I regularly deal with a lot of self-negativity. I'm often embarrassed by it, which invariably leads to more self-negativity, which perpetuates the cycle. Sometimes it feels like a trap I can't escape.
One way of combating this cycle I've found to be effective is goal-setting. Goal-setting removes a lot of uncertainty and allows me to focus on pieces of an equation I can control. Goal-setting allows me to tangibly measure progress relative to a benchmark. Goal-setting helps remind me to focus on the long-term.
Try to keep these three points in mind the next time you're looking to break through a plateau.
1. Set a goal.
Having a clear picture of where you want to go makes it infinitely easier to get there. In other words, it's much easier to develop a targeted, effective plan if you can articulate your desired result.
Goals are important because they (a) help focus your efforts; (b) allow you to measure progress; and (c) can serve as powerful motivational tools.
- The sense of direction gained by having a clearly articulated goal allows you to focus your efforts. More time spent focused on achieving a desired result means less time spinning your wheels (had to do it).
- The ability to measure your progress is what keeps you on track along the way. There will be stretches when it feels like you're not making any progress at all, or even like you're falling behind. But if in those times you're able to analyze the metrics, see that your overall trend is upward and consider your current position relative to your goal, you're more likely to stay motivated.
- Motivation is everything. The greater your motivation, the harder you'll work. Hopefully your goal represents a positive step you're taking for yourself, in which case you'll also feel a greater sense of accomplishment and reward.
Understanding what you want to achieve is the first step in figuring out how best to make it happen. Once you develop a plan, stick to it. But remember that progress isn't linear and allow yourself the flexibility to embrace hiccups along the way.
2. Let go of perfectionism.
Don't be discouraged by sidesteps or setbacks. Accept that they're a natural part of the process and allow yourself to learn from them.
Don't be discouraged by the fact that what you see right now doesn't perfectly match your goal. The reward - the perspective and the wisdom - is derived from the journey, not the results.
Embrace your weaknesses. They're holding you back, and that's ok. Don't be afraid to ask questions, to seek help and to fall short. Allow yourself to be imperfect while still making progress toward your goal.
3. Think long term.
If your plan isn't enjoyable and sustainable, it's much more likely that you'll burn out before you reach your goal. That doesn't mean that your plan shouldn't challenge you. Learn to endure short term discomfort in favor of long term gain. What's your 'why?' Why did you set this goal for yourself? The more compelling your sense of why, the greater your ability will be to get yourself back on track over the long term.
Finally, don't forget to look outwards. You've set a goal, you've developed a plan - you're out to achieve something you're passionate about. It's all but guaranteed that someone else is passionate about the same thing, but keeps getting stuck when developing their plan and consequently has lost the motivation. Never underestimate your ability to positively impact someone else.