Why You Keep Stalling Out on a Goal
If you’ve had a goal that you’ve been struggling to make headway on for ages, it’s time to get to the reason why.
Here’s a common example of how I see this come up:
Jana says that she needs a new job and it’s time to start the search. The first step is to work on her resume, she says, but she keeps putting it off.
She tries all kinds of tactics – setting a time limit, chunking the project into pieces, telling someone she’ll do it to stay accountable. But nothing can get her to do this relatively simple (though admittedly dull) task.
Weeks and weeks go by and nothing changes.
Now it's time to ask two questions:
1. Is this the right goal?
It’s possible that Jana needs to go deeper into her idea that she needs a new job.
Potentially what’s stopping her is that she can’t stomach the idea of getting another job like the one she already has.
What she actually wants is a bigger change – a different type of job or industry. Or maybe what’s behind all this is a desire for a new career, or a radically different lifestyle and approach to work. (And yes, that will take extra courage, strategy and support.)
No wonder Jana feels so unmotivated to update her resume.
This step is not going to get her where she really wants to go. It’s time to strike that from the to-do list and prepare for some deeper soul searching (and call me! :))
2. Are you being blocked by limiting beliefs so big that you can’t get around them?
Perhaps Jana indeed wants and needs a new job in her field, but she’s begun to doubt it’s possible.
Maybe she’s lost some self-confidence in her qualifications. Maybe she’s been through recent lay-offs or watched a friend or family member struggle to find a new job.
She’s started to believe that it’s going to be impossible to find as good a job without taking a pay cut or having to move. Ideas like these are so demoralizing, of course she keeps delaying working on her resume.
Do you keep stalling out on a particular goal?
Here are two exercises that can help you to move forward.
EXERCISE 1: FIND THE RIGHT GOAL
I did this simple writing exercise at a free workshop given by a financial planner in Portland years ago. I wish I could track her down to thank her for this exercise. It was amazingly illuminating; what I discovered through it has impacted my life ever since.
Find a quiet spot to do some reflection and writing. Answer these two questions:
1. You visit your doctor and learn you only have 5-10 years to live. You’ll never feel sick but you don’t know when you'll go. What will you change about your life?
2. This time the doctor shocks you with the news that you only have one day to live. Notice your thoughts:
What did I miss?
What did I not get to be?
What did I not get to do?
For me personally, the answers were so quick and clear, they confirmed that I was on the right path with my idea to take a sabbatical and that the time was now (six months later I took my leap).
EXERCISE #2: REWRITE LIMITING BELIEFS
This exercise is taken from Jen Sincero’s You Are a Badass at Making Money (which especially helps with limiting beliefs about money).
These steps shift your mindset from thoughts that hold you back to ones that actually move you forward.
She writes: “Here’s the drill:
Become aware of what your limiting thoughts and beliefs are.
Question and investigate them.
Say it loud and proud.”
To illustrate, using Sincero’s model, let’s go back to one of Jana’s thoughts about her job search.
Unhelpful thought: I won’t be able to find a job in this market that pays my current salary or more.
Question: Is this 100-percent, without-a-doubt true?
Answer: I'm not 100-percent certain, I suppose. I just know that my friend Tanya had to take a pay cut, and Jack’s brother was out of work for a year after he was laid off. Of course, they’re in totally different fields.
Question: Do you understand that it’s going to be much more likely to find a job that pays your current salary or more if you actually look for it (rather than give up first)?
Question: What’s important about making your current salary or more?
Answer: Feeling happy about my compensation for my skills and experience, continuing to contribute at the same level to our family’s expenses, saving for that anniversary trip to Hawaii that we’ve dreamed about, being able to start the guestroom addition to the house so we can always have out-of-town friends and family stay with us.
Rewritten thought: I can find a job that pays my current salary or more.
Once you have a rewritten thought, Sincero adds, “Take the new truth that has the most charge for you and write it down every morning and every night, feel it in your bones, repeat it in your head as often as possible, say it out loud, keep hammering yourself with it until it sinks in.”
As a coach, I would ask Jana to take this exercise one step further and list all the characteristics of her ideal job, getting as specific as possible with salary, location, her boss and colleagues, even what she wears to work.
There are two key two parts to getting closer to your biggest dreams:
Knowing exactly what you want.
Believing that it exists and that you can have it.
If one of these exercises proves helpful to you in one of your goals, I’d love to hear about it. As always too, if you have a question with any of this, feel free to shoot me an email. I’m here!