Whether it's achieving a certain level of professional success or maintaining healthy eating habits, we set goals with the best intentions and start by pursuing them with enthusiasm. But it's easy for those big ideas to fall by the wayside when our schedules get disrupted or we have an emotional setback.
Under stress, it's often difficult to sustain the energy we had at the beginning. Whatever the reason for getting off track, it can be even harder to resume our efforts than it was to start them in the first place. Even those with the most steely resolve lose steam once in a while.
Here are five ways to refocus on your objective and maintain your momentum when you stray off the path.
1. Redefine success.
Maybe your plan was to go to the gym every single day, and you actually managed to do this for awhile before missing a few days and then giving up altogether. When you set lofty ambitions and then fall short, it's easy to abandon the whole idea and feel like a failure. But in a situation like this, it's best to re-evaluate your objective and set more realistic goals. Instead of hitting the gym for an hour each day, start with 30 minute increments. You can always step up your game later once the habit becomes a routine.
2. Schedule it.
You put meetings, project deadlines, medical appointments and social engagements on your calendar; make a point to add the time to work toward your goal(s) there as well. For example, if your aspiration is to declutter your workspace and organize computer files, block out space in your calendar and set a reminder in Outlook or on your phone so you'll remember to tackle it each day.
3. Consider your timing.
Set yourself up for success by working with your natural inclinations. For example, if you are taking on extra education outside of work that requires you to study, identify an opening in your routine for schoolwork that suits your personality and preferences.
If you aren't a morning person, setting an alarm get up at 5 a.m. each day to tackle an assignment before you go to the office is probably unsustainable. Instead, block out an hour in the evening to devote to homework.
4. Set the stage.
Often we fail because we make grand declarations of our intent, and then do absolutely nothing to prepare for our new commitment. Pave the way for yourself by taking care of the details: if you want to be a better networker, write down the steps you need to take, whether it's joining a professional association, participating in more events outside of work, or reaching out to strengthen ties with existing contacts.
Keep notecards and stamps handy so you can jot a note of congratulations or another personal message when you hear news about someone in your circle. Beef up your online presence on professional networking platforms to help facilitate relationship building. Lay a solid foundation that is conducive to success.
5. Consider why your goal is important.
If you are having trouble sticking with a goal, stop and think about why it's important. We make time for things we care about. Perhaps your marathon training isn't working out because you don't actually want to run 26.2 miles, you just got caught up in the fun of talking about it with coworkers.
Maybe you won't run a marathon, but you can train for a 5k. Or an alternate plan might be to get in better shape by running with your friends and implementing other changes that will move you closer to a more realistic goal.