Tag: sport psychology

Why we fail to reach our goals and what to do about it

If you’ve ever read a personal development book, I’m sure you’ve come across the importance of goal-setting. Everyone and his brother seems to lament the importance of setting big goals, shooting for the moon and going all in.

This might be one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard.

Not only does this not work, but it is actually counter-productive and demotivating according to this study.

Humans are creatures of habit, and our habits are most often based on what’s easy for us to do. What this means is that if we want to accomplish anything, we need to make sure our goal is something which doesn’t take an enormous amount of effort to do, and that it is mostly within our own control.

For instance – you can’t control whether or not you become the next Jimi Hendrix, but you can control whether you practice playing the guitar for 30 minutes each day. Playing for 30 minutes each day is achievable, within your control, and adds up over time, and those elements are the keys to achieving anything worthwhile, so let me repeat it for good measure.

If your goals areĀ achievable and within your controlĀ they will add up to a lot over time. The reason why so many fail to do this, is because we overreach – we want to achieve our goals tomorrow, and become the greatest in the world within an unrealistically short time frame.

This is also the reason why we’re so fascinated by the people who achieve outsized success, because we subconsciously recognize that what they have achieved is super-human, insofar that they have had to circumvent their natural wiring in order to get to where they are today.

While we may not see the thousands of hours in the gym, or the frustrating hours in front of the computer trying to write something worthwhile or excel at making spreadsheets (sorry), we recognize that the people who have truly mastered a given subject have put in an immense amount of effort in order to do so, and the whole point here is that so can we – as long as we take sufficiently small steps, and practice our craft diligently and persistently

You might already be at a point in your career where you are well on your way to mastering a subject and you just need a little nudge to make the final leap to complete mastery. Or maybe you are in the beginning of your journey and you’re feeling all jittery or excited, or maybe you’re in what Seth Godin calls the Dip – the point where you’ve achieved some progress and then stalled, because the effort required to reach the next level is more than you’re able or willing to put in right now.

Whatever your case, keep in mind that making your goal achievable and within your control is the first step to making enormous progress, but it is going to take a long time, and we must realize this if we want to achieve anything worthwhile.

As long as we’re stuck in the mindset that we have to achieve large goals in a short period of time, we will keep falling into the same trap and give up every time we encounter adversity, because we feel like we should be able reach our goal almost effortlessly.

In reality however, overcoming adversity is one of the best indicators for high achievement, but that’s a subject for another post.

For now, suffice it to say that when you know what you want, you have to figure out one action you can repeat day in and day out that will move you closer to your goal.

On putting one foot in front of the other

Accomplishments are a funny thing. We as ambitious people tend to think that we have to accomplish everything at once. For my own part I’ve been guilty more than once of being like the woman with the eggs in the famous H.C. Andersen story. In the story there is a woman who is carrying a number of eggs on her head on her way to the market.

On her way to the market, she fantasizes about how she’s going to spend the money she will earn from selling her eggs. Her dreams get bigger and bigger, until she eventually pictures herself as a fancy lady, and just like a fancy lady would, she throws her head with all the vanity she can muster…

Of course this sends all her eggs crashing to the ground and her dream dies right then and there. The moral of the story is that we have to put one foot in front of the other and not get in our way. If we want to achieve anything we must keep going, keep working, keep grinding – through the dips, the downturns and the recessions. Keep working even when it’s not fun, and keep churning out material, keep running the miles and keep grinding out the presentations.

We have to keep going and never quit. We have to show grit. Especially in the face of adversity, and we have to keep slogging it out and take on our inner demons day after day after day. If we keep working we will get somewhere eventually, but if we keep starting and stopping, we will be stuck in the same spot until get our gears working in the same direction.

One foot in front of the other.

Progress.

Day by day.

That’s the only way you’ll get there.