How to Stop Quitting Your Goals
Welcome to segment two of the continuation of “ How Managing My Money Helped Me Lose Weight.” If you haven’t read it, yet… start there. In our last post, we uncovered some of the ways advertising discreetly sways us away from our goals. But what happens when we make a choice that doesn’t align with our goals?
Essentially… we quit.
Whether it’s a goal weight, a specific finish time for a 5k, a retirement savings goal or a plan to pay off a credit card by a certain date, there are actions that must be taken. Each of these goals will require different steps to follow. There will be milestones to hit along the way. There will be small decisions that still need to be considered. Goals will create a direction by which to guide your actions:
- Follow your meal plan
- Prepare the food on said meal plan
- Run 3x per week
- Complete one interval workout per week
- Spend less than you make
- Pay more than the minimum balance on your bill
- Connect with a financial advisor to set up an IRA
- Contribute $200/month to IRA
This list of actions is juvenile, at best. For any single goal, there are tens (and I’d argue hundreds) of actions to take. Each of these actions will appear as a choice. A choice in which you have two options:
Did it. Didn’t do it.
What’s important to note is how often we choose “did it” over “didn’t do it.” To me, “didn’t do it” is synonymous with quitting. You may not be quitting on the whole entire goal, but you quit on yourself in favor of an easier option. If you’re quitting more often than you’re following through, it may be time to consider: have you made quitting a habit?
If you’re someone who has told yourself “I’ll start tomorrow,” I’m speaking to you. How many times have you said that to yourself? What’s better about tomorrow as opposed to right now? Tomorrow never comes.
Why do we quit in the first place?
Quitting allows us to protect ourselves from negative emotions and feelings. It forces us to make unpopular decisions, at times. It calls attention to the fact that we want more for ourselves.. Which others may not be okay with.
Much of attaining a goal is believing in the things you can’t yet see. You have to trust that the pay off will be there but on a later date. You have to hold tight to your vision — especially on the days when results are not clearly evident.
I’ll use the example of training for a marathon:
- I had to get comfortable sitting in pain for hours at a time (negative feelings)
- I had to use mental strength to finish multiple 16+ mile runs (negative emotions)
- I could not go out to bars with friends on Friday’s because I needed to be well-rested Saturday long runs (unpopular decisions)
- A few people voiced comments about how training took time (others weren’t okay with it)
- But, I followed the training plan because I knew it would get me to 26.2 (believing in what I couldn’t see)
- Even if I missed the prescribed times for interval training, I finished all of the sets (trusting in a pay off at a later date)
- I made it a priority for the simple sake that I wanted to know what I was capable of (held tight to my vision).
You can exchange quitting for persistence
Just as quitting can become a habit, follow-through can become your mainstay, instead. Follow-through is a meta-skill you can learn and develop. Essentially, it comes down to focusing on the long-term goal and learning to delay instant gratification in the present. By intentionally concentrating on where you’ll be likely to quit, you shift your mindset from tolerating pain into preparing for pain.
Our worry about failure prevents us from taking action — which causes us to fail. Prepare for obstacles. Prepare for failure. Don’t quit. Actively reflect on failure — dissect it. Look for opportunities to practice it again. Any time I set a new goal or start a new project, I take time to brainstorm what all the possible obstacles will be. I follow each obstacle up with a list of how I want to handle it, things I could do to make it easier or people I should contact to get more information.
If you know where your best-laid plans are likely to take a U-turn, you’re less likely to be caught off guard. You have an opportunity to forecast what could get in the way and create a plan for how you’d prefer to handle it. You can also run this technique backward: if you acted in a way that didn’t align with your goal, designate time to reflect on how you would have handled it in a perfect situation. The more times you can familiarize your mind with the choices you want to make, the more likely they’ll become second nature.
There is a difference between quitting and failure
There will be times when one of your action items will not go as planned. You can’t escape it — any worthwhile goal will pose the threat of failure. At times, the difference between the two can appear blurred but I assure you, there is a definite difference.
Quitting is an action. Failure is a result.
Quitting allows us to rest. Failure pushes us to try again.
Quitting doesn’t allow us to see what we’re capable of. Failure finds where our current boundaries are.
Quitting moves our focus elsewhere. Failure keeps us interested.
Quitting is a deliberate choice. Failure is an unintentional result.
Quitting keeps us where we currently are. Failure forces us to learn.
Quitting stops the goal. Failure enforces commitment.
There is a make or break moment between each of these statements. There is a spot between each of these comparisons where you make a choice. The choice is always yours. Which leads me to…
How do we ensure we’re failing and not quitting?
Remove blame. Don’t use excuses. Don’t blame a meal plan. Don’t blame the work out program. Don’t justify purchases as “emergencies.” Don’t talk about how busy/stressed you were. Don’t talk about where you were raised. And definitely don’t use life getting “busy” as a justification. Simply acknowledge did or didn’t and what to do the next time the situation appears.
We need to practice removing the drama from our narratives. Boil it down to the facts. What’s the best way to know if your narrative has drama? Keep your reflections to six words or less with absolutely no adjectives. Examples:
- Dramatic: I was going to meal prep but my commute home was twice as long and I needed to pick my kids up on time.
- Factual: I chose to eat takeout.
- Dramatic: I know my phone plan wasn’t up for a few months but I got a new job and needed the latest iPhone.
- Factual: I bought a phone.
Get down to basics — this is what we call making the circumstances of our lives neutral. When you look at each situation with the facts only, you can clearly distinguish whether your next steps will be towards quitting or failing.
- Example: I ate take out.
- Next step options: Order groceries online for delivery tomorrow. Or, continue eating take out the next day. Or, telling yourself you’ll eat less tomorrow to make up for it. Or, sit down to process what lead to the choice to order take out.
- Example: I bought a phone
- Next steps: Since you blew the budget, you could purchase all the accessories to go with it. Take it back to the store in exchange for an older model. Make a specific goal and plan to have it paid off in six months. Try to sell it online.
When you learn the skill of identifying facts only, more options will open up to you. You’re no longer at the mercy of the drama of the day. Instead, you gain control of where your next steps are headed.
Once you start to see things for what they are instead of what we make them out to be, it will be easier to not quit.
And finally (perhaps most importantly), I’d like to ask you..
What would be something that entices you so much that quitting isn’t an option?
If wearing a bikini on vacation is enough to get you to stick to your meal plan, you do you and get that summer bod. But in most cases, I’d bet most of us want to feel good every day — not just for seven days on spring break. There are many reasons to want something but only a few reasons that will drive us to commit.
My suggestion is to put make your goal based around the person you’ll be in the future
“I want to be someone who….”
The purpose for why you do what you do is everything. Can you take your initial “why” and make it more meaningful: Be the girl who fits in a bikini or be the woman who runs around with her kids? Be the person with a new car or know that you can quit your job tomorrow if you no longer like it? Be the person with no student loan debt or be the person who knows how to set goals and achieve them.
We have this misconception that we’ll be a different person once we arrive at the goal we seek. Quite the opposite is true. In order to be someone who has achieved something, you need to step into your daily actions as if you’ve already arrived there. If you want to be someone who doesn’t struggle with portion sizes, you need to eat those portions now. If you want to be someone who doesn’t spend impulsively, you need to address your impulses now. “Here” is not better than “there.” Arriving at your goal does not eliminate a “problem.” But, the person you become along the way to the goal is everything. That person has tackled challenges and developed new habits. That person has addressed their fear. That person can now move on to another goal.
I have a small group of friends who are actively working to eliminate their student loan debt. These women are great — they’re open and vulnerable about the process and the challenges they face along the way. When we talk about how their progress is coming, they don’t assume that magic is going to happen when their liabilities total $0. They talk about the alternative activities we can do as a group that don’t cost much. We openly discuss how it will make us a tighter pack. They’re using this challenge as a way to become instead of as a means to an end.
Your feelings drive you to the actions you’ll take. These actions are going to determine your results. What do you want that result to look like? So, what is something that makes you feel excited, motivated, driven or worthy?
Stop the habit of quitting
By simply calling awareness to our tendencies to quit and look at the facts of what happened, you can start again… sooner. Commit to rebounding from failures quicker so you can get off the “start and stop” train for good.
Quitting is a habit. But, you know that habits can be changed and redirected. You know that there is a better version of yourself and you must know that you can step into that person today.
Your dedication to your goals is a direct measure of how much you value yourself. Stop quitting… you’re so worth it.
Originally published at https://annajavellana.com on February 29, 2020.