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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.
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?