Jim Rohn said, "Success is steady progress towards one's personal goals.” I find the most happiness and fulfillment as I make progress to my goals. I find that making progress toward a goal is even more rewarding than achieving the goal. It’s the journey, not the destination, that matters. In my last post I wrote about how to set goals. In this post I’ll describe 4 practices for working toward goals.
1. Be consistent
Another Jim Rohn quote is, “discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment."
Achieving worthy goals takes disciplined, consistent effort over a long period of time.
Darren Hardy teaches this principle in his book, The Compound Effect (see my post on the topic here). The main premise is that small efforts, compounded over a long period of time, can yield amazing results.
2. Review goals regularly
A common New Years resolution practice is to think of some goals, go to the gym a few times, and then slip back into old habits.
One way to avoid that pattern is to write down goals and review them regularly. I review my goals at least weekly.
Every Sunday morning I set aside some time for a review of the past week. I review each of my main goals, evaluate my progress, and make plans to improve. I always review my top goals, and most weeks I also read through my entire life plan to make sure I’m not deviating significantly from my ideal in any area of my life.
3. Don’t give up
It’s easy to get excited about a goal when first setting it, and at the end we get to bask in the glory of accomplishing something great. But the middle can get pretty messy. It can be long, boring, and difficult.
The Resistance basically describes feelings like opposition, discouragement, and self-loathing as we work toward challenging goals. We all experience this force, but the difference between the successful and mediocre is how we react to this force.
Having a clear purpose, or why, helps sustain motivation through Resistance in the messy middle. How many of us have quit something because we asked ourselves, "why am I doing this?” and couldn’t think of a good answer?
As I’ve written about before, one of my goals 3 years ago was to run a half marathon. I set the goal because I wanted to lose weight, but I soon found that weight loss alone is not a strong motivator. Any given run only burns a small fraction of a pound of fat. That is hardly motivation to get out of my warm bed on a cold morning.
However, after struggling to get started I discovered an even stronger why. I found that running boosted my mood, energy, and brain function. The “runner’s high" sometimes lasted an entire day after a good run. It was those benefits that kept me going through the training. I happened to reach my weight loss goal in the process, but the weight loss was a side benefit, and not my primary motivator.
4. Give up
Wait, what? I just said don’t give up. But quitting doesn’t always make us a quitter. Sometimes our refusal to quit halts our progress. Sometimes we need to give up on one pursuit to free our time, energy, and money to pursue something better.
It’s not easy to know whether or not to quit. It can be hard to distinguish Resistance against a worthy goal from legitimate realization that we would be better off focusing on something else.
This dilemma is common with startup companies. The history of any successful company that I’m aware of includes many ups and downs and even near-death experiences.
Most of us know the basics of Apple’s history. Michael Dell famously said in 1997, when asked what he would do to fix the struggling company, that he would shut it down and give the money back to shareholders. If Steve Jobs hadn’t stepped in and saved the company against significant Resistance, we probably wouldn’t have the Mac, iPod, iPhone, and iPad as we know them today.
On the other hand, in many cases founders and investors need to stop throwing good money and time after bad. It’s never easy to distinguish the best path, but sometimes giving up is the noble one.
Having a yearly goal-setting process doesn’t mean waiting for the end of the year before making changes. Don’t be afraid to adjust your priorities throughout the year.
As a final thought: don’t be afraid of failure. It sounds counterintuitive, but I don’t feel like a success if I achieve all of my goals. If I reach all my goals, I probably wasn’t shooting high enough. Even if I don’t completely achieve a goal, intentionally working toward it will put me in a better place than if I hadn’t set it in the first place.
So shoot high, consistently work toward your goals, review them regularly, don’t give up just because it’s difficult, but don’t be afraid to give up if your priorities change. Make this a great 2015!
Question: How do you make progress toward your goals?