Why You Give Up On Your Goals (and how to prevent it)
Two birthdays ago, I declared “The Year of Fitness.”
Have you ever done that? Decided it was time to get fit (or write a book, or declutter, or, or, or…)? I hope it worked out better for you than it did for me.
Since it was my birthday and all, I meandered down to the fancy running store. The one where employees all run at least 9 miles a day. Outside. In the snow.
This guy took video of me on the treadmill and then drew lines on the iPad as he played it back. (All I noticed was my chicken-ankles.) He fitted me with fancy shoes and I slapped down my debit card, paying three times as much as I’d ever paid for shoes in my life. But they were an investment in my health and well-being. Right?
For the first week, I wore those shoes. I made a schedule and I put them on and I got up on the treadmill (after clearing off the other dusty exercise equipment and off-season clothes waiting to be donated).
I ran. Well, I’ll be honest. I walked. And then when my hips and knees started hurting, I walked slower.
And then I didn’t walk anymore.
So what gives?
This is a pattern for me. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this.
Starting is great. Excitement is rocket-fuel for a new goal. But at some point, the Red Bull wears off and things get harder. We hit the wall. We run out of ideas. We get “writer’s block.”
At this point, a whole lot of people give up. They stall. I stall. My fancy shoes perch at the base of the treadmill and stare at me, all judgy and convicting.
I know I’m not devoid of self-discipline. I work from home and don’t turn on Netflix during the day. I broke my addiction to potato chips (mostly). I turned myself into a morning person, for heaven’s sake.
So why is it so hard to to stick with run—er, walking?
It doesn’t matter enough
Maybe this sounds harsh. I mean, heart disease runs in my family. Those shoes could be a life and death thing for me. Keeping my heart healthy should matter to me more than pretty much anything else.
But clearly it doesn’t.
When I look at what needs to be done each day, there’s always something a little more urgent. Or something a little more important.
Writing. Work. Household chores. Errands. Down-time.
When reality hits, I prioritize all these things over my health. Not in concept, but in practice. Realizing that helps me to begin to adjust my priorities.
I bet your actions show some disconnects in your priorities, too. Be honest with yourself and make adjustments.
You haven’t found a team
I like my alone time. (Mark might say I like it a little too much). But too much of it can be dangerous for your goals.
When you’re alone, it’s easy to say “I’ll do that tomorrow.” (At least it is for me) But—news flash—procrastination is bad. If you have people around you cheering you on and checking in with you, it’s a whole lot harder to put things off.
I’m part of an amazing group of writers who’ve committed themselves to writing 500 words a day, every day.
Some of those writers have been tracking for over a year without missing a single day. Hundreds of thousands of words, a little bit at a time.
On days when I don’t feel like writing, I imagine having to post “Yeah, I watched three episodes of Sherlock instead of writing” to the group. And then I write.
A team of encouragers makes all the difference. Surround yourself with them.
You need the right tools
I like instant gratification. We all do, if we’re being honest.
So when I take on a big goal (I wanna be a writer, I want to run a half-marathon, etc), writing 500 words or walking 30 minutes doesn’t seem like much. In fact, it can be a little demoralizing.
With writing I figured out a better way to measure (and see) progress. For my first 31-day writing challenge, I created a spreadsheet that adds up my daily word count and presents a cool graph showing my overall total.
Watching that line climb? Priceless.
I need to do the same with exercise. Maybe you do, too? (FYI: the template will work for pretty much anything you want to measure)
What matters most?
There’s a theme here. I’ve tried a lot of things, and I see a common thread among the things I’ve stayed with.
Because, if we’re being real, everything gets hard. Every change we want to make in our lives comes with a cost. And when we’re excited it feels worth it, but there comes a time when we get tired.
The people who push through aren’t always the best at what they’re doing. Instead, they’re simply the ones who stuck with it.
A while back, I actually wrote a short eBook about sticking with it when things get hard.
Maybe I need to go back and read it myself. From the treadmill.
What are you tempted to quit? Leave a comment…
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I am a writer, a project manager, and a corporate refugee with a heart for orphans around the world. My two daughters were adopted from Ukraine at ages 12 and 14. I post about writing, chasing dreams, and making a difference in the world, and sometimes I share fun snippets of fiction in-progress.