I’ve been thinking of my goals lately, as I mentioned last week. Working to achieve my goals is a bit like problem solving. The goals are where I want to be, and the problem is how to get there. Just like when putting together a jig-saw puzzle, there are tools I need to solve my problems. For a puzzle, I need a large, flat surface and good light and, if I’m lucky, maybe there’s a picture of the completed puzzle. For a goal, I need tasks, habits, and attitudes.
Tasks are the steps I will take to reach the goal. But, if the steps are too large, they are overwhelming. They need to be broken down into smaller steps. I have read that you need to break down the steps into smaller tasks until you look at the task and think, “I can do that.”
It works best when I schedule a time to regularly work on the tasks. This means developing a habit. A habit is a regularly repeated task. Unfortunately, developing a habit is a little harder than simply completing a single task.
There are little tricks that help. One thing I do is try to piggy-back off a habit that I’ve already established. I’ll add the new habit before or after it or some other daily milestone, like lunch time. It’s easier to only add one or two new habits at a time and keep it small. It’s easier to convince myself to spend five minutes on something on a busy day than to try to spend half an hour.
Of course, on really busy days or weeks, I may drop the habit altogether. At that point, I need to pick it back up when things have calmed down. This is not as easy as it sounds. I have to remember my motivation. Why did I want this habit? It can help to write it down and post it where I can see it.
And this leads to attitude. Sometimes I am too stressed to add one more thing. If I’m self-critical when that happens, it will make things that much harder to pick up again. In an article I recently read, https://www.fastcompany.com/90357248/procrastination-is-an-emotional-problem , it says that the more self-critical we are, the more likely we are to procrastinate. Negativity and stress are huge roadblocks on the path to achieving goals.
The more often we have negative thoughts, the more accustomed our brain will become to that response. It will affect our outlook on life and the work we do. But, we can train the brain to follow different, more positive paths. https://www.forbes.com/sites/vanessaloder/2015/03/18/how-to-rewire-your-brain-for-happiness/#401ada8359ef
Some ways to do this are practicing gratitude, thinking two positive thoughts for every negative, mindfulness, exercise, and creative activities. As we feel more positive about ourselves and our work, it will be possible to get more done. We will feel positive about that, and that creates a positive feedback loop (To replace the previous negative loop).
When putting together a jigsaw puzzle, there is some structure to the process. For example, edge pieces first, sky or other large single colored patches last. Other than that, I tend to take things as they come and work a little bit here and a little bit there as I find pieces that I can fit into place.
Achieving goals is like that. Once I’ve determined the tasks and habits I’d like to develop, it’s time to fit them in place. It may take a bit of work and more than one attempt to find the best fit. And then something might knock all the pieces off the table and I have to start again.
But, if I can keep working on my attitudes in the background and stay positive, I’m less likely to quit. And if I don’t quit, I haven’t failed, no matter how long it takes. That’s my plan to achieve my goals. Wish me luck.