Maybe you made some progress, but perhaps it wasn’t enough to justify the effort. Meanwhile it seems like so many other people are able to achieve similar goals much faster. This can be frustrating.
What is it that causes you to run in circles?
A common goal achievement strategy looks something like this:
- Define your outcome.
- Make a plan to get there.
- Take lots of action.
- Refine your approach as needed.
- Persist until you succeed.
The method above tends to work okay for goals that don’t require much inner change...
For example, if you set a goal to organize your home office, and you’re already a fairly neat person, and you know how to organize, and you like the feeling of having everything in its proper place, then you can use this process to achieve that goal. You can imagine your home office the way you’d like it to be. Then make a to-do list of the action steps to get there. Then set aside a weekend to make it so, and go through the steps one by one until you’re done. If something unexpected happens, you can adjust your plan on the fly. This is an achievable goal for you, and if you feel motivated to make it happen, it’s clearly within your power to get it done in a reasonable period of time.
On the other hand, suppose you set that same goal to organize your home office, but your thoughts, beliefs, and feelings aren’t aligned very well. Maybe you’re not particularly happy with the work you do, and having a cluttered office makes it easier to distract yourself from depressing thoughts and feelings. Maybe you worry about having more responsibility. Maybe you fear that your life lacks variety. Maybe you’ve been eating a crappy diet, and it’s bringing down your energy levels, making it hard to feel motivated to de-clutter your office. Maybe you’ve piled up so much clutter that you now view it as a monumental task. Maybe you’re a habitual pack rat and have a hard time throwing things away, even if you haven’t used them in years.
For this second person, the goal achievement process previously described usually won’t work. It may look good on paper, but it can actually have an adverse effect, causing you to run in circles. You may set a goal to have a neat office and make a to-do list just as the first person did, but it won’t yield the same result for you. Even if you make a dent in the clutter, you’ll re-clutter it within a few weeks. Then you’ll beat yourself up, resolve to “stop procrastinating” and “finally get organized,” and try again. Fast forward five years, and your cluttered office still looks pretty much the same, despite investing a lot of mental and emotional energy in trying to improve.
This doesn’t mean you’re broken, lazy, or impotent. It means you’re using the wrong process for your particular goal. If this process isn’t working for you, stop using it. A good process produces good results.