Achieving personal goals while working hard

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Q: Tom, Bosun, 29:

“When I was writing out my goals for this year a couple of weeks ago, I came across last year’s list. I kind of knew it, but it was still depressing to see that I hadn’t hit even ONE of my goals last year, and that basically I was just re-writing the same list again. I could have just crossed out 2015 and written 2016 and saved the paper! The really depressing thing is that these goals have been the same for about 4 years now, but I never seem to get any closer. I make a little progress…then the yachting season gets in the way, and I drop all my other projects, and before I know it another year has passed. I need to know how to stop failing at these things that really matter to me.“

A: The Crew Coach:

This is an interesting one, because the difference between success and failure is often just a case of perspective. The first thing to look at is your view of failure. There’s a school of thought that you actually haven’t failed until you’ve given up completely: and the fact that you’re still writing those same goals on your list shows you haven’t actually given up yet, so technically you haven’t actually failed at reaching your goals, they are still a work in progress!

Having said that, there are many things you can do to begin getting some traction and actually moving closer to achieving the goals you have set. Firstly, it helps to understand a bit more about how human motivation works. Research shows that humans are motivated in the short-term, meaning that if we don’t see results and rewards in a matter of weeks, we will normally give up. So, the key is to break your goals down into much smaller milestones that can be achieved in a much shorter time frame. If you have been putting off doing something, set yourself a motivating reward for reaching those milestones and you will begin to feel you are making progress.

Secondly, you need to make sure that your goals are realistic. After all, yachting is not normal life, and you can’t expect your goals to be as easily reached as someone who always has free evenings and weekends. However, don’t fall into the trap of using yachting as an excuse, because it can be very easy for life to slip past while you’re working and if you don’t set aside time to work on things you will definitely not make any progress. Think of what the season is really like and set yourself very small manageable interim steps towards your goals that will fit around your workload.

Sometimes the reason we don’t reach certain goals is that we didn’t truly try. This can be for a number of reasons: it can be fear of failure, fear of success, or perhaps it’s because deep down you don’t really want that goal anyway. Perhaps this is something you think you ‘should’ do (because your parents, peers or someone else is pushing you to do it) or perhaps you are putting pressure on yourself to achieve things that you’re just not really that interested in. Take some time to work out why you really want to reach these goals and remind yourself of what you stand to gain if you do – these need to be reasons that actually motivate you, otherwise you’ll always struggle to make these goals happen. You mentioned these goals are things that really matter to you – so if they are important, you need to make time for them!

It’s really essential to be honest with yourself about your true motivations for wanting to achieve certain goals, because not reaching your goals (or not making the time to work on them) is very damaging to our self respect, whether we realise it or not. Most of us don’t know this but we wear down our own self-belief each time we fail to do something we promised ourselves we would do. So treat your promises to yourself as you would treat a promise to another person and you’ll begin to feel a lot better about yourself.

If you apply all of these principles you’ll soon start gaining confidence comes from the interim goals you begin to meet. Each time you achieve a milestone on the way to one of your larger goals, your self-respect will increase and your self-belief will become even stronger, making a virtuous circle that reinforces your ability to go on and achieve even more. Best of luck and let me know how you get on throughout the year!

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Alison Rentoul

Alison Rentoul

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