If you run a quick Google search for the phrase “goal setting”, you’ll get about 338 million results. We are a species somewhat obsessed with setting goals: how we should do it, why we should do it, and when is the perfect time to get started. There’s much less information, however, on how to maintain the momentum needed to achieve your goals.
But, for most of us, this is where true success really happens. Lots of people are good at setting goals. Far fewer are good at achieving them, and those that are truly shine.
It’s especially hard to maintain momentum when you’ve been working toward your goals for a while or when you feel the nudge to start thinking about your next goals. For me, I find this tug reaches its highest point with about two months to go in the year. I know I need to keep my head down and make the final push to achieve what I started, but at the same time, my goals feel old, tired, and have somehow lost their luster. It’s tempting to take my eyes off of them completely and focus instead on setting new shiny goals for the following year.
I know, however, that keeping myself on track and finishing the year strong is what allows me to really accomplish the things that matter most. So, how do I stay on track with stale goals when I’m tempted to focus on other things?
Keep Your Why Front and Center
Hopefully, when you set your goals, you did so with some reason in mind – a “why” that has fueled your actions as you worked toward achieving your desired result. If so, now is the time to pull that reason back out, dust it off, and place it front and center in your mind (or even on your desk or computer screen).
Why was it so important to you to achieve this goal? How did you envision things might change if you did what you planned? What benefit would there be to you, those around you, or the organization in which you serve? Remembering the “why” behind your goals is often enough to spark the final surge of energy you need to propel yourself over the finish line. It serves as a reminder, not only of what you wanted to accomplish, but of the energy, hope and resolve you had when you started your journey.
If you didn’t have a clear reason in mind when you set your goals, it’s not too late. Take this opportunity to ask yourself why this goal is so important to you? What will be different if you achieve your goal? How will your daily life or work change as a result? Who else might benefit from your efforts?
Commit to the Most Important Actions
If you’re like me or most of the leaders I work with, by the end of the year your calendar has gotten cluttered with more tasks, obligations, and responsibilities than you can realistically accomplish. What seemed like a straightforward action plan to accomplish your most important goals can end up seeming like a nightmare. Maybe it doesn’t even seem possible to find your goals anymore.
If this describes where you find yourself, the first step back is to figure out which of the things you are doing are necessary to achieving your plans and which have just accumulated over time. Which activities are moving you closer to your goal and which are really just productive distractions? What is crucial to finishing what you started? Which are nice to have, but not necessary? And where are you really just wasting your time because what you’re doing isn’t working or because it isn’t really related to the things that you’ve identified as most important?
Then, it’s time to start saying no (or at least not now) to those things that don’t help you accomplish what you started.
Capture Ideas for What’s Next
Finally, to keep your focus on what’s in front of you, you need a place to capture all the excitement that comes with thinking about what’s next. This doesn’t have to be fancy or complicated – just a blank Google doc, a page in a notebook, or a set of sticky notes. Each time you find yourself pulled toward setting a new goal, wondering about what’s next, or dreaming about the future, jot yourself a note about what’s on your mind. Then, get back to the task at hand.
Be sure to set aside time dedicated to reviewing these notes, planning your new goals, and building new action plans. Knowing that there’s a space on the calendar for all those things that seem so distracting right now can often be enough to help you stay on track.
Achieving long-term goals is no easy task. It takes practice, resolve and discipline to be able to see a plan through to the end. This is especially true when it feels like your goals have gone a bit stale. But, with a few key tips, you can find the energy and focus you need to accomplish the things that matter most to you.