Whether you want to learn to paint, write a book, or get in shape there are tons of resources online to help you get started. A quick google search will reveal a million lists of “Do’s and Don’ts”, memes, and short tutorials that make you feel like you can accomplish the goal you’re after… just complete that free “5 Day (insert goal here) Bootcamp”.
I am great at signing up for these. I get started with enthusiasm and get through the first two days and then I hit my first road block. Whatever it is… a workout move I can’t do or I ate some food that was off plan… I hit the wall, struggle for a couple days, and then quit.
I can’t even tell you how many of these things I have started and not finished in the last 10 years!?!
I started to ask my self why… Why do I flake out on myself and my goals? Why don’t I take advantage of all the free resources?
I began reflecting on my years in school… I spent nine years in college and university after I graduated high school.
For the longest time I thought I’d always be in school. Yes, I was working on a bachelor’s degree but if there was a course I was interested in I took it. It didn’t matter if it was required, I enjoyed being in school and I felt like I’d be there forever so what’s the rush?
Then I got a taste of the job I really wanted. Forestry.
I got that first job in the bush where I spent all day every day for 5 months outside counting and assessing trees. I regularly encountered wildlife, made friends, and spent 80% of the summer camping in the middle of nowhere.
It was the best summer I’d ever had!
Cut to September and I’m back in the classroom. I have the routine down… grab a seat in the front row, pull out a new pen and fresh paper (did I mention shopping for stationary is one of my favorite kinds of shopping?), and get ready to take notes.
I’ve done this a million times, but this time it feels different.
My mind is wandering and I’m bored. For the first time in my life (literally) I’m sitting in school and thinking about how much I don’t want to be here.
OK, let me pause here for those of you who hated school to catch your breath and stop laughing… I realize how crazy this sounds if you’re someone who hated every second of being in a classroom.
OK ready? 😉 Good…
I still had two years left of my degree and suddenly I found myself hating school and wishing I was working in the forest. My self-talk looked a lot like this:
I just have to power through. Just keep doing what you’ve always done, and you’ll be fine.
Only 8 months until you can go back to the bush… until you can go back to your happy place.
Just do it because you have to.
You’ve already come too far to quit, so just stick with this.
I don’t have words to describe how hard school suddenly became. My grades started dropping, I had to study harder because I couldn’t focus in class, I had no desire to take courses that were not a requirement and found myself regretting the extra courses I had already done.
If I hadn’t taken those courses, I’d only have a year left to suffer through this.
The following two years were the most painful and frustrating years of school I have ever done! I had to completely change the way I approached my work and adjust my expectations for my grades. Straight A’s were not going to happen, but I was going to finish… even if it killed me… and some days I felt like it almost did.
If I could power through two years of university to complete my degree, why can’t I seem to finish a six-week creative writing course? Or a month-long fitness challenge?
The answer is really simple. Investment.
I have learned that for me to take things seriously there needs to be some kind of investment. Without that investment I don’t feel accountable to myself, nor do I feel motivated to power through the challenging parts. Without an investment, it’s easier to hit that first or second road block and change my mind about what I really want to accomplish.
The internet has created a world of instant gratification. We’ve all heard the ponderings about this…
No one knows how to be bored anymore.
Parents are using screens as babysitters.
No one talks to each other anymore because they are always on their phones.
For me, this instant gratification is the luxury of changing my plan to the next idea at the first sign of struggle. Without an investment, I have nothing to lose if I change my mind before completion.
I can’t do this exercise, so I’ll just try that other program I saw on Pinterest.
I don’t understand SEO so I’ll just work on everything else instead… is it really that important?
I’ll just check my newsfeed quickly before I work on that project… (two hours later) I guess I can’t work on that project now because I have to go to bed in an hour and there isn’t enough time.
I’ll just watch one episode on Netflix before I really focus on this…. (accomplished by no one ever)
On an intuitive level we all understand why an investment in the process is helpful for reaching your goals.
Right, but Chelsea I can’t afford to invest in everything I want to accomplish! I have bills to pay and children to care for.
Don’t worry, I’ve got you! Not all investments have to be financial.
Here are my top 5 ways to invest in goals:
- Pay for the training you need. OK this one is obvious. I’m not saying the free materials that you find online are not worth your time. They can be, especially if you are just starting out. I built this website using free resources and continue to use them regularly to help me up my blogging game. However, if what you’re learning is really tough and you find yourself quitting and restarting multiple times, it might be worth a financial investment to provide greater focus and motivation. I recently invested in a business course for bloggers for that purpose. Whether it is $50 or $5000, your investment could provide you the accountability you need to power through.
- Find an accountability partner. Joining something with your friend can be great motivation for accomplishing your goals. Agree to go to the fitness class together twice a week or meet somewhere to go for that hike. You are less likely to flake out if someone else is counting on you to show up. Almost all the free training tutorials online have corresponding social media groups to go with them. Join them and start participating in the conversations. Asking questions and making connections helps you get in touch with like-minded people and when you find them, ask them to join forces and help keep you on track.
- Put the time in. If you put enough time into the process you are less likely to give up on it. That’s why there are trackers to count your meditation streak or the number of days of clean eating in a row or your latest yoga streak. If you have worked out for the last 25 days straight, you’re less likely to quit on day 26. This is what got me through my last two years of university. I’d already been there for 7 years, I can’t quit now before I get the degree! Think of ways to invest your time wisely, but sufficiently to ensure that you won’t give up when the end is near.
- Focus on the end result. When things get hard, just pause and close your eyes. Put yourself in the moment of completion and visualize how you will feel. How do you feel when you walk across the stage to get your diploma? How do you feel when you have paid off the last credit card and are now debt free? When you have a clear picture of this, ask yourself if that feeling is worth pushing through the tough stuff for. I think you’ll find that most of the time it is. Having an emotional investment can be a very powerful reminder of why you set out to accomplish the goal in the first place. Often, this is enough to power through the challenging parts of the process.
- Take a break. OK I can hear you saying… Wait… What?! You just said don’t quit!
Here’s the thing, sometimes you need a little time away from a problem in order to solve it. Have you ever looked at the spelling of a word for so long that even the correct spelling looks wrong? This is kind of the same thing. You work at the problem for so long that the solution no longer makes sense to you but taking a break from it for a day or two can be just what you need to look at it with fresh eyes. The secret to keeping on track with this is not that you take a break for two or three days and do nothing to work on your goal, you just work on other things. Can you read or listen to a book about it to keep learning? Can you work on another aspect of the project in the mean time? Is there some part of what you’re working on that is really fun for you? Work on something that brings you joy about the project and then come back to the problem and try again.
Depending on what you’re trying to accomplish, there are many ways to invest in yourself and the process of getting to your goal. Using a strategy of investment in your project can go a long way to helping you accomplish your goals when things get tough.
What do you do to invest in yourself? Do you find this helpful? Let me know in the comments below, I’d love to hear from you!