Picture the scene. You’re making amazing progress with getting new clients for business. You’ve beaten all your fears about doing sales, and you’re on target for your best ever month. You’re nearly at your target for making calls, meeting people, and bringing in the money.
Feels good, doesn’t it?
Except the chances are that you’ll inexplicably find yourself going backwards. You’ll find yourself not making those calls. That target, so near, now seems to be getting further away.
It’s a common problem for any of us trying to get something done, whether that’s lose weight, complete a physio programme, declutter our office. We may blame it on other things that got in the way. We may just excuse ourselves as not being a ‘completer-finisher’.
There’s another reason, which has to do with your brain. It’s described brilliantly in Kelly McGonigal’s book Maxiumum Willpower. Essentially, your brain becomes confused by success. When you register progress towards your goal, your brain mistakes it for having achieved it. That means the part of your brain responsible for keeping you motivated towards your long-term goals decides it can take a break. Unfortunately, that leads to the part of the brain that deals in short-term gratification having a field day. Want to follow a pleasant other distraction? Go ahead? Tempted by chocolate, procrastination, Facebook? No problem.
You need commitment not progress
McGonigal provides two practical solutions. The first is simply changing your mindset. Rather than framing progress towards your goal as an achievement in itself, you need to see it as proof of your commitment to that goal. If you can change the question from ‘how close am I’ to ‘how committed am I’, you suddenly improve your chances of keeping on track.
Guilt is dead; long live forgiveness
Her other solution is for the times when you’ve given in. The times when you’ve gone backwards, missed the target that seemed so achievable, eaten the thing you shouldn’t or missed the gym for the third time this week. Crucially, giving yourself some slack is essential. As she points out, this is highly counter-intuitive to anyone brought up on a system where failure is seen as bad. But you’ll significantly increase your chances of getting back on track if you can dish out some self-forgiveness and banish any guilt or bad feelings.
If you’re curious about some more reasons your goals just don’t seem to be working for you, my latest blog for the Huffington Post might provide some more answers.
Goals. Resolutions. Good intentions. We all set them, but more often than not we don’t manage to achieve what we wanted to. Why is that? Why are we so bad at getting what we think we want? Achieving any kind of goal means taking lots of little decisions.