photo credit Chris Hitchcock

The human spirit is an amazing strength within us all. I believe every one of us is capable of doing anything we set our mind to, but it cannot happen automatically – it takes action, effort, determination, and facing our fears.

Last week’s blog spoke about fear and how debilitating fear can be on our actions if we allow it in our lives. Fear is never productive. We need to actively practice dealing with our fear, so that when we experience it (and everyone does experience it), we don’t allow it to control us. Instead we know to engage it, see it for what it is, and then shrink it to a size that makes us able to see it for what it is.

Keeping motivated in whatever endeavour we’re tackling, be it a race you’re training for, a project at work or home, learning something new, studies, or any venture at all, can be a challenge in itself. The end goal, like a final exam or the big race you’re aiming for, might be a long time away, too long for you to remain inspired to keep focused. Similarly, the difficulty of the goal may feel so great that you feel it’s out of reach.

Mini goals are a great way to keep your motivation levels high. They help to keep our passion alive, reminding us of our purpose and how important it is to persevere for what we’re wanting to achieve.

Plotting several mini goals that are within reach timing-wise and effort-wise not only helps to keep us motivated but also presents a way of monitoring our progress towards our main goal. From a running perspective, for example, if I have an important ultra-distance race scheduled for several months’ time, I plot a number of smaller, shorter races during the months leading up to my main race as part of my build-up. I use those races as smaller goals to work towards, helping me improve my speed, form and fitness for my end goal: to perform as best I can in the major race.

In the same way, someone studying for an end-of-year exam will have a series of assignments and tests throughout the year, both as a means of evaluation and preparation for the final examination.

So no matter what it is you’re doing, be it a short- or long-term project, a work assignment, a new venture, a campaign, or any task at all that involves personal development and working towards a better way of being, goal planning will help to give structure to your thinking and your actions.

I believe there are five essentials to setting goals:

  • The first is to make your goals measurable. Be sure your goal, and your mini goals, are definite targets you can aim for, like perhaps a certain finish time, a weight, or a percentage mark in a test. This will help you keep on track, monitor your progress, and if necessary, give you an indication of how you need to adjust your approach.
  • Secondly, be sure your goals are attainable. While it’s good to set goals high, remember that you do want to achieve them. A goal should be big enough to challenge and push you out of your comfort zone, but not so extreme that you don’t think it’s achievable. Both your mini goals and your main goal need to be targets that, with improvement, you know you will be capable of. They should not be overwhelming or unrealistic.
  • The third important aspect is to ensure your goals are relevant to you. Remember the 3 Ps – passion, purpose and perseverance: your goals need to be something you consider important enough that you will be prepared to work hard to achieve them. Remember, they need to be relevant to you, not to someone else.
  • Fourthly, give your goals a deadline. Set a date by which time you plan to achieve your targets. This will help keep you motivated, keep you on your toes and working towards your improvement.
  • Finally, it’s useful to make your goals action-oriented. This means knowing not only what you want to achieve, but how you plan to achieve them.

Still find the joy
As important as working hard to achieve your goals is, it’s vital to ensure the JOY remains. If we don’t feel joy from the things we do, the enthusiasm in our effort turns to drudgery. Just as positivity encourages growth, so effort without enjoyment becomes tedious and negative. Enjoying what we do keeps the spring in our step, the energy in our efforts, the excitement in our hard work.

Inevitably there’ll be days when that enjoyment is sorely tested – we might be tired, or perhaps an assignment did not go as planned, or things didn’t turn out quite as we’d hoped. Times like these will be inevitable, they can happen at any time. Sometimes they’re so substantial they have us questioning our decisions.

It’s important we don’t let disappointment sway us or blur our focus. It’s in trying times that we need to remind ourselves of the 3 Ps – passion, purpose and perseverance: it’s these three elements that help us maintain our course on our chosen path to a better way of being.