How To Follow Through On Your Goals
Goal setting for the new year is a process loaded with emotions like excitement, hope, disappointment, and anxiety as you reflect on what you weren’t able to accomplish and where you want to be.
If we pull the curtains back on these emotions, we probably find a mind ruminating on mistakes and setbacks and having a hard time with why they can’t follow through with goals and plans and keep their most important promise – the one to themselves. If you think about setting New Year’s resolutions alone, we get excited when that ball drops with all the possibilities, but by February, all the machines are empty again at the gym, all the items on our to-do list suddenly feels too complicated, and we are too busy to keep our commitments and our motivation tanks.
But committing to – and crushing – your goals doesn’t have to be this exercise in overwhelm.
In this blog, I’m sharing some thoughts I’ve had about following through on your goals (even past the resolutions) and the role of mindset in staying on task.
But before we break down the struggle with follow-through, let’s first take a minute to get on the same page about what the word even means. What do I mean when I say follow through?
Well, according to the websters dictionary, follow-through means “to complete (an activity or process that has been started)”. In other words, follow-through is an action (or set of actions) that you do in order to continue something you’ve already started, hopefully to an endpoint, or a goal.
We follow through with a lot of things in our lives, like getting up in the morning and getting dressed to get to work, when we cook a meal from prep to finish, pulling into a parking spot, etc. There are a lot of things we do often and easily get to the endpoint.
The obstacle comes when we want to follow through on a task that is challenging, unfamiliar, or new.
It’s when we set a goal for ourselves- whether it’s finishing a project by a certain deadline, learning a new language, building your side hustle after you get home from work, or getting to the gym five times a week (at the same time as all of the above), that follow-through gets to be more challenging and we fall off the wagon.
Why Do We Let Ourselves Down?
It’s not on purpose. Who wants to break a promise? And to ourselves!
The truth is, we tend to fight harder to keep our commitments to others than we sometimes do for ourselves. For example, you may find yourself working late to meet a deadline and put off going to the gym. Somewhere in our human development, we’ve learned to put the needs of others before our own, without the counterbalance of boundaries and self-advocacy.
Another reason we may not keep our commitment to self is our perfectionist and high achieving self, set the bar too damn high with unrealistic standards that are not attainable. That’s right, you set yourself up for failure.
It also doesn’t help that as a society, we are saturated by images and messages around us that say you should be able to do everything and make it look effortless. Growth and achievement are the opposite- it’s complex, dirty, messy, requires mistakes and flexibility.
Our success, performance, and happiness are deeply connected to our own beliefs about ourselves and our thinking styles around our capabilities. It’s easy for audacious goals to trigger doubts and avoidance- maybe I don’t know enough to do this, this is too hard because I’m not good enough or strong enough or as [blank] enough to attain that level, or I’m just going to fail at this too.
These negative thoughts and ideas easily trigger undoing actions like talking ourselves out of things or finding what we believe are more critical things to focus on.
How to Follow Through On Your Goals:
- Write them down. Decide on a goal and write it down. Place reminders of your goals on your desk, on your phone, and anywhere else you look often. The reminder to stay on track is sometimes all you need to help you make better decisions.
- A dose of reality. Reassess your goals from time to time. Is it realistic? Well, neither were Elon Musks’ goals. You do want to dream outside of your limits, but note how it makes you feel. You do want to eventually experience some progress in the direction of your goals, however small. Aim for a balance of intrigue and challenge, with a dash of struggle, but lean away from delusional.
- Let go of limitations & finally work on yourself. Learn to tune into your own limiting beliefs that have been well crafted to keep you safe. It’s harder to achieve your goals when you respond to those beliefs and fears. Embracing a growth mindset is key here. Read more, make time for podcasts on your way to work, surround yourself with other ambitious people, and get connected with experiences that will challenge your mindset and optimize your outcomes.
- Please don’t do it alone. It can be tough to keep resolutions on your own. Yes, you can probably do a lot by yourself, but all the quotes on success talk about the village and going further and faster together.
According to research from The American Society of Training and Development, people with an accountability partner are 65% more likely to reach their goals.
Related Post: Mindset Shifts to Dismantle Doubts
- Small digestible steps. Once you are clear on what you want, set the goal, and don’t look at it as one big overwhelming whole, but break it up into small, realistic objectives that collectively will help you get to your destination. If your goals are too big or vague, it is also more challenging to sustain.
- Repetition is key. Repetition speaks to the process required to get to your outcome. We often focus on what we want, like losing 30lbs or writing a book, but not on what is necessary to get there. Maybe it’s going to the gym twice a week or if you want to be an exceptional writer getting up at 5a and writing for an hour every day. It’s the repetition of those actions that lead to achieving those goals.
- Mix in self-compassion. That critical self will probably appear several times as you work on your goals. By adding self-compassion to the mix, you can change the impact of negative self-talk. When you notice a negative thought, just notice it and visualize it floating away- like a balloon floating way. The better you get at slaying that inner critic and replacing it with something more positive or helpful: Like a hug, encouraging yourself like you would a friend, or shifting to your favorite mantra, the greater your chances of success.
- Get your stress and anxiety under control. It’s hard to focus on your goals when you are not in optimal physical or emotional health. Things like overeating, alcohol, withdrawing to your room all day, self-harm, or engaging in avoidant behaviors are counterproductive to your success and a sign you need professional help to support your progress. Knowing your triggers and adding to your coping toolbox is an excellent self-care strategy.
Maybe your goal this year is to find two to three healthy ways to relax and cope with stress.
- Don’t forget to have fun. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the process that we forget to enjoy the journey. Work hard, celebrate the small victories, and find ways to make fun a priority. It’s much easier to work on a task when some part of it feels good. Don’t just look it where you want to be, think about how you want to feel.
Do you ever struggle with follow-through? What is your top strategy to follow through on your plans? Let me know below!
Amanda Fludd, LCSW-R isn’t just a Psychotherapist. She is here to help women in business tackle the fear behind success, master their emotions, and use their strengths to achieve the next level in their business. Take a look at how she can support you here: amandafludd.com/coaching.
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