IF YOU HAVE one or more goals that have been hanging around on your ‘to do’ list for ages, it’s time to think about why you’re procrastinating. Look at each goal and ask the following questions:

Do I really want to achieve this goal?

Perhaps your life and aspirations have changed since you set this goal. If this is the case, cross it off your list to make mental space for the things that you still want to do.

Also, consider if this is your goal or is a goal that you think you should or could pursue because it’s a typical ‘next step’ or is perceived by others as something that you’re meant to be doing.

Homer Simpson

Aiming high

You won’t be motivated unless, in your heart of hearts, you value the attainment of this goal. If you don’t, you’ll constantly find reasons to put off starting your journey or you’ll give up at the first hurdle. Don’t let life be, “should have; could have; would have…Didn’t.” Rather, concentrate your efforts on what is truly important you.

Is this goal overwhelming?

If you have a major goal that perhaps will take some years to achieve, it can be difficult to know where to start and to keep motivated throughout the process.

If this is the case, break down the overarching goal into smaller, more manageable steps. Also, set deadlines to deliver each milestone. Doing this will help you see what you’re achieving as you progress and build stepping stones to what may currently be the distant horizon.

Am I weighed down by self-limiting beliefs?

In some instances, our ‘inner voice’ sabotages our efforts even before we begin: “I’m not really good enough,” “I’m not a natural leader so who’d listen to me?” “I’m being over ambitious”, we tell ourselves.

This way of thinking often stems from what we learnt in childhood. For example, a highly intelligent colleague of mine admitted that he constantly struggled with decision making. His inner voice told him: “I don’t know what to do for the best,” and “I might make the wrong decision” which often meant that others took control. Consequently, he found that he was failing to capitalise on career opportunities and also that he was resentful of those who were moving on to achieve bigger and better things.

After much reflection, he concluded that this self-limiting belief came from growing up as the youngest in a loving and protective family of four children. As a child he was happy to follow the lead of his adored elder siblings but now realised that, in adult life, taking control of his own career path and fulfilling his potential required a different approach including creating a more constructive inner dialogue.

If you suspect that you are holding yourself back, listen out for what your inner voice is telling you. Every time you finish off a sentence with something that stops you moving forward, test out your views. For example,

Thought: “I’d love to get the book I’ve written published...

Inner voice: “…but I’d never get an agent because I’m not good enough?”

Test questions:

  • Is this a fact or is this an assumption I’m making?
  • Have I tried to get an agent?
  • How do I know how good I am if I haven’t tried?
  • Even if one agent were to say that my book wasn’t for them, does this mean I’m not good enough or is this just one agent amongst many?
  • Do I need to get an agent to get my book published?

The answers to such questions should help you identify the situations in which you're talking yourself out of achieving your goal even before you've begun as well as give you clues on what your short-term goals need to be, e.g., in the above, actions to find an agent would be first on your list of interim goals.

Am I resisting change?

Even if it’s for positive reasons, change can be daunting. This is because moving forward often means saying goodbye to something, e.g., if you get that wonderful West End part that’s within touching distance, this may mean leaving the town you love to move to London.

When you’re planning your goals, it is important to uncover underlying concerns and evaluate your priorities to ensure that the pursuit of this goal is worth the possible sacrifices.

Do I fear failure?

Success depends on the ability to be able to ‘Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway’. The path to achieving your goal is often challenging, especially if it involves considerable change. You’re likely to come up against hurdles and make mistakes. And, even if you try your best, the end result isn’t guaranteed.

However, successful people tend to view challenges and setbacks as learning experiences that take them closer to their goal. If things don't work out as they plan the first time, this doesn't put them off or make them feel stupid but provides them with valuable information on how to improve.

Alternatively, there’s the Homer Simpson approach: “You tried your best, and you failed miserably. The lesson is, never try.” Amusing Homer, but we’ll ignore that advice thank you.

Need help with your goals? Phew, it’s FEU

  • Apply for the ‘Tools for Goal Setting’ workshop - London, 11 December. Also look out for workshops in your region in 2016.
  • At your convenience, try out our e-course Overcoming Freelance Challenges at the digital learning centre. Here, you’ll also find a wide range of learning opportunities and information that will help you grow your creative career.

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