“Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin in. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
If you’re like most people, you have set numerous goals in the past, gotten excited about them and then found yourself thirty days in the future with no advancement made towards them. The truth is, we all have great ideas and plans for our lives but turning them into a reality can sometimes become a very challenging task, to say the least.
Honestly, change can be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be as hard as we sometimes make it out to be. Current research in Positive Psychology and Neuroscience has proved that change is not only possible, but with the right strategies, it is not as hard as most of us think.
So, ask yourself, what have you been putting off in your life, that if you were to accomplish in the next few months would dramatically improve your life? Do you need to start exercising regularly? Eat healthier? Save more money? Improve your communication skills? Maybe you have been wanting to learn a new skill or take up a new hobby?
Whatever it is you’ve been putting off, by taking the following steps, you can stop procrastinating and begin living the life of your dreams.
- Write down what you intend to achieve or create in the positive“
“Write it down. Written goals have a way of transforming wishes into wants; cant’s into cans; dreams into plans; and plans into reality. Don’t just think it – ink it.” – Michael Korda
Many times, our goals are expressed in the negative instead of the positive. Let’s say your desire is to lose weight, so you express your it as, “My goal is to lose weight.”
The problem here is two-fold. First, your intention is stated too vaguely, and second, it doesn’t express what you really want.
- Saying you just want to lose weight is too vague.
Richard Bandler, the co-founder of Neuro-Linguistic Programming likes to joke with his audience how you could quickly lose weight by cutting off one of your arms. But odds are, that doesn’t solve your weight problem, and it’s not what you really want. What you are really hoping to achieve is a certain body fat percentage, and to fit into certain sized clothes.
- Stating your goal in the negative decreases your motivation.
Just thinking about losing weight or going on a diet causes most people to feel unmotivated because of the negative image it creates in their mind. However, imagining yourself looking fit creates a positive feeling in you and makes it more likely you’ll get up and do what is required to achieve the results you want.
Step one is to write out what you intend to accomplish in the positive. How will you look or feel once you have accomplished your goal? For example, you could say, my intention is to have a 32-inch waist and weigh 170 lbs with only 10 % body fat.
- Give your goal a realistic deadline that motivates you without creating too much stress.
“A goal or decision without a deadline has no urgency. It has no real beginning or end.” – Brian Tracy
I’m sure you have heard the axiom, “A goal without a deadline is just a wish.” And, in most cases, that is true. The problem I see with many of the deadlines people put on achieving their goals is they are either unrealistically close or so far into the future that they are unmotivated by them to get into action today.
When setting a deadline for your goal, ask yourself how you feel when you think about the date you set. If it makes you feel a sense of urgency to get started on it, but not so urgent that you begin to stress out then you have probably set a proper deadline.
For example, when I first decided to start my blog, I created a deadline to publish it to the web that was four months away. That seemed doable for me because I knew I had a lot to learn about website building, and I also knew I needed to have some finished articles that would be ready to post. My deadline excited me and drove me to take action towards my intention every day. Amazingly, I beat my deadline by almost a full month.
One note when it comes to meeting your deadline. If you don’t meet it, that’s okay. Just extend it a little farther into the future. Don’t let your deadline be your excuse for not completing your goal.
- Decide you will persist until you succeed.
“I am not a product of my circumstances, I am a product of my decisions.” Stephen Covey
Just deciding that you want something isn’t enough. You must next decide that you are going to do whatever it takes to turn your dream into a reality. Too often we say we are going to do something, but never really do it. That wasn’t a decision, that was a wish. Making a real decision means that you follow through until you have done what you set out to do.
The problem a lot of people have when it comes to making decisions is they are scared to death to commit to them. They have this deep-seated belief that if they make a choice, it may not work out the way they had hoped it would. They remind themselves of their past failures and then erroneously conclude that this attempt will end up like the last one. This fear of repeating the past keeps them from ever trying again.
If you are going to start creating the life of your desires, then you must harness the power of yet. Decide right now that the results you achieved in the past weren’t a message from the universe telling you to give up because what you want is impossible to obtain. Instead, remind yourself that the results you received from the past were just telling you that you haven’t achieved what you want yet.
Decide right now that your goal is important and that you will make it a reality by following through until you produce the results you are desiring. Make a contract with yourself declaring that this time you won’t give up. If you don’t see immediate results, then take it to mean you either need to give it more time, make adjustments to your approach, or get more information by asking for expert help.
As you progress through your journey of getting what you want, remember the wise words of Dr. Wayne W. Dyer, “God’s delays are not God’s denials.”
- Get off your buts and stop shoulding on yourself.
“But those Woulda-Coulda-Shouldas all ran away and hid from one little did.” – Shel Siverstein
Okay, I realize that sounds bad, but what I’m trying to say here is, watch your language. Even when people manage to say their intention in the positive they often erroneously add a but or a should statement.
They say things like:
- I want to have a zero balance on my credit cards, but I have to buy these new shoes.
- I should eat a healthy dinner, but I don’t have time, so I’ll start tomorrow.
The reality is, to achieve our goals we must turn our shoulds into musts and get off our buts. The next time you find yourself making an excuse for not doing what you know you need to in order to advance towards your dreams, stop and get real with yourself. Replace should with must and but with or else.
- I must eat a healthy dinner today or else I will just end up getting unhealthier, gaining more weight and feeling more helpless about my situation.
- I must begin living within my means, or else my debt’s will escalate out of control.
- Break your goal down into baby steps.
“Take baby steps and don’t give up! Keep moving in the right direction. Trust yourself and your abilities. Just because something didn’t yet work out as planned, doesn’t mean it won’t work out. There is always a way, and you can’t lose unless you give up.” – Kemmy Nola
Have you seen the movie with Bill Murray and Richard Dreyfuss called What About Bob? In this film, Bill Murray plays Bob, a complete neurotic who can hardly leave his apartment without being overwhelmed with anxiety. The movie begins with him going to a see his new psychiatrist Dr. Leo Marvin, played by Richard Dreyfuss, who introduces him to a concept called baby steps. Dr. Marvin encourages Bob to focus on taking tiny little baby steps instead of worrying about reaching his destination in one large one.
We often become overwhelmed and begin procrastinating because we create a mental picture of everything we need to do as one big collage. By learning to break the goal down into tiny doable steps, and then focusing on the next task we need to work on, we can start to feel more relaxed and confident in our abilities to get it done.
For example, when I’m writing I don’t focus on completing the book, or even the page. I concentrate on finishing the current sentence. For me, that’s manageable, it’s a baby step and if I complete enough sentences then eventually I will finish the book. In this manner, I can micro step my way to success while enjoying the process. However, if I start to think about all I need to accomplish before the book is ready for print, I quickly become overwhelmed and begin looking for ways to distract myself from the task at hand.
For this step, look at your goal and ask yourself the following questions.
- What steps do I need to accomplish in order to achieve my goal?
- What is the very next step I need to take?
- How can I break my next step down into baby steps?”
- Take a small step today.
“Never leave the scene of a decision without first taking a specific action towards its realization.” – Anthony Robbins
To stop procrastinating and start taking action towards your goals, you must take some sort of action to get the ball rolling. What you decide to do today doesn’t have to be huge, but if all you do is just read this and then walk away without doing something to start moving you closer to your goals, then reading this was a waste of time. In fact, reading this was probably your way of procrastinating instead of working towards your goal.
I know, because I used to be just like that. I would search out great information on how to create the life of my dreams, read the article, and then tell myself that I will put what I’ve learned into practice tomorrow. Tomorrow never comes. All we really have is today, and until I figured that out, I made very little progress towards my goals and dreams.
- Begin working on your goal first thing in the morning.
“Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.” – Jim Rohn
If you really want to accomplish your goals, wake up earlier. Why? Because the best time to work on what’s most important to you is when you have the most will power. If you wait to begin working on your most important goals later in the day, there is a good chance the energy required to start will be depleted.
By getting up an hour earlier to work on your goals, you eliminate a lot of the distractions that keep you from working on them later. If your typical day begins at 8 a.m. and you are up at 5 a.m., you have just blessed your day with the time and energy needed to do what you want to do. You have no other obligations at this time, and your mind should be fresh from a good night’s sleep.
My book, Intentional Mornings, is about how you can utilize the incredible potential that every morning presents to you so you can stop procrastinating and start achieving your goals.
Now it’s your turn, write down your intention in the positive. In other words, what will you look like or what will your life look like once you have achieved your goal. Second, give it a realistic deadline. Third, make a contract with yourself that you will persist until you get what you want. Fourth, start practicing positive language by telling yourself, “I must get real with what will happen if I don’t take action if I don’t make this dream a reality what will it cost me ultimately?” Fifth, write down the steps you need to make and then break them down into tiny action step that you can take today.
Remember the words of Lau Tzu, “The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.”
What one step will you take today that will lead to creating significant change in your life?