Most people would succeed in small things if they were not troubled with great ambitions. – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Every so often I get a bug in my system that encourages me to seek tumultuous self-improvement and development in a very short amount of time. I suddenly experience a swelling sense of ambition and desire.
Usually, it starts relatively slow. An inkling want to be better in some way or eliminate an unpleasant feeling I have. A newfound motivation to eat better, loose weight, prioritize sleep, work out regularly, or read more. It always begins with one simple thing.
I start strong, formulating a clever mechanism to keep me motivated and a support system with friends. Feeling quite confident and able, I consider that maybe I can do better, do more even still. Instead of just working on weight loss I could also work on overall health.
The scope of the initial goal slowly but surely expands from “eat 1,300 calories a day and work out 3 times a week” to “eat 1,300 calories a day, workout 3 times a week, go to bed by 8:30p, drink 75oz of water a day, and walk 10,000 steps a day”. Again, I start strong. A few days or even a full week I meet every goal I set up for myself.
Then life happens. Maybe I am running late one day and forget my lunch, maybe I have nightmares causing me to not sleep well, or maybe I just have a lot of homework due. Each event is mostly insignificant and shouldn’t cause an uproar but it derails me wholly. Inevitably. I overloaded and overwhelmed myself.
Patience with myself is not a virtue I easily adhere to. When I want something that is in my power to achieve, I want it now and fully. This is my pitfall. If it is something where the timeline is out of my control, I am patient generally. College for example, I cannot forcefully speed up the classes or exert additional effort to expedite the process.
If I am in control then I tend to become unforgiving and borderline obsessed. I stop viewing it as a process and transform it into an instance. The hardest part, I am fully aware of this horrible, destructive habit. In fact, a few people close to me have let me know it is a form of self-sabotage.
Taking on so much at once that it is physically impossible to succeed is a type of self-sabotage linked to a desire for instant gratification. Knowing this has helped me start fighting off this habit or at least attempting to.
If you’ve been following my blog lately you know that I have A LOT of things I wanted to work on. It is no wonder I’m not doing so hot because I’m trying to do them all at once. How in the world do you break the self-sabotage habit of taking on too many self-improvement goals at once? Balance and intentional perseverance.
Here are some ideas to guide this new outlook!
- List out all the goals you’d like to pursue. Brain dump all the things that have been nagging away inside your head. Getting them on paper is critical to see the list physically because that can help reiterate just how unrealistic it is to try tackling them all at once. It can also help get the frenzied thoughts to calm down inside the mind.
- Prioritize that list. Take those items and number them from highest priority to lowest. Consider what is most important to you personally when ranking them.
- Pick one or two items to start with. This is particularly important. Based on priority, choose only one or two items. If you pick two, make sure they align with one another. Having them in the same realm is ideal for example weight loss and healthy eating. The two goals support one another. Goals that are independent, such as weight loss and daily gratitude, can cause priority clashes.
- Set up S.M.A.R.T. Goals for those items. Create specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-based goals. This will help maintain the scope of your goals and create accountability.
- Remain flexible and adaptable. Not all situations go according to plan, I would say most don’t even. Allow yourself to be flexible and compassionate with yourself.
Write your goals in pen and the date in pencil.
Something important to keep in mind is to not plan beyond those chosen goals. It is incredibly tempting for me to plan what goals to do after I meet my one or two current goals. This is a recipe for failure because it pulls focus from current goals and allows the scope to creep outward. It is also wise to avoid overlapping current and future goals.
It won’t be easy to start with a clean slate and focus on one or two goals but it will surely be more successful than the hectic scramble I’ve been trying lately!
Do you ever feel yourself trying to change too much at once? How do you focus your goals?