What do you do when (not if) you’ve fallen off of your goals and are sinking into the dreaded ‘here we go again’ swamp? STOP!  It’s normal, not the end of the world.

Here’s a simple process to reengage, break out and accelerate towards your goals.

1. DISCONNECT from the feelings, the self recrimination. ALSO from the escapes.   You know what I mean.  The social media, the errands you just have to do right now, the volunteer task you’ll get strokes for completing.  These give us short term feel-goods, followed quickly by deeper frustration.

2. RECONNECT with the why. Why are you going for your goals?  What excited you?  Write that down in words that evoke the feelings.  What will the result be long term?  Who have you shared your goals with?  Have you told them that you are having problems? If not, why not?  Can you at least share a little bit of the frustration with them?  Often that will, by itself, take the sting out and get you moving.  Just be sure your listener doesn’t end up feeling like they need to provide a solution.

3. IDENTIFY one or two tasks related to your goals.  Small steps.  Really small steps.  Tiny, baby steps. Take whatever you have listed for ‘tomorrow’ and break it into five days.  My tendency is to create a list that I’m all gung ho about but that is totally unrealistic, and then beat on myself for not achieving it.

4. ISOLATE each small step and take them on, one at a time. Do NOT slip into big goal thinking while doing this work.  It will drag you down towards defeat.  Complete one tiny step each day.

5. REWARD. Remember the positive strokes we get from interactions on social media, completing a volunteer-group related task or a personal favor?  You must recreate or mimic that for your goal-related steps.  Identify these rewards and list right next to the step or task.  It may seem like you’re overdoing the rewards side for a very small step, but it is needed.  One caution – it’s better to not have the reward fall in the area of the distractions that you’ve so carefully disconnected.  For instance, if your escape was social media chat and interaction, do NOT use that as a reward.

6. REVIEW. Do these small steps and rewards for a week, then look back at what you’ve accomplished.  Make notes on what worked, what was difficult and what was more complicated than it seemed.  On the rewards side, note which felt best, which seemed like more work and which were just meh?  Lay out one more week of small-step, on-goal targets and rewards.

7. REWARD – YES AGAIN.  This was hard work and valuable.  Pick a bigger reward – maybe a concert, a dinner out or something that is significant and can be shared.  Even if you have not done so up until now, share with your friends or partner the reason behind the ‘event’.  You may find that they become your biggest cheering section going forward.  And, secondary reward, you might inspire them to take on a goal of their own.

Now it’s your turn: 

  • Within ONE goal, identify a SMALL, measurable, progress target, and a feel-good reward.
  • Break that target into 5 steps, each to take about 20 minutes.
  • Block schedule 30 minutes, first thing every morning, for the week and complete one step.
  • At completion, savor the reward.
  • Set out your next progress target, and repeat the above.