Do you find yourself quickly growing frustrated when taking on a new skill or workout routine? Or do you have a goal you’ve been pursuing for years — maybe even since childhood — but still haven’t achieved the results you’ve desired? Discover how to be persistent with your goals — even when it seems like you’ll never reach the finish line.
The start that stops
?It?s the start that stops most people.?
This quote applies to just about every situation.
Take jogging, for instance. Before I?ve even made it two blocks, I?m already gasping for air, sore in all sorts of places, ready to turn around and go home.
Or reading a book. Two pages in, and my patience is wearing thin. Can?t the author get to the good part already? The one that?s supposed to be ?transformative,” ?haunting,? or ?unlike anything you?ll read this year??
But two hours into jogging, the euphoria sets in. Although my body may be tired, the ache fades to the background like white noise.
Several hundred pages into Moby Dick or House of Leaves, I?ve broken through several dimensions. Everything, even the air around me, feels somehow altered.
Applying this concept to long-term goals
For those of us in creative endeavors (writing, acting, painting, etc.) or starting our own business, the period of acclimation is more protracted and painful, the reward more distant. Not mere hours or weeks, but months, even years.
Progress can be slower than the flow of traffic on a gridlocked freeway at 6 PM ? in other words, non-existent.
Some days it feels like I?m actually moving backwards. I?ll look at what I?ve written that day and think, ?Man, my fourth graders write better than that.?
But this idea of regression is largely an illusion. Plus, even if it were true, so what? Many millionaires, even billionaires, have experienced bankruptcy at some point in their life. Just about every successful writer/actor/musician has had a flop — in many cases a mortifying one.
So did the flops and bankruptcies, the bad writing days, cancel out the successful ones? If we were to apply that same logic to other situations, why do the laundry? Why wash the dishes?
No progress without pain?
The truth is, meaningful progress always involves some degree of pain, frustration, or humiliation.
As a kid, I didn?t get this. I watched all the Endless Summer movies, fantasized about being a pro surfer, rented a surfboard for the first time, got up, fell within two seconds, and decided surfing wasn?t for me. Besides, the movies didn?t show all the?super annoying paddling to get to the waves.
Since then, I’ve learned to manage my expectations. Still, in my first graduate creative writing class, I wrote an ?experimental? piece largely inspired by my discovery that I could fit blocks of text into different shapes. I was hurt when my classmates seemed puzzled.
As I read more deeply and dedicated more hours to my writing, though, my stories went places I could have never imagined. Writing, which was once painful (and can still be, when I?ve gotten ?out of shape?), led to hypnotic states where the words took on a mind of their own.
Begin with the end in mind
One reason it can be so tough to stick with a goal or habit is because we can’t see the finish line. Sometimes it feels like we’ll never get there.
However, you can imagine what the finish line looks like. Some people like to do vision boards for this reason. Personally, I enjoy meditations where I envision myself achieving the end goal. This helps you to capture all the sensory details — most importantly, the feeling — that accompanies this result.
On a small-scale, you can imagine how invigorated you’ll feel after coming home from a run, even if right now you’d rather just sit on the couch. When it comes to bigger goals, you can visualize the moment when you see your book on the New York Times Bestsellers list or your painting hanging in a gallery. Another visualization exercise you can do is picture the perfect day in your life from beginning to end, when you are doing exactly what drives you regardless of practical considerations.
This approach can also inform how you plan your time. I used to make endless to-do lists and never make any real progress. Now I’ve learned to schedule my time more effectively by beginning with my end goal and breaking it down into smaller steps. Not only does this help reduce overwhelm, but it’s also encouraging to know that all the baby steps are actually leading somewhere.
If you feel like you’re spinning in circles, Tony Robbin’s Rapid Planning Method (RPM) will help you regain focus and actually feel like you’re getting somewhere. You’ll gain a sense of purpose and fulfillment along each leg of the journey — even those painful, awkward starts — while celebrating small victories along the way. You can order the RPM Life Planner below.
How to Be Persistent With Your Goals: Action Steps
So the next time you’re pursuing a goal and ready to throw in the towel, here’s how to stay the course.
- Remember that the start always sucks, but the initial resistance makes the journey that much more rewarding. In fact, whether your goal is related to fitness or spiritual growth, resistance is a necessary component.
- Think back to all the times that you started something, struggled with it, but eventually excelled.
- For inspiration, read biographies of famous people who overcame great odds.
- Imagine achieving your end goal and use all the associated emotions as fuel to get you through the first steps.
Tell me: Describe a time that you struggled on the path to your goal. How did you overcome it?
34 thoughts on “How To Be Persistent With Your Goals Even When the Finish Line is Hazy”
I agree that to start is the hardest and then next would be keeping momentum. It’s really important to keep going in order to achieve what we set out to. 🙂
Absolutely, Izzy! Keeping momentum is definitely tough. Simply writing down what I have accomplished at the end of a day, though, helps me to keep the momentum because it demonstrates to me that I’m headed in the right direction.
Love these tips! I’m huge into keeping my goals.
Whenever I start to get discouraged or bored, I say to myself, “trust the process” It really seems to work for me 🙂
Absolutely, Michelle! When I was actively pursuing freelance copywriting, I’d sent out prospecting emails every day and it did get very boring and discouraging. But eventually I did get clients. Same with blogging. Doing all the marketing/SEO related stuff for me could be a drag but now I’m finally beginning to see the results in my stats.
great tips indeed. I do need to get past that initial starting problem myself and these will help. I get distracted more often nowadays than before …
Thanks, Vidya! Yes, when I hit a wall, especially a technical one, it’s so tempting just to turn to the other tabs in my browser and forget about it. But I feel so much better about myself if I just push through it.
i always set 10 goals and drop 5 because I just do not have enough time in a day 🙁
Same, Tanya! Now I’m more patient with myself and as I realize that there’s only so much time in a day. And even if I’m super disciplined and don’t get distracted, I still don’t always get everything done. So whatever doesn’t get done just gets related to the next day. Which I’m now ok with 🙂
Really good tips on goals. Keeping the end in mind so crucial! Have you read the 12-week year? It’s so good and he talks a lot about how your personal vision for your life is what helps you achieve those goals.
Thanks, Julie! No, I have not read that, but I just checked it out and it looks great. Thanks for the rec!
I love the idea of beginning with the end in mind – that is a great way to think about your goals! I am going to sit down over the weekend and work out my goals for the next month, and your post will certainly come in handy.
Thanks, Alexandra! Glad my tips helped.
Great tips! The bit I struggle with is maintaining momentum once the initial enthusiasm has worn off. I have tried visualising the end goal but I need to practice that more as it doesn’t come naturally!
Thanks, Alison! Yes, I struggle with that as well. One thing I’ve found is that sometimes my goals will morph but the big picture is still there. For instance, over the years, I’ve wanted to be a film critic, copywriter, etc., and although the drive to do those things is no longer as strong, they still fall under the umbrella of writing.
These are all great point – I love the idea of recognizing that the beginning ALWAYS sucks. Thanks for being so honest! I’m sharing this on my Facebook page!
Thanks, Beth! Yes, the beginnings never fun but it feels so good once you’ve pushed through it.
Such a great post! I like how you mentioned in the beginning that it’s usually the start that stops people, that is so true. I like to break my bigger goals up into small more tangible goals for each week or month. I think it’s a really effective way to not feel overwhelmed. Also, having an action plan is very important as well!
-Madi xo | http://www.everydaywithmadirae.com
Thanks, Madi! Yes, using the free planners on Productive Flourishing that include Weekly, Daily and Monthly goals are really helpful for me. Sometimes it feels annoying to take that extra time and I want to just wing it, but it’s always worth it in the long run!
Some great advice! It can be easy to lose focus and momentum and something like this reminds me to keep plugging away. Thanks.
Thank you! Yes, it’s easy for me, too, so writing these posts also acts as a reminder for myself 🙂
Meditating with the end-goal in mind is such a good idea! I love vision boards 😀
Thanks, Ivana! I don’t have a physical vision board but I do like mind mapping in that regard.
Great post, really insightful. I try to be persistant with my blog (posting at least once a week), I slipped up during the holiday season (december) but I’m back on track now. Thanks for your tips, it’s really added some reinforcement into why and how I should be more persistant
Thanks, Marco! Yes, I tend to slip up during the holidays as well but I think that’s ok, family (and unwinding) is also important.
Thanks for this! I?m needing to get more goal focused again. An example of a goal I struggled with was socialising more!! It?s been a long road, and there were countless moments along the way in which it just felt like too much effort and I?d focus on the what I didn?t enjoy- which deterred me more. I persisted and learnt to focus more on the things I did enjoy and now I?m much more eager and comfortable spending time with people I don?t know so well.
Thanks, Sunday! Socializing is something I struggle with as well and like you, most days I don’t feel like putting in the effort. I tend to do everything with my boyfriend because he is also my best friend, which is awesome, but sometimes it is nice to go out and meet new people or reconnect with friends.
It?s easier to set goals than to stick to them, which is why this post is so valuable. By having a strategy in place to be sure to constantly follow through can mean the difference between success and quitting just short of a goal. Thanks for sharing awesome advice.
Thanks, Vox! Yes, sometimes I dismiss strategies, but they really are important, especially when you’re juggling multiple projects. Even something as simple as reading a book won’t get done unless I put in on my list!
?Pain is the preface to progress? said someone who is not me but i heartedly agree. For me I trust in perseverance. I know that perseverance will always result in progress but the outcome my not be what I intended, usually in the long run it?s better than I could have dreamed up anyway… As long as I am moving in the direction of my truth all good things will come …. faith , trust, and hustle .
Absolutely, Stacy! Yes, sometimes I’ll be going for a goal and it doesn’t turn out like I expected, but then the path leads me to something better!
This is solid, Kate! Because I am close to the point of giving up. lol “End in mind” is my take away. Thank you. =)
Thanks, Dani! Yes, not only does keeping the end in mind help to chart out a clear path, but it can also help keep us motivated.