Before I tell you how to achieve long-term goals, you have to understand one thing about me: I have absolutely no willpower. I have never, ever succeeded in forcing myself to do anything. No diet, no workout plan has ever lasted more than two days for me.
All the tips I will give you in this post are focused on what works for me when it comes to reaching goals. And that is actually bringing myself to want to do things, instead of having to do them.
Finding the right reason to achieve long-term goals
Let’s be honest, “imagine how good I will feel in a year” is never going to work. A year is so far away and I personally always seem to care more about right now.
There are people out there, my boyfriend for example, who can restrain themselves to achieve goals. But it’s not something that I personally am able to do. If I can’t be happy right now, I lose sight of the bigger picture. Which basically explains why I never stuck to a diet.
For people like us to achieve long-term goals, we have to focus on short-term benefits.
Let me give you an example. If you start working out with the sole purpose of getting in shape, you’ll soon be faced with the thought “well, screw that, I’ll never achieve that anyway”. And this will cause you to give up on your goal.
I’ve been wanting to do yoga for so long to get in shape. But I was just never motivated enough to keep going. Relaxing after work was far more compelling.
If, however, I focus on short-term benefits, in this case how yoga makes me feel after every practice, the whole situation looks far easier. Suddenly, reaching this goal isn’t so daunting anymore.
I have been doing yoga every single day for the past months. The only way I can do this is if I don’t think about tomorrow’s practice or the day after that, but solely focus on today. I tell myself that no matter how much I don’t want to get on the mat right now, I know I will be feeling a lot more relaxed afterwards. I know that it’ll definitely be worth it.
Focusing on how you will feel right after the thing that you don’t want to do – even thinking that you won’t feel bloated if you eat rice instead of cheese fries – can help your brain shift and accept that this goal you have is not a punishment, but actually a treat for your body.
“And what if there are no short-term benefits?” you might say. Well, it might just be the wrong goal. Meeting goals isn’t supposed to be a horrible experience!
If you’re trying to force yourself to go to the gym, but you absolutely hate the whole experience, abandon it and find something that makes you feel good.
The first reason why I love yoga is that I hate sweating. I want to wash my hair once a week only and I can’t do that if I do cardio. So, I chose yoga instead, and don’t even have to shower after my practice.
Don’t stress about failing your goal
Just like achieving your goal should feel like a treat, you shouldn’t punish yourself for failing.
If your long-term goal is to start cleaning your whole house every week (I’ve been there), and you failed to do it more than once, ask yourself if your goal is even achievable. Maybe spending 4 hours cleaning is not something you see yourself doing every week, no matter how much you love a clean home. If that’s the case, then you’ll probably never stick to it anyway.
Then, reformulate your goal.
If you want a clean house, determine exactly what has to be done for you to achieve this goal. Maybe it’s cleaning the bathroom, kitchen and hoovering. Then why don’t you set aside half an hour on one day to clean the kitchen, half an hour on another day to clean the bathroom, and invest in a hoover robot? And then once in a while, you’ll make time to deep-clean the areas that don’t bother you as much.
Just think about the minimum you have to do to reach your long-term goals. Figure out every possible way to make it easier for you (in my yoga example it was working out from home, for example). Then determine the least stressful and most realistic way to actually achieve it.
If it doesn’t work, then rethink your plan and find ways to make it even less stressful. You have to be your own friend, not your enemy!
Reaching goals starts in the present moment
Let’s be honest: if you tell yourself that you’ll have to do something for the rest of your life, you won’t feel good about it. The rest of your life seems like a very long time. Even thinking about maintaining my goal through all the changes in my life makes me feel stressed and anxious.
And the truth is: there is nothing you’ll have to do for the rest of your life. Something you’re set on doing now might not align with you in a couple of years, and that’s absolutely okay!
What works for me is telling myself that I’ll pursue goals as long as I want to. And if I decide to switch it up after a while – that’s okay, too. You don’t have to stick to something just because you decided once that you want it. That just doesn’t make any sense.
My dad used to tell me this story about a boy who asked his mom to take down the teddy bear wallpaper in his room. His mom was saying: “But you wanted it so much, you spent months begging me for this wallpaper! How can you change your mind on something you wanted so badly?” And the boy was saying: “But mommy, that was thirty years ago and I just don’t want teddy bears in my room anymore!”
While this is probably just some odd Russian joke (I honestly have no idea where this story is from), it just illustrates how ridiculous it is to be hung up on something you once decided if it doesn’t make sense for you anymore.
Celebrate the small victories
This year, I set myself the goal to sell my unwanted clothes online to make some money.
Just so you know: I have never managed to make money online. What worked for other people never worked for me, and so I didn’t know if I would succeed. But I did my research, gave it my best shot, and actually made some sales.
And when I say sales, I mean like, 7. I made a little less than 100€. It’s not much, but it liberated space in my closet and made someone else happy!
And so I patted myself on the back, thinking that even if I didn’t sell any of the other 60 items I had put up, I was still proud of myself for actually succeeding in making sales.
Do you see what I mean? No matter how small your victory seems, no matter how far you still want to go, it is so important to stop yourself and celebrate the small victories. This is what will give you confidence and the desire to go further, believing that you are able to achieve your long-term goals.
If you start making excuses, your goal is probably not working for you
“I can’t do this today” is a thought that clearly indicates a problem with your goal. If you want to achieve long-term goals, you need to find what works for you in every situation.
I’ve been there multiple times, mostly with food and exercising. I would set myself a goal to start eating fruit and veggies instead of rice, potatoes, and unhealthy snacks. But then my next IBS flare-up would come along and I had to stop.
As you probably see right away, it makes absolutely no sense to set goals that you can’t meet. Too much fruit or veggies triggers my IBS, and that’s not something I can change.
Same goes for the yoga classes I took a while ago. My yoga teacher stressed me out because she always pointed out how bad I was. And whenever I wasn’t feeling great, I was dreading going there. I didn’t feel comfortable in those classes and it was only a matter of time before I gave them up.
Working out at home works a lot better for me. I do it at my own pace, stop when I need to and don’t have to worry about looking ridiculous. This way, I even want to exercise when I feel unwell because I can always choose what works for me.
The bottom line is, if you start making excuses, then your goal probably doesn’t align with your lifestyle. You need to find a way to make yourself feel good in order to meet long-term goals!
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