River of Thoughts

Christine Royse Niles — Changing the world one word at a time

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.

Running Shoes

Photo credit: Fe Ilya via cc

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.

(Click here to get the template)

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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About Christine

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.

21 Replies

  1. I planned to get back to doing My 500 words again this year. Started out great, but didn’t write anything the past two weekends. I still need to finish my novel (the same one I worked on during Camp NaNo and NaNoWriMo.) Today, I write!

    1. Christine

      I hear ya, Joan…I have two novels that need to be finished, so of course today I started a third. 😉

  2. Loved your post and I really like how your site looks. Is that the Tribe Theme? Really clean-cut and sharp looking.

    I’m back to doing my walking and I found using Leslie Sansone tapes, she even has some on You Tube if you want to check it out, help me. I especially like the one where she has the clock on the top. she doesn’t just walk, it’s side steps, leg lifts. Anyway that is the mode. What I do is have a calendar that I put stickers on. Yes, I am a token reinforcement person. There. I’ve admitted it. But it bothers me if I can’t put a sticker on my calendar, so it works. I find after about ten minutes all those feel good chemicals start to do their stuff.

    1. Christine

      Ooooh, thanks, Anne! I’ll check Leslie out. And you’re the third person to suggest stickers on the calendar. Maybe God is trying to tell me something through y’all!

      (and yes. Tribe Theme. Get yours at tribetheme.com today. heehee. #shamelessplug #butnotactuallyonsaletilFebruary )

  3. Stella Myers

    I was tempted to quit writing, but the 500 words group pulled me through that and I have come to the conclusion that writing is me.

    1. Christine

      “Writing is me” LOVE it, Stella!!!!

  4. excellent tips! I have given up on goals in the past, and at least 3 of this year’s goals have been on my goal list for 3 years, but I have truly put together the babysteps and resources to make this year different, much like what you suggested #hustleon

    1. Christine

      Sweet, Tammy! Baby steps work for so many things. :)

  5. Once again, you have given me hope and inspiration to get back to it! I got off track with my 500 words and have yet to consistently ‘get back to it’. The emotional journey of writing is just like learning to run.

    Thank you for the “cheering on” as we run this race :) :) :)

    1. Christine

      You’re right, Michele. There are so many similarities…If only coffee could motivate me to run. :)

  6. I just learned that 3 episodes of “Sherlock” doesn’t equal 500 words of writing. I don’t know if I should love you, or hate you? 😉 Excellent post, Christine! I love your sense of humor.

    1. Christine

      Haha. I’ve tried to justify watching Sherlock (multiple times through) as research. My husband is starting to suspect I’m full of it.

  7. Christine, great article I shared it on twitter. I have been struggling to write lately with being back in school. But I have been doing it. Counting school work when I have to. My biggest struggle right now is doing all of the reading I need to do for my classes, while still doing the rest of life. I hope those shoes get dusted off and made the priority they should be. And I will try and make these books the priority they need to be too. 😀 God Bless,


    1. Christine

      Cheering for you, too, Paul. It’s incredibly hard to do school (well) and work at the same time!

  8. Awesome post!!! Love your honesty. Totally agree in the team concept for success in every area of our lives…especially fitness and overcoming too many potato chips:)

    1. Christine

      Ya know, I want to believe there are never too many potato chips. But my butt disagrees. :)

  9. I haven’t been writing 500 words a day but I post every Tuesday. Thanks for this inspiring message.

    1. Christine

      David, you have been one of the most consistent writers I’ve seen over the last year. And a consistent schedule that works is *way* better than one where you keep missing days and feeling like you’ve failed. You rock!

  10. Melinda Lancaster

    I wanted to and had all but quite writing before joining the 500 Words Group last year. It changed my life having a team. It still is. Last year my goal was just to write again. This year, I want to post. Several from the group are helping me with feedback and editing. I’ve found that even when other things press in (which was one of the reasons I quit writing in the first place) knowing that there are people investing in me with words of encouragement and feedback helps me press on.

    As far as exercise goes, although I have physical limitations, I got a FitBit a few years ago. Setting goals and getting virtual stickers really helps keep me moving. Plus I connected with some friends there. We don’t compete but we do cheer each other on.

    Thanks for sharing your struggle, Christine. This is something that most people can relate to. Blessings!

    1. Christine

      Melinda, this means so much to me. Thanks for sharing! I’m SO glad you’ve stuck with it and are finding the right people to help you grow and stay encouraged. That’s a magical combination!!!! :)

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