Rethinking How You Pursue Your Goals: Tips for Working Smart

Goals are an important part of life because they help us become who we want to be. Whether it’s a big goal or a small goal, accomplishing something that’s important to you can bring you one step closer to living how you’ve always dreamed. In fact, just starting on the path to your goals is often all it takes to help you slide into the life you want.

Unfortunately, working toward a goal can feel overwhelming, especially if you have lofty aspirations. It’s much easier to set a goal than it is to reach it, but luckily it’s never too late to refocus on your goals. You deserve to build a life you love, so don’t give up on your goals. Instead, get smart about how you approach them.

For years I pursued my goal of becoming a professional writer by pushing myself past my limits, cutting things out of my life, and ignoring my friends and family. None of that helped me reach my goals. It’s true that you should work smart, not hard. Once I got smart about my goal, I was finally able to be successful. If you’re having trouble staying on track with your goal, changing the way you pursue your goals may be the answer. Here are ten ways that I switched up the way I approach my goals:

#1-Focus on the first part of your goal.

One of the things that stops you from reaching your goal is getting caught up in how much work it will take to get there. When you take a big writing goal, such as writing and publishing a novel, it’s easy to get overwhelmed thinking about everything that needs to be done. When you think about having to write, rewrite, edit, query, etc., it seems like you’ll never get there working at a normal pace. This can make you feel like the only way to get to the end is to make a mad dash.

This is the same feeling that leads to crash dieting, which is another recipe for failure. Goals take time, consistency, and patience. Moving at a sprint will leave you disillusioned and cause you to inevitably fall behind. Instead, take each step as it comes, moving at a comfortable pace. You’ll get more done over the course of time, and the journey will be more pleasant.

#2-Set 20 minute daily goals to work towards something greater.

When your life is already packed with work, family, friends, and responsibilities, it’s not easy to work on side tasks, even if they’re important to you. When you have a goal, it can be discouraging to go day after day without getting any work done toward it. For most people, though, there are frequent days when there just isn’t time to devote to a passion project.

One thing to remember about these days is that little things add up to big things. Writing a hundred words in a day might seem insignificant, but it’s better than zero. After ten days of just meeting a tiny one hundred word goal, you’d have 1,000 words.

#3-Celebrate small victories.

A small victory can be anything from meeting a mini goal to having a great day. Every moment that you spend doing what matters to you is a success. Just being able to maintain a positive attitude about your work towards your goals is an accomplishment.

Celebrate spending 15 minutes every day on your passions. Give yourself a pat on the back for trying something. Take compliments when they’re offered. Every little bit counts.

#4-Use positive self talk.

Positive self talk can literally change your life. We constantly have a running dialogue in our minds, and more often than not that voice starts to offer criticism. It tells you to be better, to wake up earlier, to smile at strangers, to speak louder, to eat less, to move more, to be a better friend, to be a better lover, etc. etc. etc.

It never runs out of “betters.”

Positive self talk can help you confront your inner voice and turn those comments into something more useful. You can learn to talk to yourself as a friend, treating yourself with the compassion and encouragement that you deserve. This will allow you to bloom into who you want to be, free of the harsh judgments of your critical mind.

#5-Let go of things that aren’t working for you.

Clinging to things that aren’t working is a great way to drag yourself down. Whether it’s habits, hobbies, a job, or people who are anchoring you in place, sometimes you just have to let go and move on. At times, it can feel like you don’t have a choice. Maybe you feel like you’re the only one who can fulfill a need, or you worry that a change is too big of a risk.

I once had a dream about a relationship in which the other person was pulling away and then coming back. In the dream, I wanted to move on but kept checking in with the other person to find out if they were still interested in being in my life. I wanted to make sure that I really had to move on, even though I’d already decided in the dream that something better was waiting for me.

I think that kind of fear creeps its way into our lives, and we let it trick us into holding on for too long. Trust your gut when it tells you to let go. Things that aren’t working for you are just wasting the precious time you have on earth, so let them go.  

#6-Reevaluate when you miss your target.

Setting targets is a good way to help yourself stay on track because they give you a way of tracking your progress. However, they can also be discouraging when you fall short. Instead of chiding yourself for not hitting your target, think about why you didn’t and how you can do better in the future. Did you bite off more than you can chew? Did something important demand your attention? Did you realize that you didn’t want this as much as you thought you did?

Whatever the reason you came up short, take it as a learning opportunity. Adapt your planning and work efforts moving forward so that you can get closer and closer to meeting your targets. If you are consistently missing your targets, then you may need to rethink them.

#7-Connect with others.  

When you’re really focused on a goal, it’s tempting to block everything out. Many times, this is the best way to be successful. However, it’s also a recipe for loneliness and missing out on other parts of life. As people, we need to socialize with people we care about, so don’t block out family and friends.

Talk to the people in your life about how much time you need to focus on your goal and plan how you can all enjoy each other without taking away from your goal (or theirs). You may even find that they are the biggest cheerleaders in your life — or the biggest inspiration.

#8-Live your life in the present, not in an idealized future.

Your focus needs to be on living your life in a way that facilitates your goals but also allows you to be content in the moment. It’s easy to think about end points and how your life could be after you’re published, thin, or own a successful business. However, reaching these final end points are not the most important part of the overall process.

That may sound crazy, but how you live your life everyday and the means you use to attain your goal are what matters. These are the things that define who you are, not the final product. You can make yourself miserable working for an endpoint, or you can take pleasure in following a path you desire. Two people can reach the same endpoint after very different journeys, so be careful what you choose.

#9-Avoid thinking about how far you have to go.

Few things are more discouraging than thinking about how far away you are from the endpoint. Goals can seem impossible when you stare at point Z from point A. This also creates the perception that you have to do everything at one time, which is false. No matter how much time it takes to accomplish what you want to do, give yourself permission to do it. Time will pass no matter what, so you might as well spend it doing something you love.

Instead of thinking about how far you have to go, think about how far you’ve come. Even one step is a big journey because it means you’ve gotten started, which a lot of people never accomplish. You should also break up your work into smaller, easier to accomplish tasks. This will help you look at the work left to do without becoming overwhelmed.

#10-Take time outside of work for daily enjoyments.

Pursuing your goal and meeting all of life’s other needs may take up all of the hours of your day, but don’t let it prevent you from enjoying your day-to-day life. You’ll reach burnout quickly and will likely find that all of the lost days/months/years weren’t worth it. Give yourself a chance to be happy as often as you can. You deserve it.

  • Go out with friends.
  • Take a long bath.
  • Read.
  • Do something creative.
  • Take a weekend getaway.
  • Try a hobby unrelated to work or your goals.
  • Play with your pet.
  • Enjoy a movie.
  • Grab a coffee.
  • Visit a museum.
  • Go to an art opening.
  • Enjoy a concert.
  • Visit free local events.

There are so many ways to have fun! Get out there and enjoy your life.


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