This is a continuation of the 4 Steps to Accomplishing Your Goals series, a walk-through of the process I use to accomplish many things throughout the year. I’m also highlighting stories from people who’ve accomplished big goals in their life or business.
Today is Step 3: Break Barriers and Collect Small Success. We’ll talk about how to recognize and continue your current progress even if the excitement’s worn off (and even if it doesn’t seem like you’ve made any progress yet). I’m also including ideas for continuing to move toward your goal even when facing challenges. If you haven’t read them already, I recommend catching up on Step 1: Assess and Clarify and Step 2: Plan and Take Action before continuing on to this third step.
Keep reading to learn more about Step 3 and then come back next Tuesday (Jan 31) to read Step 4: Reflect and Celebrate.
The four steps each also have worksheets that help you walk through this process. If you want them, be sure to answer Yes!! on that section on the Insiders signup form (if you’re already signed up, you can update your profile by using the same email you used before).
Step 3: Break Barriers and Collect Small Success
Right now, you’re in the in-between. You’ve gotten started, but you haven’t crossed the finish line yet. The goal is still unmet, any changes you started aren’t permanent yet, and maybe the initial excitement and newness have worn off.
Now’s the time to recognize the progress you’ve already made. And yes, you’ve made progress, even when it doesn’t feel like it. Then we’ll explore solutions to break barriers standing between you and your goal.
Collect small success
Of course, if you’ve made giant progress at this point and want to celebrate that too, go for it! This post focuses on smaller success because it’s harder to recognize, but really, this step is about celebrating whatever success you currently have.
Track your progress
First, write down (or record in some other way, but go a step beyond just “thinking about it”) a list of anything you’ve done to make progress toward your goal. Have you reached any of your milestones or completed some of your action steps? What have you done that you wouldn’t normally do without this goal to motivate you?
Compare where you are now to where you were before Step 1 (assessing your situation and clarifying your goal). Are you at all closer to the goal now than you were then? If not, were you closer to the goal at any point between starting and now? (In other words, did you have forward and then backward progress?)
Next, compare this time to other times you’ve started this or similar goals. Are you doing better than before?
You don’t have to be the Best-Ever #1 Success. Just be better than the last time you tried it. That indicates progress. For example, if you promptly forgot about the goal the first time, but this time you still remember your goal, that’s progress. If you even thought about taking action on one of your action steps, but last time it would’ve never occurred to you, that’s progress. If you actually did one thing, but last time did nothing, that’s progress. Even the tiniest step closer than the last time is progress.
Have a mini-celebration
Find a way to celebrate that small (or large) success. Make it proportionate to the achievement, but use your own definition to tell you if it’s an achievement.
If it feels like a big success to you, it is–even if you don’t think someone else would call it that. Comparing yourself, your progress, and your success to others isn’t helpful at this point. It’s something I struggle with and it’s something I want to help you avoid.
On the other hand, don’t celebrate a small success with a giant reward that should be saved for when you accomplish your final goal. Saving the big reward for completion of a big goal will help keep you motivated.
The temptation to give a disproportionate reward can be especially high when your motivation’s lacking and you’re experiencing resistance. Keep reading for tips to push past this resistance for continued success.
You’ve already moved beyond “just talking about it,” but you might have barriers slowing your progress. Or, maybe you’ve been surprised by a challenge that makes it difficult to even start on this goal.
If nothing’s come up yet, this is a good time to take a moment to think about what you can do to prevent getting stuck in the future. What do you think will be the most challenging part of this process? Is there anything coming up that will make it difficult to continue to your goal?
To prevent this from turning into a worry session that cripples all future progress, focus only on the potential barriers that are 1) most likely to happen, and 2) if they did happen, would definitely slow or prevent progress.
Then, create a plan (even a basic one) to answer the question: If this problem occurs, how will you work around that to continue progress toward your goal?
If you think there’s something currently preventing or slowing your progress, try some of these ideas to give your progress a reboot:
Remember your why: What was your reason for wanting to do this goal or make this change? Review your notes from Step 1 if you have to. If you’re losing track of this it might help to think about whether this is still a strong reason for you. If it is, consider putting a reminder of your reason(s) somewhere you can see it when things get difficult. I find that remembering my motivation helps me see the bigger picture and be more willing to push past challenges.
Check your trophies: You already have times in your life when you accomplished something. It can be big or small, and it doesn’t matter if other people recognized the accomplishment or not. The important thing is that you did it. First, think about those memories and know that you’re capable of accomplishing goals. Then, take some time to think through the process you went through. There were probably challenges in those situations too. What helped you overcome or push past the difficulties to achieve success? Would it be possible to do today what you did then?
Remove the disguises: What’s the real challenge? Sometimes the challenge isn’t actually what it seems. For example, is “not having enough time” a real challenge or a matter of priorities? What could you do to help manage your time and tasks? Do you have expectations of how certain things should get done, but that don’t really need to be done in that way or to that degree? If you’re not clear on the problem, it’s hard to come up with a solution. Figuring out what the actual challenge is will help you create a plan to work around it.
Ask for help: Now’s the time to ask that mentor / accountability partner / supportive community for help and encouragement. They may be able to offer outside perspective, and they may have even experienced something similar and can tell you what worked for them.
Go beyond your circle: Learn from the experiences of people beyond your immediate contacts by watching a video or reading a story of someone accomplishing a similar goal. What was the process they went through? What were some of their challenges? How did they overcome these? What from their experience can you apply to your life?
Scale it back: It may be that the barriers aren’t barriers at all, but reflections of a poorly designed goal. If your goal is too large or unrealistic, things that wouldn’t normally become barriers are now barriers, because the goal includes far too many possibilities. It will probably be helpful to take each action step of your current goal and further break them down, taking them through Steps 1 and 2 until you have a series of smaller, more achievable goals.
Calm your fear: Are your challenges related to fear and worry? Find a way to recognize and process these emotions so you can move forward. Sometimes a small success will help provide evidence against a fear. Other times, fears and concerns show us we have a problem with our plan. You can modify your plan to prevent or fix this problem. It would be good to talk with people who’ve overcome a similar fear or concern. They can help you figure out if you should stop to adjust the plan or can give you tips and strategies to move forward effectively despite this fear.
If you are in need of professional help for major fears, phobias, emotional or other events that are keeping you from reaching your goals, I highly recommend you get it. Take it from someone who knows from experience, emotional health is a major factor in overall wellness, and it will be much easier to achieve your goals if you’re living a balanced and healthy life.
When you have your list of small successes and have created some new action steps to help you overcome your barriers, continue using your plan to keep your forward progress going over the next week, and then come back next Tuesday (Jan 31) to read Step 4: Reflect and Celebrate.
Want the worksheet to help you through this process? Sign up for the Insiders list and answer Yes!! on that section of the signup form to let me know to email it to you.
(If you’re already signed up, you can update your profile by using the same email you used before).