Many of us set goals for ourselves with the best of intentions. We want to introduce a new habit, activity, or commitment that we feel will benefit or enhance our lives in some way. It almost goes without saying, however, that following through on the things we’ve said we were going to do can sometimes feel like the hardest thing in the world. Personally speaking, I’ve always found it a lot easier to follow through on a task (even an unpleasant one) when I’m accountable to someone else. In recent months, however, I’ve set a lot of new goals to which the only person I’m accountable is myself. This has proven to be a challenging area for me, but fortunately, I’ve identified some strategies that help me to get started, and I’m going to share them today. So without further ado, here are 5 steps for getting your butt in the chair (or out of the house):
1) Think about how you’ll feel afterwards if you don’t do what you said you would.
Be honest with yourself and don't sugarcoat your answer. If you don’t meet your work goal for the day (or at least take a really good stab at it), if you don’t show up for the class or the meeting, how will you really feel at the end of the day? Defeated? Lazy? Ineffective? Stuck? Like you let yourself down? Are you prepared to end your day feeling this way? Didn't think so.
2) Think about how you’ll feel after you do it.
Even if you don’t walk away from the experience having gained anything life-changing or totally amazing, you’ll at least be able to know you held yourself accountable for something and followed through. Do NOT discount how valuable and important this is.
3) Recognize how awesome it is that you’re able to consciously (and unconsciously) come up with reasons not to do something. That's right: awesome.
I’m too tired. It’s too far away. It’s too cold outside. I’m not going to get anything out of this anyway. We all play an active role in cultivating and feeding our favorite excuses, but most of the time, we don’t even realize that we’re doing it. While coming to terms with the fact that we are the ones responsible for inventing these (convincing and sometimes very creative) excuses can be a hard pill to swallow, it’s actually a very liberating concept: seeing ourselves as the active agent instead of the passive victim of procrastination puts us in the drivers seat and reminds us that we are the ones who with the power to decide.
4) Tell yourself all the reasons why you WILL do it – and make sure you come up with a damn convincing argument.
My friend Christina turned me on to this one. Instead of putting your energy into talking yourself out of something, talk about why you will do it. Make a list, write a paragraph, or write a dialogue between two characters. Pour a little time and energy into bulking up the “other side’s” campaign.
5) If all else fails, put a ban on thinking about it anymore and just take the first step.
You heard me: a ban. Here's the truth: feelings come and go. We may never “feel like doing something,” but who says our feelings have to determine our actions? On that same note: we can and argue and debate and reason with ourselves until we’re blue in the face, but sometimes even reason isn’t powerful enough. Sometimes you just have to put your body into motion. Start by take the first step and don’t even allow yourself to think about whether or not you really want do something. The answer you're searching for is irrelevant. Getting it done is the only thing that matters.
The reward that comes with following through on the promises you make to yourself is twofold: you get to experience the amazing feeling of having accomplished your goal, of course, but you also get to feel great about the fact that you did what you said you were going to do. Keeping promises to yourself is just as important as keeping the promises you make to others – I would argue that it’s even more important in some instances.