reach your goal

How to Stay Motivated and Complete your Goals

The example I’ve used below is completing a certification, but the same tips and tricks to staying motivated apply to anything we are trying to achieve, big or small. Often we feel frustrated and have difficulty with how to stay motivated and reaching our goals.

When an artist or writer starts a new project there is the excitement of a fresh idea and progress is good. The honeymoon period soon ends and they have to figure out how to keep going. The temptation to cheat on the current project with a new one is strong.

Night school seemed like the right thing to do when I started it. I was already working as a paralegal, without any official certification. I received the promotion due to my experience, hard work, and a strong dose of good luck. But, there was an issue, if I wanted to change firms, or if my job was eliminated, it would be difficult to get a similar position. The solution to better job stability and increase opportunities was to get properly certified. So, I started night school.

Somewhere in the middle of the second year of full-time work and part-time school, I started to get frustrated. I thought, “Why did I start down another road of “should do” instead of “want to do.” I’m exhausted. Why am I doing this? Do I even want to keep working as a paralegal? My heart was somewhere else. I was finding it hard to stay motivated. Have you ever faced a situation similar to this? There were less than six courses left and I was ready to quit. I didn’t see myself continuing to work in the role. My goals, values, and life circumstances were changing.

Many of us feel like giving up at some point during the haul toward a long term goal. We often start out anticipating our path will go one way, while life has a way of taking us another direction. Some other new and exciting path appears. Achieving a new goal or completing a new project begins to seem like a much better use of our time.

Make it to the finish line

Giving up is always an option too. You have to assess for yourself whether the true reason you don’t want to finish something is that it really isn’t for you. Sometimes it is hard to tell if it is time to quit or if you are just going through a phase of frustration. Weighing the pros and cons, thinking logically through the decision can help. Keeping a journal can also help you to reach a decision. Read my post on journaling for clarity here:

After some discussion with family and friends, I decided to continue on and complete my paralegal certification. I now have a valuable skill set that I can return to whenever I choose. My original goal of increasing stability and opportunities was achieved.

Here are my top tips to stay motivated and keep going when you would really rather be doing something else (anything else!).

Practical Tips to Stay Motivated and finish what you started

Tip 1 – Have a reason, remember it

This seems obvious and it is. There is generally a reason why we need or want to get to the end of a project or reach a goal.

Sometimes that reason isn’t just finishing the project. There can be underlying reasons, for example, practicing a skill or gaining experience. You could be working to better your life, or that of your loved ones. Whatever the reason, put that reason in your mind and get to work.

Tip 2 – There is no better time

Often we will put something off for another day. “I’ll do it tomorrow, I’ll work on it next week.” Just start today, start this week. Do a small bit if that is all you have time for. This time is going to pass anyway. Do you want to have achieved your goal at the end of this time period or not?

Tip 3 – Play some mind games

If you need a bit of a push to get going to work towards your goal at all, just tell yourself you will work on the project for five minutes. These five minutes will almost always turn into a much longer time, but if can trick ourselves to get ourselves started, the most difficult part of any task is accomplished.

In addition, don’t just say to yourself “tomorrow I will work on this for five minutes” instead, set a specific time during the day. For example, “tomorrow when I get home from work I will work on this for five minutes” or, “today, right after the kids are in bed I will spend five minutes working towards my goal.” It doesn’t matter so much exactly when you choose to work on the project. The key is to eliminate any barriers to getting to work.

Tip 4 – Make an appointment with yourself

Schedule a time to work on the goal. We schedule appointments with dentists, doctors, and other professionals. Give yourself the same respect you give to others. Give value to your time by making an appointment to work towards your goal and keeping it.

Man has reached goal and stands on mountain top

Tip 5 – Imagine how you will feel once the goal is complete

Right now you may feel that to keep working on this project is a waste of your time. The ability to stay motivated has disappeared. But, how will you feel when it is done? Take a moment to visualize being finished. It feels good right? You can do this, you will get there, just keep going.

Tip 6 – Break the goal or task into digestible pieces.

When feeling unmotivated, a project can seems impossible. But, if it is broken up into smaller mini-tasks, it suddenly appears much more achievable. Painting a wall mural, for example, is a large project. But, the first step of finding a reference photo is not difficult at all. By breaking the entire project into smaller bits, it can be accomplished.

The journey of one thousand miles begins with just one step. The trip to the destination sometimes involves stopping for a rest along the way, but, if you keep going, you will eventually make it to the end. Slow progress is better than no progress. Everyone faces frustrations at some point but things will get better. You’ve got this!

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