"So, how's life? What have you been doing?"
The seemingly harmless question at a catch-up with friends makes my heart sink. What have I been doing?
I had a lot of resolutions for myself this year. I wanted to write more, learn more, exercise more. And yet we're now closer to the next year than the last, and I can't seem to think of a single noteworthy achievement to show for it.
So, I hit them with the classic, "Oh, you know, just the usual," and quickly changed the subject.
One missed goal was to have the first draft of my screenplay completed by the time I finished my screenwriting course at the end of June. But as the last class rolled around, and my screenplay lay woefully incomplete on my desktop, I couldn't help but feel deflated. I'd missed my chance.
At times like this, it's easy to feel as if it’s too late to get back on track. You missed this deadline so what's the point in setting another? While it's natural to feel disappointed, lingering on these negative feelings and punishing yourself is only ever going to do more harm than good.
So, instead of giving up, I decided to treat this as an opportunity to look back at what I'd done well, to plan what I still had left to do, and to focus on how I could improve my chances of success.
These four ideas helped me to bounce back and refocus on my goal.
Instead of lingering on your failures, focus on your achievements. What new skills have you gained? What do you know now that you didn't before? Chances are you've achieved much more than you realize.
If you've missed your deadline, you may be reluctant to reward yourself. You may even try to downplay your achievements. But these successes are crucial for maintaining motivation. Keeping a note of your achievements will help you to shift your focus from minor setbacks to the bigger, more optimistic, picture.
Next, consider why you didn't meet your goal. Were your objectives too vague? Was your timeframe unrealistic? Perhaps it was a harder task than you envisaged, or outside distractions got in your way?
In my case, I may have been a little over-optimistic about what I could achieve in the time available. If, like me, you suffer from "time blindness" you may struggle to accurately determine how long a project or goal will take.
So, try breaking it down into more manageable, tangible tasks – and time yourself so you can plan your schedule accordingly.
Remember, you've only failed if you didn't learn anything. Once you've established what was missing the first time around, you'll be better equipped to achieve your goals next time.
Be honest with yourself. It's easy to procrastinate and blame external factors instead of getting to the root of the problem. Perhaps your goals simply don't align with your interests or long-term aspirations anymore.
Change is inevitable so don’t be surprised if some of your objectives don't stand the test of time. Focus on what you love and be prepared to adjust or reset your goals according to what life throws at you!
If you don't know where to start, consider what support or training could help make your goals more achievable.
Perseverance is key. Many of us know what it's like to start a new hobby or project with the best of intentions but run out of steam after just a couple of weeks. So, how do you keep that momentum going?
The answer lies in good habits. Whether it's hitting the gym or learning a new language, set aside a specific time and place to work on your goal. No matter how unproductive or unmotivated you feel, make sure you stick to your routine. According to James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, "It's the cumulative impact of always sticking to your schedule that will carry you to long-term success."
Failure to meet your goals can be demoralizing but it often has more to do with the way you set your goals than your ability to achieve them.
So, it's important not to lose sight of what's important. Effective goals aren't a box-checking exercise. Instead, they act as a framework for your learning, keeping you focused and motivated.
By reassessing my expectations and setting a new deadline, I'm pleased to say that I was able to complete the first draft of my screenplay and move on to my next goal. One missed goal doesn't have to spell disaster. In fact, it could be just the beginning of your success story!
Here's a curated list of Mind Tools relevant resources (please keep in mind you may need to be a member of the Mind Tools Club to access certain resources):
About the Author
With a background in writing and illustration, Rosie uses her creative eye to produce eye-catching content. Specializing in videos, newsletters and articles, Rosie produces, writes, edits, and proofreads a wide range of resources. When she's not busy working, she'll likely be found whipping up cakes for her friends and family!
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