Say you have set a significant personal or career goal but have now run into a setback to achieving your goals. It is natural to succumb to the temptation to quit when the going gets tough. Starting something is simple but execution is tough. Doubt creeps in. The hill looks steeper than you thought it would be, and you want to give up.
When you reach this point, there are important questions to consider. Why am I doing this? Why does achieving my goal matter to me?
Everything important requires a lot of challenging work. The arc between an idea and its outcome is a long one, but sometimes, we are conditioned to want results now. We can lose heart and give up if we do not get instant success. We see this type of behavior frequently in workplaces, as employees who fail to meet their revenue goals and start checking out. It also happens with innovators who have invested months into a new initiative but then begin to lose heart because of lack of traction.
Here is a perspective worth considering. Look at the careers of great leaders or athletes. Was it an instant shot to the top with no roadblocks for any of them? Usually not. Disappointments, failures and even reversals are all part of the journey of success, and this is true for everyone, regardless of the goal.
Frustrations can be a great teacher. It can help us reframe the difficulties we are experiencing that are in the way of achieving our goals. What can I be learning from this situation? What can this setback make possible?
Then, there is the idea of entitlement. We somehow feel we deserve success. However, a sense of agency can help us realize that challenging work is required to achieve our goals. It is the opposite of entitlement. A sense of agency helps us survive tough times.
Define your ‘why’
A straightforward way to find your why is to write down your goals and the key motivators associated with those goals. As Sir Edmund Hillary said, “It all comes down to motivation. If you really want to do something, you will work hard for it.” Your why will make all the difference in the world when you have lost focus and are finding that the pursuit of your goal is tough. Commitment and grit are also reaffirmed when you put your goals down on paper.
If you have identified 10 goals, consider prioritizing those to your top three. Willpower is finite for most of us, and having fewer priorities means there are fewer decisions you need to make. You can always set new goals once you have achieved the first three.
Finding an emotional connection to your why is also important. The likelihood of your success is high if you expect to feel better once you achieve your goals. When things are tough, examine your goals and motivators and ask yourself, “Why is this goal important to me personally? What is at stake here?”
Denis Waitley famously said that “the reason most people never reach their goals is that they do not define them.” Define your goals and set a path to ensure you achieve them. ●
Sanjay Singh is Executive chairman of the board of directors at Mace Security International