There are many different kinds of people in the world, all with varying degrees of resolve and drive when it comes to personal development. The one thing we all have in common is our desire to do better.
I am of the common but unfortunate variety that has big dreams but big fear that makes realizing those dreams a difficult prospect. Instead of pushing me to work 110% my perfectionist nature goads me into not starting at all, lest I fail or come up short in some way.
It is a constant battle to overcome this fear and create what I want in the world. Fortunately, I have found several strategies to short circuit my non-starting impulses.
Take time to make a plan, but not too much time
One thing that can really trip me up is my need to create the perfect plan, which I can never seem to do. Especially with all the resources and articles and templates on blogs and Pinterest it’s easy to get overwhelmed and paralyzed by the need to come up with the most beautiful, organized, perfect plan.
This can leave you surfing the web and making several draft outlines that go no where instead of getting to the task at hand.
I recently started Bullet Journaling, which is a planner/to-do list/journal that you create out of a blank notebook, and as I was learning about all the different possibilities and saw the beautiful pages that others have made I started to feel stuck planning exactly how it should be and trying to anticipate everything I would need in the future and exactly how I would want it to look. I needed it to be perfect!
After being stuck like this for a couple of days I realized I would never actually write in the darn journal if I didn’t just start.
So I took a scrap of paper and wrote a list of all the pages I wanted to start with and then committed pen to paper and put them in my notebook. I left a couple of blank pages in the front to calm my perfection anxiety and then dove right in.
It was so freeing to stop obsessing over every little detail and my simple plan on a scrap paper gave me enough comfort to move forward. And if I messed up (which I did and still do) I could just turn the page and start fresh.
Don’t wait for Monday
I used to be a smoker. For years starting in high school and through college I smoked about a pack a day. Smoking disgusts me now, but at the time I thought of myself as a smoker and it was very difficult to quit. My soon-to-be fiance (now husband) got sick of my gross habit and gave me an ultimatum: the cigarettes or him.
That was a no brainer of course – I chose him!
Making that decision was the easy part. The hard part came when I actually tried quitting. Every time I failed I had to wait for a new Monday or first of the month or to finish my pack to try quitting again. And invariably I would stumble and have to wait for those certain magical stars to align again.
All that ended up happening was that I kept smoking and felt like a perpetual failure.
Finally I got fed up of this failure cycle. One random morning, it could have been a Tuesday or a Thursday, with half a pack left, I threw my cigarettes away and officially quit. I had tricked my brain by not giving it time to obsess and devise loopholes for an upcoming quitting deadline by not creating one.
I didn’t know I was going to quit that day, I just woke up and decided to do it. And since I had “quit,” the couple of times I stumbled (there were quite a few) I was able to pick right back up because I wasn’t trying anymore, I was official.
It all started with not waiting for that perfect moment and just jumping in and I have been a nonsmoker for over 10 years now.
Create specific short, medium, and long term goals
After taking Gina’s freelance writing course I created a timeline of when and how I would complete all the necessary tasks to start a blog and freelance writing career. This allowed me to break down a huge task – become a freelance writer, into small, digestible amounts – sign up for WordPress, take a profile picture, etc.
In addition to creating a timeline for my tasks I created time-based goals. It’s so easy to get caught up reading blogs about this person that makes tens of thousands each month with their internet-based business or how that person created a handbag/software/baby bib empire on nights and weekends and now lives on a yacht.
This can fuel your dreams, but also be so out of reach you cannot actually fathom how to attain that level of success. I started small and then got a bit more audacious:
- Post once a week on personal blog
- Pitch at least 10x a week starting August 1st
- Start making money by October 2016
- Make $3k per month by April 2017
- Have course/ebook/printables/passive income idea and plan by July, 2017
Keeping these front and center in my work station is a great motivator to keep moving forward. The small goals are achievable enough that I don’t feel defeated and the bigger goals are exciting enough that I am driven to attain them.
3rd party accountability – find someone to help you realize your goals
The importance of accountability cannot be understated. Depending on the kind of person you are, outer or inner accountability might be called for.
As Gretchen Rubin outlines in her book Better Than Before, different types of people respond to expectations in different ways. For some, their own drive and sense of responsibility keeps them on track. We often think of these folks as Type A and Rubin refers to them as ‘Upholders’. To-do lists and calendars can be enough to provide accountability for those upholders.
Other people need outside expectations to give them the motivation they need. Business deadlines, workout trainers, etc.This is what Rubin calls Obligers. They are excellent at getting what they are obliged to get done, but less great at self motivating.
While most of us fall somewhere on the spectrum between these two poles, I am definitely more outwardly motivated. I have found that a combination of checklists and actual human beings are the right combination to keep me on track.
A very popular way of manufacturing this outer accountability is to join an accountability or mastermind group. These are groups of individuals, usually in similar fields, that meet in person or virtually to support, give advice, and hold each other accountable to their business and personal goals.
Even if it’s just two people, having someone you need to answer to if you don’t’ complete what you said you would accomplish can be enough to light that fire.
Also, this can be a tricky approach and will not work for everyone, but I utilize my husband to hold me accountable for some of my tasks. The key is to outline how they should approach the accountability (IE: don’t nag or shame) and when it’s appropriate to do so. Sending a reminder text or giving a high five when they catch you completing your task for positive reinforcement will probably work better than finger-wagging.
Don’t forget the rewards!
This is a controversial topic, but I think that proper rewards are an important incentive to keep going when things start to get rough or if your drive starts to weaken. They can be intrinsic or extrinsic, just make sure they are in proportion to do not undermine your goal. For instance treat yourself to a new pair of running shoes when you’ve stuck to your running routine for a month instead of a piece of cake after every run.
You can also replace a negative reward with a positive one. When I quit smoking I still had the drive to go get something for myself so I would buy magazines. They were about the same price as cigarettes and gave me that little shot of enjoyment like my smokes did (without adding more of a more common substitute, junk food, to my life).
If you’re ready to make a change in your life use these 5 tips to help you get on track to reach your goals. Remember – just reading this article (and 100s of others) won’t make the change happen. You have to DO THE WORK to see the results.