If we can’t stay focused on the personal goals we set for ourselves, it can be frustrating, and we can feel disheartened when we fail.
But there are specific reasons why we stop focusing on our goals.
Perhaps our goals are too ambitious, or maybe they are not ambitious enough, or it could be that they don’t represent our true ambition. It’s also possible that past failures have made us stop believing in ourselves.
Unfortunately, as people get older, they have more defeats, and they feel less inclined to keep striving in life and finding new battles to conquer.
When you understand better the reasons that you aren’t focusing on your goals, you will be better equipped to overcome the obstacles that are holding you back.
To achieve your goals, you will certainly need to follow all of the customary advice like narrowing down the number of goals you’re focusing on, writing down your goals and measuring and documenting your progress.
But if your difficulty is focusing on your goals, you are going to need to find a more passionate approach, one that is connected to your emotions and your sense of purpose.
Here are four ways to help you stay focused on your goals.
1. Practice being radically sincere
Arnold Schwarzenegger famously began his ambitious fitness aspirations with a crop top.
As a device to stay focused on his goal, he wore a short, tight shirt that revealed his ample belly. Brutally forcing himself to confront his problem — being overweight — in an embarrassing and public way, Schwarzenegger transformed his body and eventually became one of the best bodybuilders of all time.
This is a great example of how being radically sincere works. Be completely concrete, act with fundamental honesty and face your reality. With this intense approach, you will find the information you need to succeed, and you will naturally stay motivated.
Schwarzeneggers’ approach may be too intense for you, but regardless of your manner it is important that you be honest with yourself about the reality of your situation.
Looking at brutal facts
“Productive change begins when you confront the brutal facts” – Jim Collins
Jim Collins’ related approach is called “looking at brutal facts”.
Looking at the brutal facts is clearly seeing the facts of your situation. It the flip side of your vision.
When we set goals, we allow ourselves to dream.
Creativity, and vision are vitally important, but if it’s not also based in reality then the goal can’t be manifested. And worse, a dream can demotivate us by devolving into a false hope, a fiction we believe in in order to feel better about ourselves.
The trick is to find this tension between the dream and reality. Collins has named this tension “The Stockdale Paradox,” which he describes as the ability to “have unwavering faith that you can and will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties, and at the same time, have the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.“
When you are radically sincere you have the honesty to face reality, look at the brutal facts, and recognize whatever it is that stands in the way of achieving your goals.
2. Discover your deep connection to your goal
If you can’t focus on your goal — if it feels vague, or your enthusiasm for it is weak, chances are you aren’t emotionally engaged or attached to this goal. You just don’t care that much about it.
It’s probably not a goal if you can’t remember what it is. Or maybe it’s not your goal — it could be someone else’s goal, social pressure or a personal obligation.
One way to find out if this is your goal is to just ask yourself why you want to achieve it.
If it is your goal, you should have an obvious internal motivation and you should know what’s driving you to succeed.
This internal sense of purpose that connects you to your goal is called your intrinsic motivation. And if you don’t have this internal drive, then there are a couple of things you can do.
The first option is to prepare to embark on a journey of self-discovery.
Because intrinsic motivation is one of your most powerful tools for achieving your goal, it’s worthwhile to get to the bottom of what’s driving you.
Find this deep connection, nurture and protect it.
Ideally, your emotional connection to your goals is so strong it demands your attention, like a maniacal two-year-old who demands a cookie. She will do whatever it takes to get it.
But if you don’t have that driving ambition for your goal, it’s okay. There are ways to get there.
One way is to evaluate if your life purpose is supported by your goal. You may discover that your life’s purpose is at odds with a goal you are trying to achieve, in which case you may need to reevaluate your goals.
If you’re not sure what your purpose is, one place to start it to take the Greater Good Purpose in Life Quiz.
Evaluating your life purpose and finding your internal motivation may not be a good option for you. Your goal could personally uninspiring and still necessary to achieve, like a goal for work.
If this is the case, you will need to find other ways to stay motivated and focused on it.
3. Pursue your goal for people you love
It’s hard to focus on your goal if you don’t have intrinsic motivation, but you can stay focused instead by developing your emotional connection to people or a person.
For you, personalizing the goal may be the way to emotionally connect to the goal in order to achieve it.
You may decide that you are losing weight to be healthier for your kids, or that you want to acquire wealth to take care of your best friend or spouse in old age.
As an inventor, you may have a product and that you want to succeed so that people all over the world can benefit from it.
Form an emotional connection between your goals and people you care about and this emotional connection will help.
Your love for those people will help you fall in love with your goal. Make that love the center of your adoring attention.
4. Vividly feel and see your goal
Now that you have learned how to stay focused on your goal by deepening your emotional connection to it, you can move on to learning how to visually conceptualize your goal.
Creating a vision for your goal, one that is specific is important so that it holds your attention.
Like a good story, specificity is key.
Non-specific things float away like a wispy cloud — there are no crevices to hold onto. The details in the vision are the vitality your mind needs to actually care about the story.
You have to create a picture, a story that is immediately accessible to your mind in the minds of everyone involved in your goal.
People can get caught up in spreadsheets, numbers, and all kinds of ways to quantify and track a goal. And if you are a numbers person, that’s great — just be sure you also spent the time creating a compelling story behind those numbers.
Create the details to fill out your goal
Hard Goals author Mark Murphy has a technique for creating details to fill out your goal with vivid descriptions so that you can feel it and see it.
He recommends starting with a mental picture and he has a few rules for making this picture.
First, think only about the pictorial representation of the goal and once you have that picture then, start adding details to fill it out. He recommends that you focus on size, color, shape, distinct parts, setting, background, emotions, and movement.
Here are few examples:
Size: How big is everything in your picture? Are you living in a one-bedroom beach house bungalow or a resort-style 15-room mansion with two kitchens?
Color: What colors do you see? Color is emotionally evocative and can alter the mood of your picture dramatically.
Shape: What shapes do you see? Shapes can also influence the emotions of your picture. Circles are harmonious, squares are solid and reliable.
This exercise is very powerful because it is the first step in really bringing your goal to life in a lively way that you can participate in and begin to see and feel yourself achieving and believing in.
Creativity researcher, Paul Torrance discovered that one of the most exhilarating human experiences is the dazzling moment when a new image of your future self appears.
You can use this exhilarating vision to stay focused on your goals and sustain yourself through any difficulties that arise.
Don’t overlook this final step, especially if things feel slow on the way to achieving your goals. Set up your accountability structures to get where you are going as fast as possible.
Having a structure in place with regular check-ins will help you see if you are progressing and they will put your progress into perspective. Here is your roadmap to an accountability structure:
- Seek out an accountability partner. This is someone who keeps you accountable and encourages and guides you. Working with a coach relating to your goals has been shown to be more effective than managing them on your own, or relying on a supportive community.
- Share your goals with a supportive community. This step will boost your confidence and give you even more accountability.
- Write down your goals and track them regularly. Checking daily, weekly, monthly as needed with a project management program or a calendar will help you to stay organized and on track.
- All of the above. Getting all of your accountability structures in place will keep you focused on your goal.
If you remember one thing from reading this article, let it be this:
Passion + Accountability = Success
If you want to stay focused on your goals, find a way to stay deeply connected to an emotional driver that will create the passion you need for success. Then, develop your accountability structures and keep them in place so that you will have the support and order you need to turn your passion into reality.
This is your winning combination, passion + accountability, to stay focused on your goals and successfully achieve them.