Starting something new is fun and interesting. It holds your interest until it gets tough and then you turn your attention in a different direction just to start the process over again. I've done this time and time again, I get it. While there are times that this is fine, like when it comes to your hobbies, if you're serious about envisioning a certain future for yourself, it's important to make a plan and stick to it. I've found this doesn't get easier with time or practice, but I have found ways to help me stick to something and I hope they can help you too.
There's a learning curve chart that I've seen that breaks down like this:
- Okay, this seems fun.
- What was I thinking, this seems hard.
- Awww! I don't know what I'm doing but I'm doing it.
- Oh hey! I get it!
- I know nothing.
- Wait. That made sense.
- Did I just do that?
- I did it!
The process I've found to work best to get through this learning curve and achieve what you set to achieve is simple, but not easy and it's something that I still struggle with.
Here's the actionable advice, with details below it. The post is structured this way so once you're familiar with the content you can quickly refer back to the list in the future.
- Determine your WHY and make it visible.
- Create a plan for achieving your goal.
- Trust your plan.
- Discipline over motivation.
- Re-evaluate your plan after an appropriate amount of time.
- Don't beat yourself up for tripping along the way.
- We are our own worst critic.
- Set a deadline.
- Find a way to help keep yourself accountable.
Now let's dive into the specifics of each of these points:
- Determine your WHY and make it visible. Sticking to something over the long-term is difficult. To help us stick to something we need to get to the root of why we want to do that thing in the first place. I've found considering the reasons I'm taking on something and noting them are very helpful to keeping me committed to that thing. I prefer to put that information somewhere that I will see it every day, without having to go out of my way to see it.
My specific solution for keeping me on track and making my WHY front of mind is that I mounted a small white board to the wall next to my bed. This is so I am reminded every night when going to bed and every morning when I wake up, why I am doing what I'm doing.
- Create a plan for achieving your goal. So now you know what you want to achieve. And you have it readily visible. It's time to start planning the steps on how you're going to get there.
You only know so much at the start so it's normal, and expected, for this plan to change as you learn more. However, it's important to have a plan that you can refer back to and modify as needed to keep you on track. As you'll see later, it's useful to set deadlines to milestones in your plan and have an ultimate deadline for your big goal/WHY.
If you don't have a timeline, you'll find that you continue to find things to do to fill the time but they are not always productive or driving you closer to your WHY.
- Trust your plan. Things will get tough. You will want to quit. Practice self-talk over self-listen.
There will be days you wake up that you think you do not want to do that thing.
You want to move on to something else.
It gets boring.
You want to sleep in.
You're stuck on a hard problem.
Silly reason XYZ.
You'll come up with all kinds of excuses why you should quit or move on to something else. If you have that initial note of why you're doing what you're doing, it will help keep you on track. Trust the plan that you set because you created it to guide you to your why.
The work or routine you set for yourself will probably not be easy. There will be so many voices in your head telling you to go back to bed or that you should quit. It's important to develop the skill to talk back to these voices and not simply roll over and listen to them. All too often we listen to that voice in our head and never talk back. Developing the skill to talk back and tell that voice what we're going to do is vital.
- Discipline over motivation. Stick to your plan. Motivation is a farce. We don't wait to do things until we're motivated. We do things because we tell ourselves we have to do them. We set a goal. We define the path to get there. Don't wait for motivation to get started. Don't wait for motivation to kick back in to keep going. Just do it. You set a plan. Stick to your plan. Trust your plan. Do the plan. Accomplish your goals. This is the toughest part and its why so many people falter or don't achieve their true potential.
- Re-evaluate your plan after an appropriate amount of time. After a while, maybe 1 or 2 months, see how you're progressing and if you need to make any changes to your plan. If you've stuck to your plan and stayed disciplined, you'll have come a long way. Don't write your progress off. Take note of it. Celebrate it. And then re-evaluate your plan. You know a lot more now than when you started. Are there things you need to adjust? Do you need to alter your plan as a whole? Set the new path if needed, and get back to following it. When the days get tough, remember to just follow the plan because it's guiding you to your goal.
- Don't beat yourself up for tripping along the way. Humans are not perfect. Accept the trip up, don't label yourself as a result of it, and move back to following your plan. Something you can potentially relate this to is following a diet. You may mess up and divert course in a day or an afternoon. Instead of just saying that's your new you, it's not. You slipped one day, and tomorrow is a new day and you can get back on track.
- We are our own worst critic. It's easy to start to tell ourselves we cannot do something or we are not good enough. If we talked to others the way we commonly talk to ourselves, we'd be called assholes. Don't be an asshole to yourself. Tell this voice to stop it because we have work to do and you're awesome.
Something I've started making a habit of keeping front-of-mind is, "you're doing your best." If you do your best, no one, not even you, can tell yourself you're not good enough.
- Set a deadline. Work expands to fill the time its allotted. Because of this, it's so important to set deadlines for milestones and our ultimate goal along the way. Yes, they can be adjusted but it's so important to set them and do your best to stick to them. Otherwise, you'll find all kinds of things to do in the name of productivity but which aren't actually driving you closer to your goal.
- Find a way to help keep yourself accountable. This year, a good friend of mine and I started holding weekly get togethers or phone calls every Saturday to check in on our previous week. Sometimes we go out to lunch, but most of the time we just have a phone call.
We hold a productive conversation that covers all kinds of stuff. It primarily focuses on how we're progressing along with our goals. We discuss what we've learned. What we got done. What we plan to do. This is helpful because we know each week that conversation is coming up and the previous week we set goals that were verbalized to the other one. If we show up not having met those goals, it will be questioned. We'll have to have an answer. There's a bit of a pressure there to want to deliver because you told that person you planned to deliver. Obviously by not doing so, the only person you're impacting is yourself but the extra person helps. It's a good reminder and way to keep and hold yourself accountable. If you want, I think it'd be awesome for you and I to have these conversations.
I hope this helps you in your journey and I hope to continue to be a part of it. I'm excited for what your future holds.