If you’ve read anything about the traits of first-born children, that’s me. I’m a classic “Type-A” personality. I used a day planner until I purchased my first smartphone, and continue to carry a notebook for “to do” lists with me at all times. In fact, I can be so productive that I WILL NOT write something on my list, or set a “resolution” unless I intend to follow through. With goal-setting, once it’s written down, I’m like a dog with a bone.
So what could possibly be the problem with this seemingly wonderful trait, you may ask?
If you are a type-A over-achiever, then you know how difficult it can be to stop doing what “needs” to be done and just “enjoy the present moment.” Being a super-producer that’s focused on the end product can be energy sapping and create serious burnout. This leaves little energy for the people and things you love.
And what about those who want to produce, but find they can’t?
These people often identify themselves as the “ultimate procrastinator”. They become so overwhelmed with ALL of the amazing things that they want or need to do that they can’t get started on ANYTHING. The great news is that it’s totally possible to reach your goals AND enjoy the ride, regardless of what your struggles are.
How To Reach Your Goals While Enjoying The Ride
1) Pick something you enjoy doing:
Obviously, it’s a lot easier to be engaged in an activity or process that is rewarding in and of itself. Not everything you will need to do falls into this category but start with goal-setting here. This allows you to gain momentum and trust in yourself that you can get things accomplished. Then you can use these newly develop strategies with tasks that are less enjoyable.
2) Set micro goals and pare down:
Don’t get overwhelmed by the big picture. Think about what the larger goal is and work backward. If you want to do X in a year, what do you need to do each month? What do you need to accomplish each week? What steps do you need to take today? Set goals that are so small that it’s almost impossible not to follow through. Write them down and go from there. You climb a mountain one step at a time.
3) Ready, Aim, Fire, Adjust:
What would you be if you had decided your lifelong career plan as a child? I would be an out-of-work astronaut. I see a lot of clients stressed out about the fact that they feel like they’ve made certain life choices and feel it’s “too late” to change their course. Some of these clients are only 19 years old!
The average college student changes their major 3 times. Setting goals, taking actionable steps and then determining if the course is correct is part of the map. Analyze what is working and what’s not. Then you can adjust your course for better results and more fulfillment in life.
4) Be process driven, not results driven:
Success is more than the end result. Often times, there are secondary gains to our primary goals. Changing your diet for medical reasons can impact self-esteem, weight, and mood (or losing weight for vanity can impact self-esteem, mood, and health). Teaching kids to learn for the love of learning, rather than solely for an A on a test creates smart, curious, doers who persevere long after the tests are over.
I first started running (one of my current passions) because my middle school cross country coach gave us Little Debbie Snack Cakes at the end of the meets. Now, 25 years later, I run because it makes me feel good mentally and physically. These secondary goals have allowed me to continue running and have pushed me to grow.
5) Expand your view of “success”:
Set goals like you are applying for colleges. Educational consultants suggest having a “safety” school, an “aim” school, and a “reach” school. The same logic applies to other goals.
- Safety Goal- This is the goal that is almost impossible not to achieve if you “show up”.
- Aim Goal- This is the goal that you’ve really prepared for. You have a great chance of hitting this goal if you stay the course (this is your real “goal”).
- Reach Goal- This is the goal that you would be over the moon to achieve, but it’s a pretty long shot. Many people set this as their initial goal. Then they beat themselves up or quit early because it is so out of reach.
By setting goals this way, you find success in hitting near the mark, rather than feeling a sense of failure if you were overly ambitious, hit a snag, or fall short. Being flexible in both your view of “success” and “results” reduces all-or-none thinking, and allows you to find pleasure in the ride.
6) Get Outside Help:
Sometimes we have a fixed mindset that makes it very difficult to shift the way we think and act. Meeting with a clinically trained therapist to work through what’s holding you back can be life-changing. Or if you struggle to set goals or need accountability, consider working with an Executive Functioning coach. This is like a personal trainer for goal development and implementation. A good executive functioning coach can explicitly teach and help you apply the skill set needed to accomplish ambitious goals.