Very often, we get super motivated to attain our goals. We start taking a ton of good actions and get all hyped up about the beautiful possibilities... but then, the classic issue happens. The motivation fades away and we completely stop working on the project. It's always fun at the beginning and then it gets old or boring.
I have been going up and down that roller coaster for decades. I think I finally found the method that works best for me and is allowing me to complete large tasks and really move forward. You probably heard it a million times before. I divide the process in small chunks and do it consistently. What made the difference for me was the following:
- Clarify my true values
- Identify my true goals
- Accept that the learning process is never over
- Ship even if things are not perfect
- The journey is as important if not more than the goal
- The process will never be perfect and there will be ups and downs
If a project you're working on doesn't ring true with you, you'll easily drop it. Of course, there are tasks that we consider annoying that we all must complete such as cleaning the house, commuting somewhere, exercise, and so on. You could be surprised how most of them can become joyful or vanish on their own if you know what you're all about. Values is a broad term. You can write whatever you want on your value list as long as it rings true with you. Make those the general guidelines you navigate by.
Some of my values are:
- Perpetual Learning
Knowing what you want to accomplish in your life is a project in itself. Doing stuff for the sake of doing stuff is not fulfilling and, even if you bury yourself in work and constant business, you'll still try to fill in that void. You'll most likely botch what you're working on, never deliver, or drop it. If you finish it, you'll probably feel more relieved that it's over than a sense of accomplishment.
A lot of people confuse what they really want with what they're "supposed" to want. People get married, buy a house, and have kids. There's nothing wrong there. It's quite noble and a lot of people want that. What about those who don't?
If you're not married, people around you are pre-programmed to constantly ask you "When are you getting married?", "You're not married yet?!?!", along with the classic "When is it your turn to have children?".
We constantly feel the pressure of having to do stuff. This is where you have to be totally honest with yourself. Do you know what you really want or is your goal list tinted by the society's must-dos?
After doing a bit of self-improvement and goal work, I realized that I don't want to buy a house, not at this time, maybe never. I'm interested in travelling the world and learning from other cultures. I'm interested in minimalism and getting rid of as much stuff as possible in exchange for learning space and abundance. I also don't want kids at this time. I love children. I love my nieces and nephews, but every time I work on my goals, it just never comes up. I'm surely not having children for the satisfaction of others.
Again, nothing wrong at all with wanting a house or children. This is only an example of things you may really want or think that you want. Make sure your goals are actually yours.
Once you have your top 4 or 5 goals listed, you're ready to move forward.
Perpetual Learning Process
One thing that really calmed my mind was when I realized that the learning process is never over and that the next project you do has the potential to be better than the one you're currently working on. It also means that there's never a point where you pass from the childhood to adulthood. You're simply a person who constantly grows. No one knows everything. Therefore, accepting that the process is never over and there's no point where you'll be perfect makes the journey you're on a lot more enjoyable and removes the continued focus on the end goal. If you do your best in the moment, the good results will show on their own without having to stress about it.
Once your goal is set, start working on it and stop looking at the none-existent future end point. It' will come in your present circle quickly enough.
Deliver your projects, perfect or not. It doesn't mean to rush and release crap. It means to avoid procrastinating and find continuous things to fix in fear of releasing your project. Things to fix can also be excuses and reasons for not letting go of an old grudge. Attachment and addictions often stop us from completing objectives we set for ourselves.
When your are circling around the end point, it's time to be honest with yourself. What are you afraid of? What is it that you are not willing to let go of? Are you addicted to a bad feeling and the thought of letting it go makes you wonder what you're going to do with that new found freedom? When in doubt, press the GO button anyway. Take the jump. Once you cross that scary threshold, you'll realize that it was way less scarier than you thought.
The Importance of the Journey
What is the end goal without the steps you took to get there? Everybody loves "I know Kung Fu!" from the Matrix where, in a matter of minutes, the whole knowledge and mastery of Kung Fu is downloaded in Neo's brain. We all wish we could get stuff instantly transferred in our mind. We're all so afraid of pain that we want to drop out of labor intensive journeys before we even set foot on the path.
How much pride would you truly feel if in five minutes you would know how to speak and read Chinese or any other language for that matter? Yes, you would look hot in front of others and it could be very useful, but would you really be a better person from that process? What would you have learned beside storing thousands of symbols in your brain?
The process to attain your goal is crucial. It comes with its challenges, ups and downs, joyous moments, and learning experiences. Without these, the reward is empty. Also, the final triumph only lasts a short while, very short.
It will NEVER go as planned. Don't despair if you hit snags or if you have to compromise or accommodate to continue on your path. There's no way you can predict how the entire universe will go. Weather, people, events are way too complicated for you to take into accounts billions upon billions or parameters and possibilities. Know and accept that you'll hit a wall. It'll hurt a lot less and for a much shorter time if you include that guaranteed fact in your plans.
You'll be good for a while, then loose motivation for a couple days, get back on track, skip a day, something will break, a lucky strike will come by, and trip and fall on your own shoe laces. It's all normal, very normal. You just have to stick to it, motivated or not. I know, it's easier said than done. It takes practice, a lifetime of practice. What else do you have to do anyway? ;)
Breaking Down the Process in Chunks
It's when I realized all of this that I was able to maintain longer term projects and complete them. Knowing that I get distracted by all kinds of stuff, I decided to start small.
I forced myself to select only one thing to do on my project. Anyway, when I would select several things, I would list way too many and I could not complete them in a day. In the morning, I would list 1 thing on a piece of paper. Since I have other stuff to do in my life such as going to work, doing the dishes, spending quality time with my fiance, and so on, I would be able to maintain a balance between achieving and living. Rest is important as well. I would only pick this one thing without thinking of the next thing. Once that step completed, I would feel very happy about the achievement and feel ready to attack another chunk.
I do my best in the moment and the next moments and steps come on their own. Your projects and goals will come to you if you focus on the present. You won't even need to chase them. :) Simply do constant small actions (and yes you'll miss days here and there).
Here are some of the projects I completed with this method:
- Paying large credit card debts
- (just put the max you can every couple weeks and don't worry about it)
- Daily savings
(a tiny amount per day builds fast, especially with an automated transfer)
- Decluttering the house
(a couple boxes every week-end, a couple bigger items every month)
- Reading 10 Self-improvement books
(daily reading on my 20-minute bus commute)
- Learning Minimalism
(on-going daily research on Pinterest and Google)
- Building an On-Going Vision Board
(daily Vision Pinterest board review at breakfast and add a couple new pins--this starts the day on a very positive note)
- Yoga Practice
(I used to hate exercise. I fell in love with yoga... but had no motivation to go to classes. I am now doing a daily 20-minute session as soon as I wake up. It's awesome and done and over with for the day.)
As you derail, it's good to surround yourself with reminders of what you're achieving. I personally love my Pinterest vision board. I look at it daily. I love pinning, so it's easy for me to constantly go back to it and add content. Looking at it keeps me focused on my values, goals, and keeps me dreaming big.
On my bus commute, instead of playing games on my phone, I read a few pages of a self-help book. It keeps me away from prolonged distractions.
Include some rest time. Don't only rest. :) Having down time is important. Disconnect your brain from everything. Constantly thinking or drifting away in thoughts is very draining. Don't feel guilty about it, rest properly.
You can put your goals on the refrigerator.
I love to write down lists of the next few steps I'm going to do. I don't write too many. If my next step is to fill up a box for donation, I write down a list of 10 or 15 items I can put in that box. Then, when I get up and do it, I know exactly what I'm going to do. I keep the lists around (often in a notebook) for a little while. A few weeks later, I go back and read them. I then realize everything that I accomplished. These small bites add up fast!
Here are a few books that I strongly recommend. They truly helped me. A big thanks to my fiance who introduced me to the concept of self-improvement.
- The 7 habits of Highly Efficient People - Stephen Covey
(Extremely good book for finding your values, shifting your paradigms and living in synergy with everyone around you)
- The 4-hour Workweek - Tim Ferris
(Incredible to expand your horizons beyond the imaginary limits. Do things in a different way. Free your time.)
- Do the Work - Stephen Pressfield
(Really short and easy read book to put yourself back on track to complete and deliver your projects)
- The Power of Now - Eckhart Tolle
(There is no word. It's pure awesomeness. One single concept: Be present in the Now. Stop focusing on the future or past. Reach enlightenment by being present, putting your full attention on what you are doing in the moment.)
Who Am I? I'm many things. I'm passionate about tons of stuff. I love travel. I love self-improvement. I'm a sucker for optimization, efficiency, and minimalism. I renewed with mathematics and science, those are so amazing. Astronomy and chemistry are just plain awesome! I'm a student, a mentor, a traveler, a learner, an artist, an animator, and Disney brings me tears of joy! I love to grow and I will never stop! So who am I? All that and everything else I have not discovered about myself yet. It's a never ending answer!
Qui suis je? Je suis beaucoup de choses. Je suis passionné des tonnes de trucs. J'adore voyager. J'adore la croissance personnelle. Je suis vendue à l'optimisation, l'efficacité et le minimalisme. J'ai renoué avec les mathématiques et les sciences, des mondes tout simplement incroyable. L'astronomie et la chimie sont tout simplement génial! Je suis étudiante, mentor, voyageuse, artiste, animatrice et Disney m'apporte des larmes de joie! J'aime me pousser à fond et je ne cesserai jamais! Alors, qui suis-je? Tout cela et tout le reste que je n'ai pas encore découvert de moi-même. C'est une réponse sans fin!