In the previous posts I introduced you to the zero-based planning approach to helping you decide what changes you might want to make in your life, whether that's writing a novel, getting healthier, improving a relationship or anything else. Then we looked at the seven steps to reaching your writing or other goal and, in yesterday's post, a specific example (getting organized).
When you buy a product usually there is a section at the back of the users manual suggesting some things you can do in case it doesn’t work correctly. This section is the equivalent of that for the goal setting and achievement process. These are the most typical issues that come up and how to deal with them:
“I’m halfway to achieving my first goal but I’m wondering whether I should switch to another one that now seems more important.”
Review my post on the roller coaster ride. If your doubts are similar to the ones described there, keep going.
Once in a while it does happen that events justify switching goals in mid-stream. For instance, if you decided to work on a career goal but then your doctor tells you that your check-up shows that your blood pressure is dangerously high, it makes sense to switch to a goal relating to improving your fitness and having a better diet.
Most of the time, though, these doubts are generated when things get a bit more challenging and you should keep going.
“I’m frustrated by how slowly I’m progressing on the steps I’m working on.”
Break the process down into smaller steps. For some things it may require steps that may seem ridiculously small, but that’s OK. For instance, if you are resisting making a difficult phone call, step one might be just writing down the number. Step two is jotting down the key points you need to make. Step 3 is dialing the number...
“I’m making changes but I’m not getting support from my family or my friends. In fact, some of them seem to be actively discouraging me.”
Some people feel threatened when others make changes in their lives. For example, if they’re out of shape and see that you’re losing weight and becoming more fit they may unconsciously see it as a criticism of them. If you’re not spending as much time with them as you used to they may interpret that as some kind of rejection.
If you help them understand how important this is to you and actively ask for their support, it should reassure them.
However, if you can’t find the support you need from them you may need to find some like-minded people in a group (check out MeetUp.com to see if there is a relevant group in your vicinity) or online.
“The things I’m doing don’t seem to be working. Where do I find alternatives to try?”
The best source of advice and inspiration comes from people who have already done what you are trying to do. There are books and blogs for just about anything you can think of, and those are a good starting point.
Don’t be afraid of approaching people for help. You can contact them via email or Facebook. Some may be too busy to answer but many are willing to point you in the right direction.
“There are some people in my current life that are not part of my ideal life, but I’ll hurt their feelings if I don’t continue my relationships with them.”
Most people find it necessary to make compromises in getting closer to the ideal life they imagine for themselves.
One person I spoke to about this said, “I love my children, but to be honest if I had it to do over again I don’t think I’d have kids.” That doesn’t mean he should put them up for adoption, but we looked at the things about having children that bothered him and he was able to change some of those.
Having energetic and noisy kids around all the time made him feel he didn’t have time to reflect and be alone. His solution was to go for a brisk walk for 30 minutes every day, which also supported his fitness goals.
Sometimes, however, it is necessary to phase some people out of your life. If you have a drinking problem, for instance, and your hard-drinking buddy constantly encourages you to drink even though you’ve explained the situation to him, it’s probably time to end that relationship (or to get together with him only for breakfast or other situations where drinking isn’t a likely option).
“I’ve achieved one of my main goals but it didn’t make me as happy as I thought it would.”
This is a common situation with goals that are about money or possessions. An interesting study done some years ago revealed that people at all income levels said they’d be happy if they earned 10% more than their current level. In other words, people who made 50,000 said an extra 5,000 would make them happy, and people who made 300,000 said another 30,000 would do it.
A more recent study revealed that once people have enough money to pay for the basics--a decent place to live, food, clothing, and a bit for recreation, earning more doesn’t make any difference to their level of happiness.
There’s nothing wrong with working toward material things, but it is useful to ask yourself at the start what you think these will bring you. Often there is a more direct route to what it is we really want.
The person who wants an expensive sports car in order to feel good about himself would be better off spending the money on some counseling, or spending time helping other people. One therapist pointed out that the best way to feel good about yourself is to do something worth feeling good about.
The person who wants a bigger house in a better neighborhood in order to show off his status will find that in the new neighborhood there’ll be somebody who has a yet bigger house, and decide he needs an even bigger one.
It’s fascinating but a bit sad that people who find that the next higher level of stuff doesn’t make them happy conclude that the problem is that they actually need even more stuff.
Also, it may be that you don’t need to own the thing in question or to spend money for it. A free-lance writer friend who needed a quiet place to do his writing thought he'd have to rent an office. Instead, he was able to arrange to use a friend’s house while the friend was at work, in exchange for feeding the friend's cat.
I hope these suggestions are useful. If you run into a different problem, email me at jurgenwolff (at) gmail.com and I'll try to come up with a solution. Also, you'll find lots of friendly guidance on how to be more productive in my book, "FOCUS: Use the power of targeted thinking to get more done." It's published by Pearson and you can get it from Amazon or your other favorite book seller.