s not because you want to stay fit. There’s a deeper reason lurking beneath that one.
It could be that you’re tired of looking unfit or that you want to feel energized to spend time with your family when you come back from work.
Write that purpose down somewhere. Take a good look at it and ask yourself, “Is giving up really the better option here?”. Five years down the line, would you like to be known as the person who went on despite the hurdles or someone who gives up easily?
Once you decide that you are determined to keep going (I know you can do it), I want you to reframe the way you address your goals.
Instead of putting it as “I need to make a career change”, address it as, “I am going to make a career change because my talents will be more useful in a challenging industry and I will be able to bring financial security to my family”.
This becomes your transcendent purpose (desiring to be a part of something greater than the self) and it will help improve self-regulation when things seem to get repetitive or tough during goal pursuit.
You could even write your purpose on a piece of paper and hang it in your room.
2. Are you choosing growth over comfort?
There could be a lot of reasons for not waking up early to exercise or to work on your goal. The weather could be cold, you don’t feel like it or you missed so many attempts this week, you feel it would be better if you started fresh next week.
While these statements may come off as good excuses to someone else, they’re just another way of saying, “I don’t want to leave my comfort zone.”
Whenever you let these excuses win, you are bound to experience a niggling feeling of guilt at the end of the day.
For example, if you give in to your impulse of eating a chocolate cake, when night comes, you’ll feel guilty that you weren’t brave and disciplined enough to choose growth over comfort.
I understand that doing this isn’t easy. So, what you could do is have an accountability partner. Research by Dr. Gail Matthews found out that 70% of individuals who send a weekly update to their accountability partner were successful in achieving their goals as compared to the other 30% that did not.
So, the next time you feel like falling back into your comfort zone, text or call your accountability partner. They’re sure to guide you away from that cheesy pizza and remind you of the reasons why you started.
Credit: Photo by The Creative Exchange on Unsplash
3. Can I do something to refuel my motivation?
There will be days when we can’t find the motivation to work on our goals.
Let’s take an example to understand what we can do to tackle such days.
Suppose, your goal is eating healthily. Instead of visualizing the entire process of;
- Changing your clothes
- Going to the grocery store
- Lining up at the checkout to buy the food items
- Preparing your meal
Just focus on the first step that will take about five minutes of your time.
Change your attire. Simple enough, right?
Once you get started, motivation will inevitably follow. This five minute rule will lower your resistance level by driving you into action mode and training your mind to focus on one small step.
You could even resort to different mediums to find your motivation. If you don’t feel like going to the gym, try going out for a walk, exercising at home or joining a dance class with a friend.
Ask yourself, “If my friend was experiencing something like this, what would I advise her?”
This will help you come up with a lot of different solutions as you’ll start looking at things from an unbiased point of view.
4. Can I break the goal into small parts?
Many people set lofty, ambitious goals and when they don’t see themselves achieving them in a week or two, they just stop.
To stay motivated, you need to see some progress.
So, if you’re aiming to reduce your weight, don’t just set up a big goal. Break it down further into weekly and monthly goals. If you’re planning to write a book, break that huge task into smaller ones like creating an outline, drafting the first chapter, editing, finalizing and so on.
It’s human nature to want to see quick progress and setting daily and weekly milestones will sustain your motivation in the long run.
To help you reach your goal, we’ve developed a quick checklist to help you break it down into smaller, more achievable tasks each week.
For example, if your long term goal is to drop 5 kgs, start with some daily habits like these.
It’s also important to reward yourself when you accomplish a milestone. While the best rewards are the emotional rewards (the feeling of staying fit and healthy, the pride you gain after successfully closing a deal, etc.) you can start initially with something more tangible. For example, going to the cinema, buying your favourite book, going on a weekend trip, etc.
Once that resolution turns into a habit, you’ll no longer need the help of these rewards.
5. Am I focusing on my core values?
When someone hears the words “core values”, they immediately picture a company they admire. It’s high time we realize that each one of us should have our personal core values too.
Let’s first understand the term. Core values are said to be the fundamental beliefs or principles of a person or organization. These principles guide us during our everyday life and help make the right decisions.
When we adhere to our core values, we experience fulfilment. If we stray away from the same, we’ll feel guilty and incongruent.
To define those core values, take out a pen and paper.
Next, think about any personal experiences that stand out for you. For example, when I was in college, I used to struggle through various illnesses. As a result, I would miss out on fun college events, projects and important deadlines. This made me realize the importance of eating healthy and staying fit. That automatically made a breakthrough in my list of core values. Now, when I see a cake in front of me, I don’t have to wrestle with managing my impulse.
You could also think about those values that you must have to live a fulfilling life. For example, for me, it’s reading new things. It helps me stay updated and gain knowledge and fuels my creativity.
Next, group them into clusters and there you have your own core value list.
Now that you have a list;
- Track how well you’re honouring each value by scoring them on a scale of 1 to 10 on a weekly or monthly basis.
- Note the reasons for your scores.
Find ways to fulfil your core values and you’ll feel happier in your everyday life. You can even set your goals tied to these core values to supercharge your approach.
Credit: Photo by Allie Smith on Unsplash
6. Are there ways to learn from my failures?
I have seen so many people quit exercising after they missed going to the gym for a day or two. If you ask them why, they’ll tell you, “Because I had planned to exercise every day.”
This is the reason why many people give up on their resolutions in just the second month of the year.
Everybody fails on some days. Even strong, dedicated athletes. But what separates them from the rest of us is they accept failure as part of the process and move on. They don’t stick to the bad days.
Michael Jordan once said, “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty six times I have been trusted to take the game winning shot and I missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
So, the next time you order cheesy fries on Sunday, instead of feeling guilty and blaming yourself, take a journal out. Note down all the factors that led you into eating unhealthy food.
For example, if one of the factors was that you were feeling too lazy to cook something on Sunday evening, you could decide to have an easy recipe to follow on Sunday or make something beforehand.
In this way, you learn something from your failures.
If you are someone who is used to complaining, you might give up on your goals by projecting the blame on others and externalizing the reasons for your failure.
Journaling and sharing it with your accountability partner will help you get rid of that habit. Every time that you fail on your goal, journal the reason why it happened. Talk to your accountability partner. He/she will look into your reasons and tell you whether they are valid or not.
Once you start accepting your bad habits and seek support, it’ll become easier to change them.
Let’s turn 2020 into a year where we’ll achieve all our goals and say goodbye to our old, unproductive habits.
How much progress have you made on your goals so far? Let us know in the comments.