1. Christmas was difficult
Whilst the full moon glowed overhead, many told me that their Christmases weren’t glowing with happiness. Indeed, the holiday season can hurt. Because we fantasise about warmth, togetherness and love during the holidays, it is especially heartbreaking when reality is ugly. People stop speaking to each other, and big revelations are made. These bombs flatten the landscape of our life stories, as our idea of ‘the truth’ becomes redefined.
Solution: Denial is the laundry stack that piles up for months. It makes it harder to start clearing, but it doesn’t change the fact that you’re running out of clean clothes. Similarly, if Christmas hurt, acknowledge it. Then, make a decision whether to build bridges or close the drawbridge with these people. Often, the things we run away from, can actually become our source of strength when we face them.
2. You feel overwhelmed
It’s easier to commit to flossing one tooth every night than to ‘no cavities ever again’ or even ‘flossing every tooth’. Forget fear of success and failure, and perfectionism as reasons for not starting. Procrastination is our brain’s way of screaming at us that it doesn’t know how to get to our goals, according to productivity expert and computer science professor Cal Newport. Big goals are useless if they are too vague for us to start. Thinking is purely mental, and if we’re not doing, then nothing gets done. The bottomline being, we don’t lack courage. We lack a plan.
Solution: Answer these questions to guide you towards that plan.
1. What does (goal) look like?
2. What would (achieving this goal) look like in my life?
3. How can I achieve this?
4. What are my three simplest steps to begin this.
Because starting the ball rolling creates momentum for us to stay on the path.
Bonus 1: Reframing procrastination as ‘my goals are too vague’ rather than ‘I’m useless’ stops us from self-loathing.
3. It’s not that important
She mumbled, “I don’t want to lose weight. I couldn’t give a f*** about it but my husband keeps breathing down my neck.” Her resentment towards the goal made it impossible to start. I got her.
It’s easy to adopt goals that others expect. Ideas about body image, wealth and career– we are assaulted by relentless pressure and contradictory messages on these fronts. Midlife and quarter life crises are infamous for the refrain “This wasn’t really my dream, you know?”. And you don’t need to wait for these times to start examining what you really desire.
Solution: You only have this one life. Your time and resources are finite. So, what goals are truly important to you and belong to you. The rest can be shelved away.
4. There are things you’re truly struggling with
In February at a networking lunch, our table asked my mentor Ramit Sethi, what makes someone a top performer on his courses. His response was that these people have a stable life– their lives are in shape, their finances are looking good, and they like the relationships that they are in. These big things in life are what he calls the ‘tripod of stability’ from which we can pursue the other things we desire. I couldn’t agree more.
But what if our tripods are nonexistent? Because life happens (see the point on Christmas above). We feel powerless about our relationships, work, and our emotions. These cascade down to effects on our physical and mental wellbeing, meaning we struggle to get out of bed or talk to someone else. The idea of life terrifies us, and we are trapped in our minds. These are difficulties that cannot be solved with productivity tricks and manuals on optimum performance.
Solution: If this sounds like you, then let your goals motivate you. But first, heal yourself. Create and set up your tripod of stability.
5. Too much stick, too little carrot
“What are you doing to reward yourself?”, I asked my young and very bright client.
“Nothing”, he said, “I’m waiting till the big goal is reached”.
“But that’s in eighteen months time”, I exclaimed.
“But. . I don’t know how to reward myself. I only scold myself all the time”, he smiled shyly.
Here’s the biggest fallacy we’re told– that beating ourselves up helps us to achieve. Actually, it makes us unhappier, more perfectionistic, and we let ourselves in for a whole barrage of unnecessary anxiety and ill feelings about ourselves.
Solution: The more we reward ourselves along the way, the more dopamine gets released into our brain, and the higher our sense of satisfaction. This makes us likelier to follow through our goals. Plus, taking better care of ourselves helps us build better resilience and a stronger sense of self.
In the midst of feeling stuck on your resolutions, did you really do nothing at all? Chances are, you might have begun culling emotional and physical baggage. Without clearing our clutter, we’ll never be happy even if we achieve the Big Goals. That’s why you hear people saying, “Back then, I thought I was feeling like shit because I was lost in my career/ love life. . . but now, things are fine, and I’m feeling worse”. Remember what you’ve done. Appreciating yourself is the first and most important step, because we are our best investments.
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