Crawling Through the Muck: Getting Unstuck So We Can Achieve Our Goals
In the last post, I described five areas of goal setting where we tend to get stuck. These challenge areas include Identifying Your Goal, Motivation, Obstacles, Action Planning and Manageable Chunks, and Accountability. When we know our kryptonite, where we tend to struggle, we can employ targeted strategies to overcome those challenges and achieve our goals. In that post, I provided an inventory to help you identify your challenge area. If you haven’t taken it yet, please click here.
In the last post, I said “I want you to achieve your goals. I don’t want to lay out the perfect goal setting plan that will help ensure you achieve them. I don’t think there is a one size fits all planning system. I want to dig into why you aren’t achieving your goals.” When you know why you aren’t achieving your goals, you can do something about it. In this post, I want to introduce one targeted strategy to help you overcome each challenge area.
Identify Your Goal with Visualization
If you can’t visualize yourself achieving your goals, you have a problem. Maybe it’s not the right goal or maybe you haven’t clarified your goal enough. Visualization can be used to help you identify and clarify your goal. What do you want to achieve? Picture in your mind what that looks like. When do you see yourself achieving it? What does it feel like? What did you overcome to get there? What did you do regularly to get there? Take some time to have a really targeted daydream. Put yourself there and wade in what it feels like to achieve it. Add in more detail until it feels real and clear.
For example, say you want to lose weight. Using visualization can help you imagine what you will look and feel like when you lose the weight. This will help you determine how much weight you want to lose, and when you want to lose it. Suddenly your goal has gone from “losing weight” to losing 10 lbs, adding muscle tone and fitting into this outfit in time for your cruise in September.
Build Motivation with Big Enough Why
Motivation is the “why” that drives you through the work and the challenge of your goal. Think of your goal and ask yourself why you want to achieve it. Take that answer and ask yourself why that is important. Keep going until you get an answer that deeply resonates with you. This is your Big Enough Why.
For example, say I have a goal of losing 15 lbs. Why? I want to fit into my clothes better. Why? I feel better when my clothes fit well. Why? I feel more confident and capable and healthy. Being motivated to feel more confident, capable and healthy is probably a deeper and more powerful motivator than just fitting into clothes better. You can buy other clothes. Feeling confident, capable and healthy is a Big Enough Why.
Overcome Obstacles with WHEN/THEN
You know you’re going to run into obstacles. You can even predict some of the obstacles you are going to face. Knowing this, you can use WHEN/THEN Action Planning to already have a plan in place for what to do when you face the obstacle. WHEN/THEN act as sentence starters; WHEN (this obstacle comes up), THEN (I will utilize this strategy to overcome this obstacle).
For example, WHEN I have to work late and won’t get to the gym, THEN I will do a short video workout before bed. When the obstacle presents itself, you already have a plan in place, so you don’t waste any time being slowed down by the obstacle.
Break Your Goal into Manageable Chunks and Action Plans with Backwards Planning
In order to achieve your goal, you must have a plan for what you need to do now, and what you need to do next to achieve your goal. A strategy that helps you identify what steps you need to take and associate those steps with a timeline is Backwards Planning. Backwards Planning helps us set and reality check the benchmarks we need to hit along the way.
We utilize Backwards Planning more often than we realize. We use Backwards Planning to figure out how late we can sleep in (if I need to be at work at 9, and it will take me 20 minutes to get to work, I need to leave my house by 8:40, meaning I need to eat breakfast by 8:30, meaning I need to get in the shower by 8, meaning I need to set my alarm for 7:50).
To use Backwards Planning, grab a piece of paper and a pen, then draw a line across the page. At the right end of the line, write in your goal. This is the destination, or the finish line. The left end of the line is the starting point; where you are right now. Starting at the finish line, work backwards to identify the benchmarks you need to hit (these could be dates, times, tasks or a combination). Mark each of these benchmarks on the line. Once you have completed this task, you can see your end goal, as well as smaller intermediate goals that are necessary for achieving the end goal. This breaks your big goal into manageable chunks and helps you focus your efforts on one smaller goal at a time that moves you towards the big goal.
Build Accountability with the 3M Check In
Being accountable for doing what you say you’re going to do when working on your goals is crucial to your success. It helps you determine whether you are on the right trajectory to achieve your goals. However, there are different ways of being accountable for your goals. When it comes to ensuring accountability, I recommend the “3M Check In.” 3M stands for Micro, Macro and Motivation.
During a Micro Check In, you look at your goal plan (what you said you were going to do) and determine whether you stuck to that plan; did you do what you said you were going to do when you said you were going to do it.
During a Macro Check In, you take a step back and look at the overall progress you have made towards achieving your goal. Are you where you expected to be by this point in time?
During a Motivation Check In, you reflect on your excitement and commitment toward your goal. Is it still high? Are you leaning on the right sources of motivation? At this time, you can leverage or revise affirmations and other tools to boost your motivation.
Micro Check Ins need to be done the most often (as often as daily or weekly) and can be completed using bullet journals or other accountability tools. Macro Check Ins need to be done less often because your plan needs time to work in order to show marked progress. Motivation Check Ins can be done at any time to evaluate or boost motivation levels.
Leveraging all three check ins helps give you the clearest picture of how you are doing and what you need to do next. If you do a Macro Check In and see you haven’t made the expected progress towards your goal, you need to refer back to the Micro Check In. Have you been executing your goal plan the way you intended? If so, the plan isn’t working and needs to be revised. If not, you need to conduct a Motivation Check In to reenergize yourself to execute your goal plan.
Getting stuck is part of the process of working towards your goal. Success isn’t a straightforward path. I hope these strategies can help you wade through the muck and get yourself unstuck and closer to achieving your goals. Keep an eye out for my online schoolhouse that will walk you through more strategies and tools for achieving your goals, managing your stress and leveraging your strengths.
Locke, E. A., & Latham, G. P. (2006). New Directions in Goal-Setting Theory. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 15(5), 265–268.
Oettingen, G., et.al. (2009). Mental contrasting and goal commitment: The mediating role of energization. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 35(5), 608-622.
Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American Psychologist, 55(1), 68-78.